Sting in Miami Beach - Singer is able to transfix any audience, regardless of song...
Last time Sting played South Florida, in July 2010 at the Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, he was backed by the 50-piece Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, and it was great. No, it was breathtakingly magnificent, actually. But on Saturday night at a sold-out Fillmore Miami Beach, the frontman for The Police proved he's just as mesmerizing with a mere five-piece backing band.
Sting was in town - and is still here for a second show Sunday night Nov. 13 - for his Back to Bass tour, featuring his greatest hits "stripped-down and raw, as they haven't been played in years." The tour is in support of his new release "Sting: 25 Years," which celebrates his solo career and which hit the streets Sept. 27. Thankfully, though, in concert he throws in a few Police classics.
Clad humbly in a tight gray T and jeans - and hair cropped so close he was nearly bald - Sting (on bass, for a welcome change) started the night with the country-tinged 'All This Time', powered by acoustic guitar, mandolin, and sultry backup singer Jo Lawry. Afterward, Sting exclaimed, "It's great to be back in Miami - everybody looks like they just had sex, or are about to have sex. And some are having sex right now!"
The crowd then exploded when the band kicked into 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', during which Sting - who recently turned 60, but looks more like 40 - absolutely nailed every high note. And the band didn't miss the keyboards from the studio version one bit.
In keeping with the stripped-down theme of the tour, the set was sparse, with artful white spotlights against an all-black background. The music, however, was rich and complex. The Police hit 'Demolition Man' rocked like a train careening out of control, with beautifully dissonant screeching from two violins replacing the original recording's synths; the country twang of 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' and 'I Hung My Head' was tastefully low-key; the pleasantly haunting 'Fortress Around Your Heart' showed off some of Sting's best bass work; the feel-good country melody of 'Fields of Gold' and the slow, swaggering blues of 'Sacred Love' lulled the crowd into blissful reverence; and the rollicking 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice' and 'Never Coming Home' inspired standing ovations for some sick fiddle solos by Peter Tickell.
Some complaints, and it must be stressed that there were very few: On 'Driven to Tears', the guitars lacked both the satisfying, ringing mystery of Andy Summers' genius, and the drummer didn't even attempt Stewart Copeland's intricate fills; the slow, swaggering blues of 'Sacred Love' ended up seeming as long as Sting's legendary lovemaking prowess; and some eyes began to glaze over during 'Heavy Cloud No Rain' and 'Inside'.
But that's what encores are for. A spiritually uplifting 'Desert Rose', which inspired dancing in the aisles; an extended version of 'Every Breath You Take', on which Sting nailed the chorus' difficult high notes; the raw garage-rock of 'Next to You'; and the compelling 'Message in a Bottle', with Sting alone on acoustic guitar imploring the willing crowd to sing the chorus; sent everyone home in awe.
Would the crowd have gone completely nuts if the entire set list were huge hits, heavily weighted toward old Police standards? Most likely. But Sting is one of those rare treasures with the ability to transfix any audience, no matter what he sings.
(c) The Miami Herald by Michael Hamersly
Sting's Back to Bass Tour at the Fillmore Miami Beach, November 12
Better Than: Getting stung.
He faked out the audience three times, once for every decade of his career. And all three times, the crowd's heavy applause pulled him back onto the stage for an encore.
Sting, the English pop-rock icon, finally closed out his sold-out show at the Fillmore Miami Beach with an acoustic version of 'Message in a Bottle' by The Police, the band that initially brought fame to the singer-songwriter.
The audience almost drowned out Sting and his entire band as they sang along with every lyric. He stayed quiet for the hook. But the theater resonated with the voices of those who've aged just as well as the song.
Moms and dads dusted off their old moves, rocking fists and hips, and pulling up old memories with every bellow of Sting's familiar raspy voice. At 60 years old, he still sounds fresh.
The five-piece band for Sting's Back to Bass tour brought mounds of energy to the stage, comprised of longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, guitarist Rufus Miller, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, electric fiddler Peter Tickell, and Australian vocalist Jo Lawry.
Lawry's powerful harmonies occasionally stole the spotlight. At the very end of 'Stolen Car', the audience wowed as she fiercely sang out, "Take me dancing tonight!" From there, things went rock 'n' roll wild for 'Driven to Tears'. A man shot up out of his seat and banged on a set of invisible bongos while barks and hoots rang throughout the theater.
A nostalgic moment came next as the band mellowed out for the 1993 classic 'Fields of Gold'. The acoustic guitarist got much love from the spectators.
In a break between songs, Sting disclosed to the audience the two subjects - sex and religion, of course - that most fascinate him. Whipping out his own dance moves, Sting performed hip and pelvic thrusts, triggering a slew of whistles from the ladies in the theater - single and not.
Fiddler Peter Tickell received his own standing ovation as he took the floor during 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice', his hair thrashing in his face, eyes focused on the bow. The sounds coming from that man's fiddle had the whole place mesmerized, hitting frequencies so high that some of the crowd probably couldn't even hear it.
After what seemed to be the last song, the whole theater was on its feet. The stage went black for a moment and the roars commenced. In no time at all, the band was back.
Sting held his arms out wide in an effort to embrace the audience, and let out one of those 'Desert Rose' deep Indian hollers. I'll have to say it was almost sexier than the woman's voice in the song.
And what's more, Sting pulled out a little belly dancing action. Yes. Sting. Belly dancing. It was quite a spectacle.