Sting at Jones Beach...
Rock'n'roll got the sand back between its toes this weekend when the Jones Beach Theater opened for the 2005 summer season with gigs by Velvet Revolver and Sting.
No matter what you've heard about the concert business having one foot on a banana peel and the other in a grave, these two shows - Sting Friday and VR Saturday - showed just how healthy music is. While neither concert was a sell-out, both brought the 15,000-seat amphitheater this close to capacity with very different music and audiences.
For straight ahead, pedal-to-the-metal rock, VR's Beach show was it.
The band, a super group of sorts, features frontman Scott Weiland, the former stoned Temple Pilot, as vocalist backed by the remnants of Guns N' Roses sans Axl. The combination of these two '90s outfits made for a night of very aggressive hard rock that was able to wing from the occasional ballad to headbanging nu-metal with skill.
In a red necktie, a CBGB T-shirt and his prized Hitler hat, the needle-thin Weiland worked the stage like a caged cat. He'd pace in front of the sound monitors with heavy steps, then do a full speed scramble across the stage as if he stepped on a tack. Even though he was in perpetual motion, he never missed a note.
All wrapped in leather Slash, the famed Guns guitarist, now the key force in Velvet's crush of sound, is a sideman - technically. But in concert the fans, who are equally culled from the Stone Temple Pilots' and Guns N' Roses' camps, treated the guitar ace as the group's co-frontman.
The show started slow with a muddied sound mix that nixed any attempt to understand the words Weiland was singing. Wrinkles in the sonics were finally ironed out when VR turned down the volume a click for their huge radio hit 'Fall to Pieces'.
While that one didn't come close to the quality of the studio version, it was enough to get the show sounding better, and with that the performance took off. The all-vice, all-the-time song 'Superhuman' and the band's 'Set Me Free' ranked as the evening's best two originals after they 'Fell to Pieces'. The other terrific outing was when they tackled a cover of Pink Floyd's 'Hey You' from 'The Wall'.
Sting had similar success the previous night at the Beach also, with a cover song. He introduced the Lennon/McCartney classic 'A Day in the Life', telling the house how he was walking through Central Park's Strawberry Fields that morning and how he was thinking of John Lennon and how big a debt his own music owes The Beatles.
While 'A Day in the Life' seems like an unusual choice, the surging, building nature of that piece segued perfectly into Sting's own 'King of Pain'.
Of course, there were a few jazzy snoozers, like his fox-hunt song, that were buoyed with a heap of Police classics, including the reggae-tinged 'Message in a Bottle', 'Driven to Tears', 'Roxanne', and the rare 'Spirits in a Material World'. Yet even the slow ones had the house on its feet bouncing during the two-hour performance.
Between his requests for something hot to drink on a very chilly evening - the coldest Jones Beach opening concert in memory - and his song introductions, Sting projected a relaxed grace as if he was in his living room.
Maybe it's in the ocean air of Jones Beach, but like Sting, even the bad boys of Velvet Revolver seemed to be extremely serene even as their music raged.
(c) New York Post by Dan Aquilante