Radio 2 Concert...
'Remember, remember the 5th of November' goes the age-old rhyme, and sure enough there was only one place to see fireworks on this evening - the splendid art-deco style BBC Radio Theatre in London's Portland Place - where Sting and his band recorded a BBC Radio in-concert special. The audience of around 200 guests and competition winners gathered in this famous, intimate little theatre expected a treat and Sting delivered.
Rarely can the stage have accommodated so many musicians, mainly through distributing them over a variety of tiers, and goodness what a band it was. Sting on bass of course, Dominic Miller (guitar), Jason Rebello (piano), Jeff Young (Hammond organ), Kipper (keyboards and guitar), BJ Cole (Pedal Steel guitar), Abe Laboriel Jr (drums), Guy Barker (trumpet), Clark Gayton (trombone), Miles Bauld (percussion), Katreese Barnes and Janice Pendarvis (backing vocals). This core band were augmented by alto and tenor saxophone players. The most noticeable absentee from recent performances was Christian McBride, and this meant that Sting returned to his bass for duration of the set.
After Richard Allinson's introduction Sting opened his set with his new arrangement of 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' in which both Jason Rebello and BJ Cole excelled. 'Hounds of Winter' followed during which Abe Laboriel had a snare drum replaced without missing a beat. Abe is relatively new to the band but his exuberance is highly infectious, and he is fast becoming a big favourite with audiences.
With the introduction "This one is in 5/4 time", the band struck up 'Seven Days', an old song which was enlivened with some lovely trumpet playing from Guy Barker. The middle-east influences of 'Mad About You' were accentuated by some rhythmic tom-tom playing from Miles Bauld before Sting took a seat and told us how he and the band had followed tradition at the famous theatre by all wearing their tuxedo's and complementing the audience on their tasteful dress sense too. His faded green tee-shirt gave away the joke, and he had to stifle our laughter before introducing the Police classic 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'. This song led us into a sublime version of 'When We Dance' which was embellished with some beautifully subtle pedal steel touches from BJ Cole. Wonderful, simply wonderful.
'All This Time' then allowed Guy Barker and Clark Gayton to shine with the trumpet and trombone respectively, whilst the new arrangement of 'Roxann'e was enriched by Abe Laboriel's delicate drum and cymbal playing and a lovely trombone solo by Clark Gayton. Sting then retook his seat for a medley of 'A Thousand Years' and 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong'. Sting's vocal was very strong whilst solos by Jason, Guy and Clark were important contributions. The bluesy version of 'Brand New Day' followed and gave Dominic the chance to turn the volume up - something he clearly enjoys judging by the smile on his face during this song.
For 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' we were treated to Kipper strapping on a Strat to play rhythm guitar, but as always, the pedal steel of BJ Cole stole the show. Who would have though that this master of the pedal steel was born in Southgate, London rather than Nashville, Tennessee? During 'Fields Of Gold', Janice Pendarvis's fit of giggles made many in the audience fear she may topple from her stool perched on the top level of the stage, but she recovered in time for Dominic's solo.
The set was drawing to a close but an energetic 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' got the audience singing along before it crashed into 'Every Breath You Take' raising our volume level even further. Naturally a standing ovation ensued and as Sting and band left the stage the audience demanded more by shouting, cheering, clapping and stamping their feet. Sting and band re-emerged and with Dominic strapping on his bass Sting and the band performed a flawless version of Fragile.
As the band lined up to take their bows the practically stretched from one side of the theatre to they other - an indication of the both the size of the venue and of the band. This was another masterful performance as anyone who tuned into BBC Radio 2 on 1 December will testify to.
© Dave & Wendy for Sting.com