SHOW REVIEW

Sting's long career shines in rock retrospective...
 
Sting has done a lot of experimentation in his 25 years as a solo artist. He began as something like a punk but when he broke up with his band The Police, he ran into the arms of jazz legends rather than rock gods.

His literary lyrics and heavy use of world beats made him the intellectual's choice of early '80s pop music - a sort of thinking man's Phil Collins. And like Collins, Sting has done his fair share of soundtracks, including a little Disney.

In the past few years, he has dabbled in lute music for his album Songs From the Labyrinth and most recently toured with a full orchestra. All this variation has made for a strange discography.

The Back to Bass tour that brought him to Vancouver this time around, however, was billed as a straight-up rock show, an unadorned retrospective of his long career.

So, understandably, nostalgia was heavy at Queen Elizabeth Theatre as the crowd filtered in for the sold-out first night of Sting's three-show run.

The age range spanned his career as completely as the setlist - parents with teenage kids who couldn't have been born when Sting first reached his ascendancy.

When a lithe-looking Sting, with a clean-shaven head, white T-shirt and jeans, took the stage with that beloved bass, he and his five-piece backing band hopped straight into 'All this Time'.

The crowd was all smiles and bobbing heads.

When it was time to introduce his band, he said: "Musicians get too old and decrepit to go on the road so I've very shrewdly hired Mr. Miller's son," referring to his longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, whose son Rufus joined the band for the tour.

Next up was The Police hit 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', that featured a crowd singalong, encouraged by house lights that brightened during that famous "way-ohoh" chorus.

Two fiddles backed him up for a heavy rendition of 'Demolition Man'. And the band took a small departure from the tour's setlist with a mellow rendition of 'I Hung My Head'.

"One of my hobbies is to attempt to write country music," Sting explained afterward. He figured he was vindicated because Johnny Cash covered that one.

Sting explained that his songwriting process often starts with the music. He arranges it, puts it on his iPod, then lives with it for a while. For 'Stolen Car', he imagined a psychic car thief who can see the whole lives of his victims just by sitting in their seats. The performance of the song, which had a sultry feel, included bringing forward his backup vocalist for a musical theatre style duet.

Sting gave each member of his band a chance to shine. 'Driven to Tears' brought out a squealing guitar solo from the elder Miller and 'Fields of Gold' featured a gentle acoustic solo from the younger.

The tone stayed up and poppy until 'Ghost Story' from 1999's 'Brand New Day', which Sting introduced as a story inspired by his late father. The song was a slightly uncomfortable mix of English folk ballad and pop song but seemed to strike a chord with the audience.

He picked up the mood with a heavy bluesy rendition of 'Heavy Cloud No Rain' from 1993's 'Ten Summoner's Tales'.

He drew the night together with biographical detail, proclaiming the secret to a long marriage (vulnerability) and reminiscing about his favourite musical (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers).

If this evening was any indication, it's been a wild 25 years for Sting.

(c) The Vancouver Sun by Erika Thorkelson

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