Sting at the Marquee, Cork...
I can't believe we have already reached July 2013; time seems to be moving faster than Usain Bolt at last year's Olympics. Time for some more Back to Bass, we are now firmly into the summer festival season where ''No Rain'' is a rare luxury during the Glastonbury / Wimbledon time zone. Sting was keen to get to Cork, he arrived on the Sunday afternoon, and managed, like us, to do some sight seeing before concert time. Apparently, Sting even popped into a local pub for a pint, where apparently, the locals, rather than look on surprised, asked whether he could sing a song, and as the story turns out, he happily obliged with this request. Sadly I wasn't in the pub, so I cannot confirm the exact details or whether this Sumner tale has now become entwined into Blarney folklore by now.
When Sting heard that the festival organisers were going to be sticking pedantically to concert curfew times, he was said to be, none too pleased and had to make last minute adjustments to tweak the set to fit the allotted timeframe. No chance of ''Heavy Cloud'' moving westward from the set list, although about four songs did drop off the normal running order. (So no ''Seven Days'', ''Demolition Man'', ''Shape Of My Heart'' or ''King Of Pain'' then) Such was the upbeat intensity of the gig; most people would have been obliviously unaware of this fact. It's probably only us (dedicated) fan club perennials, which tend to notice such clarity of fine detail anyway? We clasp onto every note, (dare I say it, every breath) with wonderment and expectation savouring each precious minute of live ''Stingtime''. This being the case, the gig will go down in history as a legendary Cork gig and will be talked about for years to come by locals and fans alike.
Given the location of the venue, it seems weird the organisers would stick so devotedly to end times? You weren't going to get any complaints from the neighbours, as you would in Hyde Park (I was there when the cut the power on Bruce Springsteen & Paul McCartney) and it was only twenty minutes staggering distance from the venue to the centre of Cork. It's not about concert running time; it's about being there, the whole experience. I say to work colleagues, if I don't get my quota of Sting gigs, I get very grumpy. They were doing some research on what makes the musical brain tick in Montréal a few years back. Although symptoms may vary from person to person, some common themes may include increased anxiety before presales, inability to concentrate or remember what year it is and difficulty in committing to holiday / booking time off work until tour dates are finalised. You are never alone.
Why do people laugh at me? ''You're never grumpy?'' You have to follow the logic here, has anybody seen me at ''five in the Morning…..?'' Oh no, that's another song not in the set, honest, it's not as it seems.
It doesn't matter where you are in the world, officials, like to be officials, don't they? Apart from that, it was a very well managed festival, we didn't have to be an athlete (like in Kaunas last year) to get to the front, and we were ushered to the front in a controlled way to our Sting central spot. The staff were friendly and were handing out stickers ILTM 13 (I Love The Marquee 2013) stickers. One staff member even asked me if I tweet, I felt like saying, I have a different vocal range than that, oh bless, the wonders of social media. (As Alan keeps reminding me J)
Everything was done to maximise Sting's running time, the Support ''James Walsh'' (Lead singer from Starsailor) had his slot reduced. At one point, he even commented to the crowd that he was checking how long he had left, and that he wasn't texting his friends while on stage. Anybody who saw Starsailor support the Police at Hyde Park in 2008 will know how good James Walsh is, and with a set just under 33 minutes, it did not do him justice.
Despite the curfew restrictions; Sting still managed to pack in an amazing show. Local fans were saying this was the best concert they had ever seen at this venue and the best sound they have ever heard in a marquee. Full praise to Howard, it is an incredibly hard environment to monitor and mix the sound, you need the design of the Sage to get full sonic clarity. The haunting vocals, both Jo Lawry's and Stings vocals at the end of ''Hounds Of Winter'' still sound as clear as if you were in the front of the Royal Albert Hall.
Like Sting, this was my first time in Cork; I was also delighted to be here. During the introductions Sting mentioned his grandmother ''Agnes Murphy'' was from here, presumably the same Agnes named in the instrumental featured on the Soul Cages.
Right from the start you knew the crowd were going to be up for it. I heard one Dj on the radio (the night before the gig), who could not contain his excitement at Sting playing Cork, mentioning whilst playing out '' Fragile'' that it is one of those songs I would give 12 out of 10 for, saying he would give Sting a percentage of 120%! (Something tells me maths, might not be his subject?) What made this comment more amusing was at the time we were in the car, and the sat navigation kept interrupting the song with ''take the second turning on the right'' with me shouting at it, saying ''shut it!''
Sting had the crowd on his side straight away, you can't go wrong, when the first three songs consist of ''If I Ever Lose My Faith In You'', ''Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'' and ''Englishman In New York'' the audience were clapping wildly, with loud singalongs throughout. It's not long before, during ''Faith'' that Sting is pointing at some of the usual suspects from the Fan Club at the front, whilst grinning and singing away merrily.
The big standout moment being during the sing along during ''Englishman in New York'' where the ''whoa'' parts resounded first from the back of the marquee to the front. This wall of sound and happiness looked like it took the band by surprise a bit. The crowd were sure, big on volume and the intensity of the singing during the choruses was immense.
The standing area was tightly packed with happy punters. If anybody wanted a beer, it would have been impossible to get back to your prized standing spot. We were at the front jumping up and down waving our yellow glow sticks (thanks Holyman) having the time of our lives behind Alan and William. (Pleasure as always) What an epic time, or as they say in Ireland, what a Craic!
This show did rock out big time, the way ''Driven To Tears'' was played you could have be mistaken in thinking the start of the song was ''Demolition Man'', in fact they could have compressed the two songs together? It's that frantic Vinnie drumming at the start? You get caught up in the moment, protest is futile.
Dominic as always was excellent on guitar duties; he tended to stay on his side of the stage (to the back) for a lot of the gig, until the finale where, he came to the front of the stage, and did some funny poses and expressions to the people taking pictures of him. Was he laughing at my dancing again, I'm not sure? Space was tight, so I was impressed that I managed a few big jumps (with the aid of the barrier, to hold on to) at the end of key songs. The organisers (and most women) would be happy to know, no handbags were damaged or squashed during the course of night's events, unlike some gigs I've been to.
We are also treated to an emphatic Sting singing ''…..is a page in some ****ing magazine'' lyric, in hindsight, he might have been thinking **** the curfew. I have also being trying to remember the last time Sting has played in such a large Marquee; it can't be as far back as the legendary Police days of Tooting Bec? If we didn't have such a packed schedule we would have loved to have stayed on to see the ''Boomtown Rats'' who were playing later in the week.
This was one astounding Monday evening; we were treated to one of the most amazing rocking version of ''Message In A Bottle''. It's like I've been transported back in time, I am again next to William, again, jumping around to MIAB not in Cork but in MSG. We reminisced about our time at the last Police concert (with Jock & co) as if it was yesterday; we are back in this same emotional euphoric place, rocking out, like the Dj said on the radio we are going to 12!
The whole audience were singing their hearts out, sending out an S.O.S. refraining back and forth in the Marquee. These singalongs continued well after the concert on the courtesy hotel bus back to Cork town centre, I'm reliably informed.
Sting and the rest of the band were lapping this atmosphere up, Sting even mentions ''I Love it when you sing'' in the middle section of the song. I do get a few interesting glances at this point, he is of course referring to the whole crowd not just one particular individual. Earlier we were treated to a lively ''All This Time'' a song about Newcastle, Sting proudly exclaims, cheers from our section of the audience, the river always flows back to Newcastle.
Another guaranteed crowd pleaser was ''De Do Do Do'', honestly Sting must have been a bit frustrated at the tail end of the song, (knowing the clock was ticking ever closer to curfew time), and the crowd were doing great ''Da Da Da'' singbacks, honestly you could have had this singalong going back and forth for half and hour if you wanted, the crowd were that pumped up. It felt Sting cut this short to make up some time to go into the instrumental middle of ''Love Is Stronger Than Justice'' or as it is more affectionately called 'Peter's Solo'. The segue into the song, felt like it had cued up in the wrong place in Sting's hast to start the song, but the band quickly got down to business with an extended free flowing jam fusion of the song, as usual Peter was rocking out big time during his solo, huge appreciation from the crowd.
One thing that sometimes is scaled back at festivals when setup schedules are ultra tight is the lighting design. I was pleased to see the lighting design during ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger' was as immaculate as ever, I just love the way those lights scan across the stage and into the audience. The Piece de resistance in terms of the lighting design was during ''Fragile'' where all the lights were centered delicately on Sting for maximum impact. We knew that would be the last song before exiting the Marquee into the rain beyond.
We had a great time in Cork, and happened to be at the airport the same time as the crew. I'm not sure Sting saw me waving to him from the tarmac as his car passed by us, as we were walking towards our plane to fly back home, with the tour continuing on to deepest depths of Sweden.
(c) Roger Puplett for Sting.com
Sting at the Marquee...
Sting may be a bit more pensive now than he was when 'Roxanne' was first released in 1978, but he still delivers a show packed with energy.
For a 61-year-old, he also looks almost as fresh as ever. And, of course, as indicated by the title, the Back To Bass tour is a celebration of Sting dropping the lutes, flutes, and esoteric folk music and returning to the instrument he plays best.
“Sláinte. I am delighted to be in Cork, my first time here which is odd because my grandmother Agnes Murphy is from here,” he tells the crowd.
For both The Police and his solo material, most of the biggest hits are built around iconic, memorable bass lines: 'Driven To Tears', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Every Breath You Take', 'Fields of Gold', and 'King of Pain'.
Sting was chatty and charming throughout and the audience repaid him with claps and singalongs on command, and it was the best sound I've ever heard in the tent.
Some of the songs are given very creative makeovers. 'Message In A Bottle' is now a rockier number and the crowd loved the new reggae feel of 'Englishman In New York', lifted by the entire band singing the “whoa” parts in choral fashion.
And what a band! Dominic Miller (ex-Phil Collins, Backstreet Boys, Pavarotti) on guitars, Vinnie Colaiuta (ex-Zappa) on drums, and David Sancious (ex-E Street Band) on keyboards.
Despite Sting's clear dominance of the band, and despite the other members' prior successes, this really does feel more like a band than a session supergroup.
They've been touring this show virtually non-stop since Oct 2011. When you see these musicians on stage, their shared passion for this music is palpable from start to finish. The Police reunion tour lasted 13 months from May 2007 to Aug 2008, garnering ecstatic reviews every night. That tour was good, this tour is better.
My personal highlight? 'Driven to Tears'.
© Irish Examiner Ltd