Superstar Sting wows fans at The Sage Gateshead...
It's thirty years since Sting as singer and bass player with the world's biggest band, The Police, rocked Gateshead Stadium to its foundations.
Last night, just down the road, at the Sage, a more reflective, intimate performance from the enigmatic star was equally electrifying.
The milkman's son from Wallsend, now exiled in Tuscany, was launching the European leg of his Back to Bass tour, celebrating over 25 years of a successful solo career. He's already toured the States to rave reviews.
Sting may have raised a few eyebrows over the years, what with his tantric shenanigans and carefully-publicised Third World concerns, but he remains the North East's biggest and best musical export - apart from Cheryl Cole, of course!
After an introduction by none other than Jimmy Nail, the evening kicked off with 1991's 'All This Time' which, with its strong references to the Tyne, was written for Sting's father who'd recently died.
Then it was back to days of peroxide blond hair and The Police with a bouncing 'Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.
Then thick and fast came the smooth complexity of 'Seven Days', the 80s punk of 'Demolition Man', and the country-tinged bitter-sweetness of 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying'.
Sting has always surrounded himself with great musicians, not least in the drumming department.
American session giant Vinnie Colaiuta is one of the best drummers on the planet, and last night he had no trouble nailing the hyperactive brilliance of The Police's Stewart Copeland, as well as the more grown-up, dynamic numbers like 'Fortress Around Your Heart'.
Elsewhere, the father and son guitar team of Dominic and Rufus Miller, Northumberland lad Peter Tickell on mesmerising electric violin, and backing singer Jo Lawry, provided fantastic support to the main man, who still plays a mean bass guitar.
The set progressed, highlighting Sting's song-writing mastery across a range of styles, whether it be the Police rocker 'Driven To Tears', the blues-infused 'Heavy Rain No Cloud', or the gentle country feel of the classic 'Fields Of Gold'.
The singer seemed pleased to be back on home turf, revealing he'd been staying in Newcastle for the last week, and had enjoyed walking next to the Tyne with his daughter, venturing up the river as far as Elswick.
Also it must be said, Mr Gordon Sumner is in fantastic nick for a 60-year-old Geordie bloke, with a better physique than most men 20 years his junior. And more importantly, Sting can still hit every note of every song. Impressive.
And so the evening climaxed with the encores - the new-world vibe of 'Desert Rose', the inevitable 'Every Breath You Take' which featured Jimmy Nail, and the turbo-charged 'Next To You' from The Police's debut album.
Until, last but not least, probably Sting's greatest creation, 'Message In A Bottle', played on his own, with an acoustic guitar. A magic moment at The Sage from a genuine superstar.
A great night with a band of awesome musicians, and a charismatic singer-songwriter who's lost none of his powers.
Welcome home, Sting.
(c) Evening Chronicle by David Morton
Sting, The Sage, Gateshead...
After dabbling in 16th-century songs on a lute, a Police reunion, tantric sex and being insulted by Paul Weller, Sting has finally returned to the instrument that once made him one of pop's national institutions. There are almost audible sighs of relief as the Back to Bass tour sees him favour rocking four-string renditions of 'Next to You' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' over 'And Accordinge as I Desired Ther Cam a Letter'.
Thirty-five years after the Geordie swapped teaching for the Police, his angst has been supplanted by the cheery self-satisfaction that comes with being worth a reported £150m and looking as good as the yoga-toned star does at 60.
This is a more enjoyable show than he has turned in for some time: the often po-faced Sting is letting his metaphorical hair down. Between-song banter covers everything from the declining profession of car theft to the absence of cowboys in Wallsend, while Sacred Love's line about being "down on my knees a long time" gains a new sense of mischief after Sting notes the song heralds his "twin passions" of sex and religion.
The stunning musicianship of drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and electric fiddler Peter Tickell aside, the solo material varies from effective to dated to self-indulgent, and the show would benefit from more hits. However, a surreal duet with Jimmy Nail turns out to be a raucous 'Every Breath You Take' rather than Nail's Crocodile Shoes. There is uproar during an acoustic 'Message in a Bottle', when a punter loudly mimics Sting's acrobatic vocal exertions. "You've got a fucking nerve!" laughs Sting.
(c) The Guardian by Dave Simpson
Sting began his "Back to Bass" tour of Europe with a quietly triumphant show in the town where he grew up. The Geordie connection was helpfully reinforced by Jimmy Nail who introduced the performance and joined in with an encore of Every Breath You Take. Between songs, Sting talked about his memories of the place without ever quite expressing any great enthusiasm for finding himself back there.
After tours in recent times with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the temporarily reconvened Police, not to mention his 60th birthday concert last year in New York with Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga, Sting has trimmed the sails somewhat. Accompanied by a small, unorthodox configuration of musicians, he embarked on a voyage around his back catalogue that touched most of the usual bases, but took some unusual turns as well.
To his right were the old hands: guitarist Dominic Miller and "the greatest drummer on the planet" Vinnie Colaiuta. Bobbing about on Sting's left was a little gang of younger musicians which included Miller's son Rufus on guitar and vocals, Peter Tickell (another Geordie) on violin and Jo Lawry on vocals and violin. They brought a welcome touch of innocence and vitality to a table that was otherwise plentifully laden with the weight of worldly experience.
Not only was Sting naturally the star of the show, but he also supplied the musical anchor with his casually executed bass parts. These were often in fiendishly complicated or counterintuitive time signatures - as in 'Seven Days' or the prog-western epic 'Love is Stronger than Justice (The Munificent Seven)' - and were then overlaid with fast, dense clusters of words, arranged in further contrapuntal melodic formations, which he somehow sang simultaneously. Brilliant certainly, but some of it was heavy going. 'Ghost Story', a lyric about his late father, was a study in Gothic gloom, and 'The End of the Game', an obscure prog-rock odyssey about a pair of romantically entwined foxes, was bizarre. But there was always a buoyant melodic hook ('Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Fields of Gold') or killer riff ('Demolition Man', 'Heavy Cloud No Rain') around the next corner.
The pearls were cast with an air of gracious goodwill and a precisely calibrated economy of effort, right down to the peculiar way in which Sting managed to sing, as usual, without seeming to move his lips. You had to marvel at his audacity in applying such cerebral skills to the craft of popular songwriting and performing, if not necessarily adore him for it.
(c) The Times