SHOW REVIEW

Earnest megastar strips down for some tantric gigging...

Unlike his old buddy, Phil Collins, who now claims to be considered the ''Antichrist of Music'', public consensus on Sting seems elusive. His popularity in the States has never wavered, but back home, it’s difficult to tell if the "tantric" one is generally considered to be something better or worse than a guilty pleasure. Last night, however, Sting was not suffering from any self-doubt. Nor lack of stamina. It was two and a quarter hours of flat-out “back to basics”. Or "Back to Bass", as he’s called this tour.

The stage was bare save for a drum kit, some cables and five mic stands. It was probably the most minimalist stage he had inhabited since his 2008 Police reunion. And there was no support act. Despite having the guitarist’s son performing on stage, Sting’s daughter’s band wasn’t invited to play this time. Everything was simplicity. On one side of the stage was a capacity crowd of well-heeled AOR fans, including actor Richard E Grant. And on the other was an impressively built 60-year-old in a tight T-shirt, looking like Stephen Berkoff with a bass strapped to him.

This is the Back to Bass tour, because after spending so many years expanding his horizons, Sting is returning to the style he started with, just with a little less reggae. His various attempts at being a renaissance man – including literally playing renaissance music - have often felt a bit thin. But no one could really take issue with what Sting achieved when he first abandoned his blackboard. And so, even with The Police catalogue only to be sparingly exploited ('Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Demolition Man', 'Driven to Tears', 'Every Breath you Take', 'Next to You' and 'Message in a Bottle' were played), the prospect of this makeover surely warranted listening with fresh, unbiased ears?

The one thing, above all else, Sting got right was the selection of his band, and the decision to perform like he was just part of it. It not only made everything sound more Police-like, they actually did a better job of doing so than when the actual band reformed. Stripped of their faux-jazz stylings, songs like 'Seven Days' and 'Stolen Car' sprouted hair, and 'Sacred Love' grew balls. 

(c) The Arts Desk by Russ Coffey

Sting, Hammersmith Apollo - The new tour sees him put down the lute, pick up the bass and roll out the hits...

Sting's previous outing saw him team up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This time around, he’s keeping things simple.

The Back To Bass tour, which arrived in Hammersmith for the first of three nights in west London, sees him put down the lute, pick up the bass and roll out the hits. 

Billed as a celebration of his 25th year as a solo artist, this two-hour show was actually more a reminder that the majority of his best work came during his time as frontman of The Police. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and the heavy riffing of 'Demolition Man' were rapturously received by the crowd, which included within its ranks actor Richard E Grant and Sting’s wife Trudie Styler.

Unlike Sting - 60 years old but still svelte enough to wear spray-on black trousers - the set was a little flabby around the middle.

'Driven To Tears' had a finger-burning violin solo but little else, while 'Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)' trundled along in second gear.

However, as a man often criticised for taking himself too seriously, the singer was on surprisingly self-deprecating form. “Are you in a good mood? Great, because this next song is about divorce,” he quipped, by way of an introduction to 'I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying'.

Behind him, a five-piece band - which included father-and-son combo Dominic and Rufus Miller on guitars - jumped from jazz to folk to blues.

However, it was the simple moments that worked best: the melodic pop of 'Every Breath You Take'; the punk-rock of 'Next To You'; and a solo rendition of 'Message In A Bottle', in which Sting made this 3,600-capacity venue feel like his particularly spacious front- room. Fantastic in parts, frustrating in others: as a snapshot of Sting’s solo career, you’d have to say it was pretty accurate.

(c) The Evening Standard by Rick Pearson

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