Selected Miscellaneous Shows
Jan
11
2015
Dallas, USAmerican Airlines Center
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AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! feat. Sting at American Airlines Center...

Listen, there's a reason Sting gets the call for these high-profile one-off gigs.

He brings with him an ineffable sense of cool - derisive snorts from the cool kids notwithstanding - and a catalog piled high with hits.

Such an artist is catnip for organizers, who want nothing more, in these situations, than an arena full of people blissed out on their favorite songs, arms bedecked with blinking LED bracelets, clutching their Chik-fil-A coupons and singing along to 30-year-old singles.

Such was the likely desire of those responsible for the final night of the two-night AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! concert series at American Airlines Center, and Sting didn't fail to deliver: an 80-minute set, full of digressive, spontaneous rewirings of familiar tracks, and a sense of confident professionalism bordering on pure muscle memory.

Sunday night's spectacle more closely resembled a typical concert in the space, with a single opening act and, more pointedly, a considerable increase in the number of people in attendance. It was still sparse for Echosmith's unremarkable opening set, but as Sting and his bandmates took the stage, the room was comfortably full. Of the three events this past weekend, Sunday's was far and away the most well-attended.

Echosmith was just in DFW last month for an uninspired slot on the KISS-FM Jingle Ball line-up at Verizon Theatre.

Everything I thought about the band then was reaffirmed Sunday, despite a halfhearted stab at Talking Heads' This Must Be the Place, the bulk of their 45-minute performance was one colorless alt-pop tune after another. The coup de grace was lead singer Sydney Sierota asking if the band could count on seeing everyone again during their upcoming US tour, and that the band would be back soon. (Spoiler: Echosmith has Austin and Houston dates on its two-month cross-country tour, but nothing in DFW.)

After a mystifying introduction from Aloe Blacc - a ubiquitous and frankly baffling presence throughout this College Football Playoff weekend - Sting, sporting a scruffy beard (thanks to his ongoing role in the soon-to-close Broadway musical The Last Ship) arrived with a scaled down quartet.

Crisp, polished and professional, Sting ran through all the favorites - from the opener, Englishman in New York, through to Fields of Gold, Message in a Bottle and King of Pain - and indulged his improvisatory impulses with a rendition of Roxanne that seemed to stretch on for eternity.

"I must've sang that song a million times, but every night I find some incremental change that keeps it interesting for me," he explained as the band kept the tune percolating behind him.

Wherever the College Football Playoff National Championship game winds up next year, hopefully those responsible for overseeing these ancillary events take away something valuable from this smoothly run, if woefully underattended first year.

College fans, it seems, are far less interested in what's surrounding the game, than the game itself (as opposed to those attending the Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game). So, instead of trying to spread everything out over a weekend, maybe a single, blockbuster event with all of the resources marshaled to get names that guarantee packed venues? That way, if nothing else, organizers' exposure is limited to that one concert, rather than multiple attempts to rouse interest.

After all, Sting can only keep doing his thing for so long.

(c) Fort Worth Star Telegram by Preston Jones

On the scene at AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! show with Sting and Echosmith...

An hour into Sting's show at American Airlines Center on Sunday, he was enjoying complete command over a healthy crowd during a jammy rendition of "Roxanne."

"I must have sang that song about a million times in my life," the 63-year-old legend told the audience, mid-tune. "But every time, I find something different… something that keeps it interesting."

The same can be said of Sting's concerts in general. He's such a seasoned and skilled live performer that every experience feels special — even when it's part of a corporate-sponsored event tied to a college football game.

The headliner kept the crowd standing and participating during the second night of AT&T's Playoff Playlist Live! series. He delved relatively deeply into the soul-soothing global styles of his days fronting the Police.

We're talking "So Lonely," "King of Pain," "Message in a Bottle," "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da" and "Every Breath You Take," to name a handful. The flow and pacing were seamless — most folks bounced to reggae beats for half the show and sang along for the other half.

Backed by his longtime band including stellar guitarist Dominic Miller, Sting seemed giddy to be back in his regular rock-god mode. You see, he's been living a breakneck life as a Broadway star of late, stepping into the lead role of The Last Ship, a musical for which he wrote the score and songs. That explains why he was rocking a burly beard. We've never seen the guy so unkempt.

"I'm in a play, so I had to grow it," he proclaimed early on, before performing the gorgeous "Fields of Gold."

"Just so you know, it's Sting, OK?"

But there was never a question as to whom we were watching. Those high, sustained notes and smoldering choruses are unmistakable. The man can get a crowd singing along at full voice with a simple come-hither motion.

Near the end of that "Roxanne" jam, before returning to the "put on your red light" refrain, Sting looked out at the audience and said, "The interesting thing tonight is that we have no idea where we are going right now." It was then that we realized we were finally privy to something unrehearsed and spontaneous in the middle of a carefully orchestrated sports weekend. What a relief it was.

Indeed, Sunday night's Playoff Playlist Live! show progressed more smoothly and pleasurably than Saturday's edition. The single opening act for Sting, California indie pop band Echosmith, played for an appreciative early crowd and didn't suffer the same apathy as Saturday's warmups.

Echosmith is made up of the four Sierota siblings, ranging in age from 15 (drummer Graham) to 21 (guitarist Jamie). The 17-year-old singer and only sister, Sydney, acted as spokeswoman for the group, leading her bros through songs from their 2013 album Talking Dreams as well as a bright and poppy cover of the Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place."

Everyone knew the catchy outsider's anthem "Cool Kids" from hearing it the radio, but their lesser known material offered equally appealing arrangements and hooks.

Sydney shined as a vocalist, achieving the angst and emotion of pop peers such as Lorde and Ellie Goulding. Echosmith, while it's got some growing and tightening to do as band, has a solid foundation. It'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. We hope for their sake that they're more Hanson than Jonas.

(c) Dallas Morning News by Hunter Haulk

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