SHOW REVIEW

Three Brits in Stockholm...

This was the fifth concert on the European leg of the Back to Bass tour. I had booked my ticket when they had first gone on presale last year. When meeting other fan club members in Newcastle, I was surprised to learn nobody else was going to Stockholm? (Or so I thought) Having a conversation and tea in the Sage with me can turn out to be more expensive than you think? I just happened to say, that there had been some more tickets released and I had managed to get a front row a few days earlier. It did not take long before both Sarah and Helen were checking work calendars’ and looking avidly at Ticketmaster’s Swedish website. By the time I had come back with a pot of tea, they had purchased their front rows for Stockholm! 

By all accounts I would have loved to spend more than two nights there, but work commitments meant this was a quick visit, in an ideal world I would have gone back home via Denmark or sneaked in a Gothenburg gig. On one’s travels you not only get a musical journey but a geographically adventure. 

It wasn’t until I checked into the hotel that I had realized neither Helen nor Sarah had been to Stockholm before. So on the day of the concert I suggested we should go for a walk along the Waterfront near to our hotel. It was a glorious day, snow on the ground, not too cold (not the -13 from the previous week) perfect for a Sunday morning stroll. We were not alone; tourists, locals and loving couples walking hand in hand in the glistening snow.  It was a lovely day for taking pictures; I was concentrating taking pictures of the ice in the water and the ducks! When I turn around to see Sting & Trudie directly behind me! So how long have they been following us, I think to myself? We smile at each other, no words are exchanged as I did not want to intrude or interrupt their sacred moment together. We all continue our walk in the opposite direction to Sting and Trudie, as they continue their walk along the waterfront. (Further along this path is a small shipyard.) 

The Waterfront venue is one of Stockholm’s newest buildings and had not been built when I was last here. An architectural gem built in 2010 that doubles up as a concert venue and a conference centre. What was most striking was how good the acoustics were here, Sting even commented how he needed to up his game to play in this wonderful venue. Howard Page again, has done an amazing job with the sound mix; I was right in front of the speakers and was lovely every minute. 

Sting walks on stage; he surveys the crowd (as he walks up to the microphone) who are all comfortably seated in their seats and launches into “All This Time”. It’s not long until I’m spotted and he soon wanders over to play his bass right in front of me. Already I’m hearing subtle changes in the way he is playing the bass; there has been some minor tweaking since Newcastle.

Dom is adding in some new guitar moves during "Demolition Man" I really wanted to get up and start dancing at this point, but the vibe from the audience was firmly seated. Given the design of the building it’s not designed for standing up for any great length of time. I had a small step in front of me, if I had done anything like my normal moves, I would have been flat on my face in no time. The atmosphere was reserved and hugely appreciative with three mega fans from the UK in various locations in the front row.

If you thought the Newcastle gig was good musically well things have gone up several notches since then. Most notable on “Inside” and a particular funky version of “Sacred Love”, we love that funky bass.  Sting’s introductions were slightly different “those Volvos’ are hard to steal these days” before “Stolen Car.” 

The most poignant and exquisite moment was Sting’s heartfelt dedication to Whitney Houston; I was welling up before a note was struck on “Ghost Story.” You could hear a pin drop, it is hard to convey your emotions in words, (You really had to be there) it was obvious to everyone that a truly powerful and moving performance was playing out before us.

So at the introduction of "Heavy Cloud, No Rain", Sting says “Heavy Cloud?” nobody says anything after the first question! Sting looks a bit surprised, especially because every concert on this tour I’ve been the first one out of the starter’s gates at this point. He looks over at me, as if to convey what’s up with you this evening? By the second time people start replying back “No Rain” (me included), Sting is probably thinking the audience is hard work tonight? Later on in the song he left a good gap for an audience participation of “No Rain!” nobody had the nerve (or should that be ****ing nerve) to rise to the challenge. 

“Driven to Tears” was also excellent, Dominic’s guitar playing was spot on, Sting’s delivery was strong especially at the point of “All we can offer them is a page in some ****ing magazine” in the song.

The fact that the audience were so still throughout the concert, I was extremely laid back by all accounts, an occasional bout of air drumming, during Vinnie’s trademark “Hounds of Winter” introduction, “He can do this for hours” Sting jokes. Jo Lawry’s vocals melt me every time, on “Hounds of Winter”, also the performance on “Fortress” and on those classic lines “Take me dancing tonight……” during “Stolen Car” with some impressive dance moves during “Next to You”, at least people were on their feet by then. Dom did a few guitar playing moves in my direction, big smiles and grins, he’s had over 20 years worth of laughter out of my dancing. Rufus is about to experience more of this on the tour, he was exceptionally good on “Fields of Gold.” 

As usual the musical fiddle pairing of Jo Lawry and Peter Tickell on 'Love is Stronger than Justice' is brilliant, there was no way I could stay in my seat and not give the band a standing ovation. Peter looking visibly moved at my appreciation, much deserved.  

“Never Coming Home” is still my signature tune, the zenith in the set for me. I am sure the beginning part has become more trance like as the tour has progressed. My in time clapping to Vinnie’s beat started off a chain reaction, which sounded very good in the mix.

I am still raising my hand showing "five" as I sing "it's five in the morning and the light's already broken". I look over and smile at Sarah, I’m so happy, the music is tremendous, I probably look quite comical as I rock back and forth in my chair. The whole combination and composition on display is breathtaking, where is home again? 

EBYT sometimes can feel a bit rushed, tonight’s version felt longer, and the crowds had found their voices and feet and were up singing along. I am right next to the speaker so nobody can hear me. (Which is probably a good thing?) Sting is clearly happy with the crowd reaction and extends the song for some more refrains. 

By the time Sting is having a sing-along during "Message in a Bottle" it takes awhile for the audience to sing the lines of “Message in a Bottle” back. He glances over in my direction as I’m humming the lyrics quietly to myself. Thankfully no “Newcastle moments” here, I was incredibly fortunate to get the opportunity to apologize profusely to Sting twice over that one. Anybody who has heard my Stephen Fry story will know exactly what I mean?  Thanks to Helen and Sarah for making the trip so memorable and fun, we really didn’t want to go back home, I think we will all be coming back very soon. Now the question on my mind at the moment is; can I still get into my dinner jacket?

(c) Roger Puplett for Sting.com

Oklanderlig Sting är sig lik...

Senast Sting var i Sverige hade han med sig en symfoniorkester. Det var en bra konsert som belyste de välbekanta sångerna från Sting- och The Police-katalogen på ett delvis nytt sätt.

Den här gången har den sjungande basisten bantat ner musikerantalet och kallar turnén för "Back to bass tour". Han har, som vanligt, med sig gitarristen Dominic Miller och trummisen Vinnie Colaiuta och har kompletterat dem med de betydligt yngre Jo Lawry, på fiol och sång, Peter Tickell, också på fiol, och Dominic Millers son Rufus på gitarr. Utan något klaviaturinstrument blir musiken ännu mer skarpskuren än vanligt.

Annars är det som det brukar vara på en konsert med Sting. Oklanderliga musikerinsatser, högt tempo och genomtänkt mellansnack. Denna gång handlar det bland annat om metodik för låtskrivande, kärlekens dubbla natur och rävjakt. 'Ghost Story', som handlar om hans sedan länge bortgångna pappa, tillägnas den i helgen avlidna Whitney Houston. "En förfärlig förlust", som han uttrycker det.

Hitsen från The Police-tiden och de egna soloskivorna kanske inte kommer lika frekvent som vid andra tillfällen men vilst får vi såväl 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' som 'Fields Of Gold' och 'Every Breath You Take'.

Den stora skillnaden denna gång gäller valet av konsertlokal. Superstjärnan Sting befinner sig ju på Globen-nivå, vilket innebär dåligt ljud och dålig sikt (om man inte råkar sitta långt fram på parkett). Att nu få se honom i den betydligt mindre och alldeles ypperliga konsertlokalen Stockholm Waterfront känns som en gudagåva. Man kommer nära och ljudet är fantastiskt. Luftigt och krispigt.

Men även om konserten utgör en närmast idealisk presentation av Sting kvarstår de invändningar man alltid kan hysa. Som att många låtar är enahanda och att Dominic Miller är en tråkig gitarrist.

(c) Svenska Dagbladet by Dan Backman

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