The Moon as a reading light and medium-sized dumbbells for the star...
''The end is near'' was once the wailing line in a German rock song, and music by John Lennon was played at the supermarket. The whining German bard has long been forgotten, and neither piles of nappies nor batteries of milk bottles have been able to get at Beatles songs. The end is still far away.
Hard to imagine that the English rock singer Sting ever seriously worried about where his music should be heard and where it was not to be allowed to sound. Sting's songs sneak their way into every area, they can't be got rid of. They are like bits of furniture which you simply don't want to part with, because at the time when you bought them you did so for a certain reason. The songs settle down in the libraries of enlightened listeners who have actually long ago moved from rock to Bach and Mozart, or in the fashionable bedrooms of adolescents where they offer an initiation into the mythical worlds of rock music. They provide the primer for journeys in skyscraper lifts and for queueing in underground systems. This music could even do away with your fear of flying.
These songs are so grand that they fill even the largest concert halls without getting lost. The Frankfurt Festhalle is packed brimful, as in every time when Sting performed there during recent years. To see him while hearing him has become a must. With all this being there, one almost loses the hope of telling of the wonders which those who were not there missed out on. One does not miss them.
Apart from that, the evening with Sting passes surprisingly fast. A glance at your watch: it is eight o'clock. The singer and his musicians step onto the stage, not particularly nimbly, not really relaxed but rather like you arrive at work when you know there is a lot to be done. When you look at your watch next, it is almost ten and the musicians have just launched upon an extensive jazz/rock improvisation which with its parallel figures between guitar and trumpet, bass and drums does not sound improvised at all, but very much rehearsed until they all know every note by heart and pretend to be inventing this music this very minute.
What else could you remember: the set consists of meticulous interpretations of old and new songs which are so similar to each other that on hearing them from a distance one would want to swear that the middle part of this piece belongs at the end of a completely different one, and the intro of that one was to be heard somewhere else in Sting's music ten years ago. That is probably what accounts for the encyclopedic quality of his music. One could consider this above-everything-sound the subtlest expression of mellow wisdom, just like the old-new songs on his latest album entitled rather pretentiously 'Brand New Day'. But heard live, the set seems more like an ingeniously calculated combination of songs.
Lesser known bits are preceded by the great hits - some, like Roxanne, the unexhaustible ode to a particularly nice prostitute, have been played since the days of Sting's prematurely perished punk/reggae/rock band 'Police' -, while the strangely rasping interpretation 'Mackie Messer', which has developed into something of a little work of art in its own right, is followed by the moon which has shone over Bourbon Street since olden times. With this, Japanese lanterns are lowered onto the stage.
That's about all there is in terms of staging. After the first song, Sting takes off his coat and continues playing in something less than a T-shirt which nicely emphasizes his muscles. And that's all the concessions to the rough world of rock that he makes. At some point, a red curtain falls. And above the music stand of drummer Manu Katche, centre of Sting's exquisite tour band yet grotesquely underchallenged, a reading light is shining. You wonder what it says on the paper: 'drum roll, now'? When the stage spots are out, this little light shines particularly bright. There is always a light shining in Sting's brave new world.
(c) Frankfurt Allgmeine Zeitung by Andreas Obst/translated by Angelika Goldmann