At 60, Sting Can Still Rock a Packed House & a Muscle Tee...
Sting and his "Back to Bass" tour warmed Washington, DC on Saturday night at DAR Constitution Hall. After opening with 'All This Time' backed by a 5-piece band, Sting turned on the charm by demurring, "I'm so delighted you would come out on such a cold winter's night."
Sting and the band quickly got the older and typically reserved Washingtonian crowd on their feet dancing to 'Every Little Thing You Do Is Magic'. I was having a fabulous time until the sourpuss behind me said, "Are you going to stand up and dance the whole night?" I turned around and said, "Yeah, maybe. It's a rock concert."
And I did dance. Particularly enjoying 'Driven to Tears' from The Police's 'Zenyatta Mondatta' album and 'Fortress Around Your Heart' from Sting's first solo album, 'Dream of the Blue Turtles'.
Sting played storyteller giving anecdotes, background and observations on the songs. We learned from Professor Sting (he really once was a teacher) that the origins of Halloween are from medieval festivals on the last day of Autumn, when it was a time for stock-taking and preparation for the cold winter months. Not unlike going around ritzy neighborhoods and lugging home pounds of candy. "It's got fuckall to do with a bloody axe in your head," explains Sting.
Another nice moment was when Sting explained how he'd been with his wife Trudie for 32 years and that she saved him and he saved her but that marriage takes work. (Elbow nudge to my husband.) He then sings 'Inside' from his 7th solo album, 'Sacred Love'. The strings in 'Inside' led perfectly into the country jam 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice' that gave the spotlight over to young fiddler Peter Tickell during a long and inspiring session.The fiddler earned a standing ovation.
The "Back to Bass" band was no frills and excellent. Australian jazz singer Jo Lawry's harmonies, Peter Tickell's electric rock violin, the solos of long time Sting guitarist Dominic Miller and the "drummer's drummer" Vinnie Colaiuta's beats were perfect together. It's a family affair too - Miller's son Rufus rounded out guitar and backing vocals.
The "Back to Bass" tour celebrates the 25th anniversary of Sting's solo career by taking it back to bass. My favorite part of the show was the last four songs that skewed Police. The sexy 'Desert Rose' when Sting's hip swiveling in tight jeans proved he's the hottest, coolest 60 year-old on the planet. Then a flurry of encores including the ubiquitous 'Every Breath You Take', followed by 'Next To You', where we saw The Police's Sting run, jump and rock like a young lad from Northern England. Then finally, a beautiful solo acoustic version of 'Message In A Bottle' that left no doubt that Sting can still hit the high notes and rock a muscle tee.
(c) The Huffington Post by Elizabeth Thorp
Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic - Sting Captivates DC...
The day might have started off gloomy and cold, as a wintry mix descended upon DC, but for those who had tickets to Sting's Back To Bass show, the night was nothing short of magical. The sold-out performance was held at DAR Constitution Hall, which seemed the perfect venue for the performance that celebrates Sting's 25 years of music. Even before Sting and his five band members took the stage, the energy in the audience was apparent, as people chatted excitedly and took their seats.
The lights dim, and a cool, casual and confident Sting takes the stage along with his band members and his bass guitar, wearing loose-fitting jeans and a fitted tee-shirt. They open with 'All This Time,' and less than a minute into the performance I am sure every audience member is thinking the same thing... Sting looks REALLY good at sixty. Not just in the physical sense, but also in his style, stage presence and demeanor. Don't get me wrong, yoga does his body good. But it is the always-present grin and genuine passion for music and songwriting that lets the audience know they are in the presence of a stellar musician. The first few rows remain standing for the first few songs, singing along to 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,' and I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying.'
The stage set-up is simple and straightforward with white light enhancing the show, but not distracting the audience with flashiness and changing colors. For the "Back To Bass Tour," it is all about the music. The songs and performance are absolutely timeless... appealing to any music lover who appreciates stellar songwriting, musical precision and authenticity. One look at the audience and the verdict is very telling. Sting's music cannot be confined to a certain genre or age. Prior to playing 'I Hung My Head,' (also performed by the late Johnny Cash), Sting explains his affinity for country music because "it tells a story." His music can connect with those in their twenties and thirties as much as it appeals to those who became fans when he was in The Police.
The tour includes a total of six band members (including Sting). Dominic Miller, Sting's longtime guitarist who is absolutely masterful. Rufus Miller, Dominic's twenty six year old son, plays the acoustic guitar beautifully. Vinne Colaiuta, is mesmerizing on drums... ¦never missing a beat and making his craft look absolutely effortless. Jo Lawry's voice is stunning. Her vocal range is unbelievable, as she delivers some of the most pitch-perfect vocals ever heard. The audience was clearly blown away by the talent of Peter Tickell on the fiddle, as they stood and cheered after an amazing solo during 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice'. Sting played bass and sang lead... one of the most challenging feats a musician can attempt. Sting more than attempted it, he owned it. In fact, he made it look effortless and easy, like he was just born to do it.
From a beautiful version of 'Fields of Gold,' where the guitar took the place of a would-be keyboard to 'Stolen Car,' 'Fortress Around Your Heart,' and 'Heavy Cloud No Rain,' Sting took the audience on a musical journey through time. Before almost every song, he provides an explanation and introduction in order for the audience to become privy to the inspiration and story behind each tune. Attending a show on the 'Back To Bass' is a music lovers dream come true. The audience gets to know the songwriter who is so at home playing bass guitar and singing songs covering everything from car theft (Stolen Car) and the life of foxes (The End Of The Game), to the conflation of his favorite western films (Love Is Stronger Than Justice) and conversations with his late father (Ghost Story).
It is certain Sting and the band left the audience captivated, as this performance is intimate and special. Although he always delivers a stellar performance, I highly recommend seeing at least one show on the 'Back To Bass' Tour. If you could not purchase tickets for the show this past weekend, mark your calendar for Thursday, November 10. The tour comes back to DC that evening, which is not yet sold out. It will be evident from the time the band starts playing to the final performance that you have enjoyed one of the most musically-sound and lovely concerts you will ever attend.
(c) The Washington Examiner by Courtney Smith
Sting @ DAR Constitution Hall...
The past few years have been a dodgy time for those who enjoy Sting's music. Artistic curiosity is one thing, but some questionable choices have certainly been made. Beginning with the disappointment of 2003's Sacred Love, then continuing with folk-inspired odes to winter and orchestral explorations, it seemed as though the iconic pop star had lost his edge. And we totally understand anyone who refuses to forgive Sting for the whole renaissance lute thing.
Maybe that should have been expected. After all, the man is no longer a spikey-haired wannabe punk in his 20s. By the time Sting reached middle-age, he owned a castle in England, a penthouse in New York and a palazzo in Italy - not to mention a song catalog that is probably worth a kabillion dollars. So when I settled into my seat inside DAR Constitutional Hall on Saturday night for the latest stop on Sting's Back To Bass tour, which supports a compilation of his first 25 years as a solo artist, I was fully expecting a show that would be very well-executed (even those who hate Sting's work cannot deny the craftsmanship that goes into his songwriting), and with little surprise.
But I was surprised. The taut two-hour setlist included not only the unexpected, but also left out some beloved classics. Sting, who celebrated his 60th birthday earlier this month, proved that he's still got game.
The show's presentation, with no fireworks, bells or whistles, put the focus squarely on the songs. Even the singer himself wore a simple look, sporting a shaved head, jeans and a tight gray t-shirt showing off a physique that would raise envy in men half his age. Opening with the lyrical irony of 'All This Time' from 1991's 'The Soul Cages', Sting's most underrated and perhaps best album, the program included material from nearly all of his solo releases as well every album of The Police. The only exception was 'Nothing Like the Sun' (1987), which includes concert staples like "Englishman in New York" and 'Fragile'. On the other hand, 'Sacred Love' got an unexpected nod. The title track, 'Inside' and 'Never Coming Home' were mercifully stripped of their sequencer-driven sheen and reworked over driving, headbobbing grooves, as was 'Desert Rose', the hit single off of 1999's 'Brand New Day'.
During one of several amusing anecdotes giving the backstory to his songs, Sting said that in the past decade, he has taken to writing the music first and then waiting for the muse to tell him what the lyrics should be. The result is often words written from a character's point of view. Subjects in Saturday's show included a murderous cowboy ('I Hung My Head'), a car thief ('Stolen Car') and a pair of foxes in 'End of the Game'. The latter was inexplicably omitted from the American release of 'Brand New Day', but has been performed on several tours and shows Sting's mastery as an arranger. While stepping into other people's (or animals') shoes expands the lyrical palette, it does not establish the personal connection of his more introspective material. For example, 'Ghost Story', written as a conversation with his late father's spirit, was an emotional high point.
Of course, The Police made a showing, but there were unanticipated calls here as well. 'Roxanne' didn't get a chance to put on the red light, and was not particularly missed. Instead, Sting dusted off 'Driven to Tears', a song whose continued relevance is unfortunate, as well as 'Next to You', the first track off The Police's 1978 debut. 'Every Breath You Take' drew cheers, but at this point is pretty much obligatory, while 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' exudes as much joy today as it did 30 years ago.
Always known for surrounding himself with some of the best and most versatile musicians in the world, Sting made this tour no exception. He called Vinnie Colaiuta a "drummer's drummer," and Colaiuta's slick and nimble playing on the odd-metered "Seven Days" showed why he is considered among the all-time greats. Having spent 20 years with Sting, guitarist Dominic Miller has become the songwriter's right hand on stage. Miller's son, Rufus, provided able rhythm guitar and backing vocals. 'Hounds of Winter' featured a wailing solo from singer Jo Lawry, who also doubled on violin. Peter Tickell joined her on the fiddle and took a crushing turn on 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice' that brought the crowd to its feet. Then there is Sting himself, who not only laid down thick bass lines all night, but also delivered pitch-perfect vocals. His solo rendition of "Message in a Bottle" brought the evening to an appropriately haunting close.
(c) DCist by Sriram Gopal
Sting's still full of energy at age 60 at Constitution Hall...
Midway through Saturday's Constitution Hall performance, Sting announced he'd recently turned 60 years old. He was about to explain how little passing that milestone meant to him when a fan in the back of the hall interrupted to yell, "You look great, Sting!" as if the star were seeking pity.
Sting doesn't want your pity, kind sir.
It can't be easy being saddled with a schoolboyish nickname so far into middle age. Yet for all his years - the former Police frontman played his first solo gig 30 years ago last month - he still manages to look and carry himself more like a "Sting" than a "Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner."
Glimpses of preciousness were only occasional, as during the Jackson Browne-ish 'All This Time', which had him crooning, "Better to be poor than a fat man in the eye of a needle."
Sting's hardly poor, and he's got less body fat than the G string on the bass he plucked and danced with all night; his hip-swing interlude with his instrument on the Middle Easternish 'Desert Rose' was particularly sultry. His jeans and short-sleeve T-shirt gripped his form like a sausage casing. And for anybody wondering about his fiscal fitness, before 'Fields of Gold', Sting explained that he came up with the song after buying a "house," then stopped the tale to add a clarifying humblebrag: "It was a castle, really." (He also confessed that life on the estate has caused him to grow less opposed to the sport of the gentry in his native UK: fox hunting.)
His voice shows no signs of aging, either. He stretched out the vocal cords whenever he asked his backup quintet to travel back to his vintage Police blotter: 'Demolition Man' and 'Next to You' were harder, faster and louder than ever. 'Every Breath You Take', a piece of pop brilliance released in 1983, has aged as invisibly as its singer.
Sting turned young fiddler Peter Tickell loose during a long jam on 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice', described as a tribute to movie westerns. Arena-rock violin solos are typically no more musically interesting than arena-rock drum solos, and they get the crowd just as fired up. Tickell's fleet-fingered fretboard run, and the audience's reaction, were typical.
The crowd got most kinetic when Sting came to the stage accompanied only by his acoustic guitar for a final encore of 'Message in a Bottle'. As Sting sang, "Seems I'm not alone in being alone," he had the whole room singing with him.
(c) The Washington Post by Dave McKenna