Sting at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts; June 11, 2012...
The idea of a Sting career overview with a small band didn't sound half bad when we heard about the Back to Bass tour, named after the singer-songwriter's return to the electric instrument he played aggressively in a famous peroxided trio.
But deeper reflection should have thrown cold water on the excitement: we're talking mostly Sting solo material here, with six of 20 songs in Monday night's concert at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts dating from his halcyon years with the Police.
Consider, for example, this somewhat punishing sequence, which made up the entire second half of the pre-encore setlist: 'Fields of Gold', 'Sacred Love', 'Heavy Cloud No Rain', 'Shape of My Heart', 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)', 'The Hounds of Winter', 'The End of the Game' and 'Never Coming Home'.
If you came to hear songs from 'Sacred Love' or '10 Summoner's Tales', you were in luck. Both of you. If you were hoping for 'Message In a Bottle', 'Roxanne', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' or even 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', it wasn't your night.
Sure, granted, no artist should be forced to play only the hits he recorded in his 20s and 30s forever. The problem with Sting's post-Police work, however, is how dramatically the quality of the songwriting went downhill after his first solo album, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'. Instantly forgettable selections like 'Seven Days' and 'I Hung My Head' - both played Monday night - soon became the norm. The audience, accordingly, was offered a few too many tuneless throwaways.
No blame can be placed on the musicians in Sting's band. The opening trio of songs - 'All This TIme', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Englishman In New York' - were attacked with playful urgency, allowing virtually no stops between them.
Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta proved himself to be a rock-solid asset from the get-go and never failed to toughen up even the weaker material. Guitarist Dominic Miller and electric fiddle player Peter Tickell dazzled the audience with their chops, the latter earning a standing ovation for his furious soloing during 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice'. The wailing of backup vocalist Jo Lawry, particularly in 'Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)', surely gained her some new fans, too. Keyboard player David Sancious added texture to flesh out the sound. With all that going on, these guys made 'Driven to Tears' a highlight and were even able to rescue material like 'The Hounds of Winter'.
Quite apart from the audience's appreciation of the level of musicianship, the crowd showed plenty of love throughout the evening, greeting both the oldies and the solo songs with keen enthusiasm. Tellingly, however, the three songs chosen to send everyone home on a high were all by the Police.
(c) The Montreal Gazette by Bernard Perusse