SHOW REVIEW

Sting goes Back to Bass in S.F.

The genius of Sting, at least as a solo artist, is he can delve into any musical genre and emerge with a song that would fit for a luxury car commercial.

There's a glossy sheen to everything he touches, be it R&B ('Sacred Love'), blues ('Heavy Cloud No Rain'), country ('I Hung My Head') or pop (take your pick). It's not necessary a bad thing, but it's so different from the rough-and-tumble rock 'n' roll he created in his early years leading the Police.

Call it maturing as an artist, if you want to be kind Yet the fact remains that the two sides of Sting - which divide at the Police's last album, 1983's blockbuster 'Synchronicity' - are so vastly dissimilar that it's hard to understand how the same fan could cherish both the Police's 1978 debut, 'Outlandos d'Amour', and a solo offering such as 1999's 'Brand New Day'.

Having enjoyed the retro side of Sting a few years back, as the vocalist-bassist twice brought the Police reunion tour through the Bay Area, local fans got the flip side on Friday night at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco.

And the thing made abundantly clear at this show - the first half of a sold-out two-night stand at the hilltop venue - is that Sting is far more comfortable as a solo artist than he is as the chief of Police.

Of course, the set list wasn't as strong as the ones featured at the Police stops in 2007 at Oakland Coliseum and in 2008 at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View and Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord. But Sting's vocals and bass work were certainly better during this date of his Back to Bass Tour.

Most of all, Sting looked like he was having a blast onstage. There was a charmingly casual air to the show, which deflated Sting's usual persona of "important rock star," as he joked with the crowd and chatted about the music.

He even proved capable of rolling with the punches. For instance, there was a woman near the front of the stage who was waving a handmade sign, asking that Sting bring her up onstage to sing with him. Ridiculous request, right? Yet, his answer was simply, "Yeah, sure, come on up."

The woman then shared the star's microphone for the laid-back country rambler 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', a Sting-penned divorce ditty that was a major hit for Toby Keith. The guest vocalist did a fine job during her five minutes of fame, making hundreds of others in the house wish they'd drawn up similar signs.

That moment underscored what's really special about the Masonic. The venue's relatively low-to-the-ground stage, without any real barriers erected around it, means that those fans seated on the floor level get a surprisingly up-close-and-personal concert experience. The only thing keeping a fan from walking onstage with Sting was courage - that and, of course, some security guards.

Opening the evening with the 1991 single 'All This Time', from 'The Soul Cages', Sting and his versatile five-piece band took fans on a two-hour-plus tour throughout his catalog. The 21-song set was built primarily from his solo material, but he did include six Police cuts - all of which, not surprisingly, ranked as highlights of the show.

It initially seemed like he might strike a more-Police-heavy balance, given that three of the first eight tunes were from his old band - a bouncy 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', a rollicking 'Demolition Man' and a fast-paced 'Driven to Tears'. Yet, the next 10 offerings were all from his solo songbook.

It grew dull at times, even though the vocals and musicianship never slipped, as the band delivered one numbingly pastoral ditty after another. So much of his solo material has been inspired by the English countryside, where his family has lived now for roughly 25 years, and that's made him a kind of Henry David Thoreau of pop. The lyrical imagery is often quite pretty, but, really, there's only so much 'Fields of Gold' one can take.

The crowd members politely enjoyed the solo songs, even such dull numbers as 'Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)' and 'Never Coming Home', but they showed the greatest enthusiasm for the old Police numbers. Fortunately, Sting would lay down the law at the show's end and perform three straight Police classics - 'Every Breath You Take', 'Message in a Bottle' and, best of all, 'Next to You'.

(c) Oakland Tribune by Jim Harrington

(6) Reviews and Comments
jrodhard - 12.03.11
I was there
I was there last night and it was an incredible show. The sound was a bit off on "All This Time" as Sting's vocal was difficult to hear but they fixed the issue and his vocals were crystal clear after that. Sting was incredible, energetic and I loved the set list. I found nothing boring about "Never Coming Home" or "Stolen Car." I did the VIP package and wound up in the front row. Can't beat that. However, security did an AWFUL JOB. First, people were constantly running up to the stage to take pictures and that was an awful distraction. Second, near the end of the show on "Next To You" two women ran onto the stage and security was slow to get up there and pull them off. They also allowed the women to stay for the end of the show rather than being escorted out or arrested. Finally, as the encore started, people started pushing down toward the stage so my front row spot went to second and third row as people rudely pushed on front of me and blocked my view. I wound up and having a great look at the lazy security guard in front of me and an obstructed view of the stage and Sting specifically. I hope the two women who stood in front of me enjoyed my screaming version of "Message In A Bottle" and that they had trouble hearing Sting. I have to say I have been to many concerts in the Bay Area and the crowds are always lame. I was standing up for the first few songs as were many around and behind me but the jerks who just wanted to sit, drink their fancy cocktails and play with their fancy phones during the show kept shouting for us to sit down. When we finally did, the lazy non fans all clapped with glee. If you are at a concert and people are standing in front of you, either stand up and get into it or sit down and shut up. Another point of lameness was during "Heavy Cloud No Rain" and the inability for the crowd to get loud in calling back "No Rain" to Sting...I mean how hard is that? Also a very tepid sing-a-long on "Message" at the end of the show... come on people...bring some energy tonight or stay home!
pangea - 12.03.11
Another Incredible Performance
San Francisco is such a beautiful city, you should see Union Square and Macy's how beautifully decorated for Christmas. Tonight again, after 15 years, finally hearing music this clear and so good again. My friend, Caribbean musician who accompanied me was blown away. He asks me how could I listen to soca after this? I had to laugh. Howard Page is back on the mix, I was in the balcony which was not seen in this photo but Sting better release a DVD of this tour. In the end, this is indeed Sting at his best by far, the show was again incredible and the band is getting tighter and better night after night. This is music and I am back to my arrogant ways in saying there is no one who could come close as a writer, singer, bass player, arranger in one package in my lifetime, Sting is a genius. I could see this show 10 more times, wish I had the money, Europe, Asia and Africa are in for a treat next year. After that, it looks like Sting might be going for his Broadway Musical, still no album after 8 years but apparently he wrote 25 new songs for the Broadway show. So I had to take this show in again as I am not sure if next is another 6 year Broadway/Lute/Orchestra jaunt. Again, thank you Sting, band and Howard Page!
humpies - 10.28.11
so happy i cant stop..
I gots a couple tickets to this here show ya all!Its gonna be be fantastic!Im so happy I cant wait!
amykitt - 09.28.11
amy825
How about squeezing in a concert in -or near- Memphis TN? We have venues such as the beautiful Orpheum Theatre (3000+) or the new FedEx Forum (18,000+)? I’ve seen both Sting solo and the Police - the latter being in the ’80’s.... Anywhere closer than Houston or San Francisco will do! There’s only one of the two singer/songwriter/rock/pop music artists I’d bother getting mixed up with a concert crowd to see. Take care of this for me PRONTO, please? Thanks!
sagolf100 - 09.21.11
Credit Card Offering
What happened to the credit card offering between 5:00PST on 9/21? This was displayed yesterday as one of the three time offerings.