Rock Paper Scissors
Jul
12
2016
Denver, USPepsi Center
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Sting and Peter Gabriel Had Faith in Each Other at Pepsi Center...

Early in Sting and Peter Gabriel’s Pepsi Center show, which was part of their Rock Paper Scissors tour, Gabriel told the audience that the set would be “a little like karaoke night in Denver.” Gabriel’s band, dressed in black with red stripes on parts of their clothing, was the red team while Sting’s band was the blue team.

“You can hold out your scores, but we’re going to ignore them, because we’re going to carry on anyway,” Gabriel said.

Over the next two and half hours, the pair carried on beautifully, having fun along the way, but it never seemed like a competition. If anything, there seemed to be a friendly camaraderie between two old buddies whose friendship goes back three decades and who toured together in the ’80s, even if, as Sting (or “Mr. Sting,” as Gabriel referred to him a few times) said, the two groups tried to up the ante in the early stages of planning this tour.

“We weren’t quite sure how we would do it, so we all got into a big room with two bands and we faced each other,” Sting said. “And we played a song, and he would respond with another and then another and up the ante every time. Every time, we responded to each other.”

The ante was high from the get-go, with Gabriel opening with the dark and tribal “The Rhythm of the Heat,” while Sting followed with the rather lively “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” which got some cheers from the audience when he sang the line, “You could say I'd lost my belief in our politicians.”

While the opening two songs were quite different in feel, there was similarity in Sting and Gabriel’s vocal tonality, since both singers have that slight rasp, almost like very fine grit on sandpaper. They both harmonize particularly well, so it wasn’t a huge shock when they sang each other’s songs — Sting sang Gabriel’s iconic “Shock the Monkey” and Genesis’s “Dancing With the Moonlit Kilt,” and Gabriel sang Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” which started off sounding similar to the opening electric piano riff of Beck’s “Where It’s At.”

Their voices also blended well when trading verses on each other’s songs, as they did during Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt,” which sounded massive with both bands playing together, including two drummers and a percussionist, as well as Gabriel’s bassist Tony Levin and Sting on bass making the sound bottom-heavy yet expansive.

A few times during the show, Sting and Gabriel seemed to display pure admiration for each other, as when Sting and his band went through a fervent take on the Police’s “Driven to Tears” with Gabriel smiling, tapping his feet and nodding his head while sitting in a lounge chair at the side of the stage. Sting seemed equally enthusiastic while sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the stage during Gabriel’s take on “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.”

There were moments during the show that the energy swelled and swirled on stage, such as during Gabriel’s “Red Rain” and “Solsbury Hill,” or the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” and “Driven to Tears,” (which featured an exceptional violin solo by Peter Tickell). Equally compelling were the ballads, especially Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up" (with Gabriel backup singer Jennie Abrahamson singing the part that Kate Bush sang on the 1986 album So) and “Love Can Heal,” which the singer dedicated to slain Parliament member Jo Cox, and Sting’s “Fragile,” which Sting preceded by mentioning the recent shootings in Dallas, Orlando, St. Paul and Baton Rouge.

“The only way we can counter unspeakable cruelty and hatred is through empathy and solidarity, and in that, spirit,” Sting said.

Sting and Peter Gabriel took the capacity crowd on an epic ride, touching on the highlights of their respective careers along the way. And in epic fashion, they ended the show with some of their biggest hits, with both bands teaming up for Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” and on the encores, the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”

(c) Westworld by Jon Solomon

Peter Gabriel bests Sting in Rock Paper Scissors at the Pepsi Center...

Peter Gabriel and Sting teamed up and brought their Rock Paper Scissors Tour to the Pepsi Center on Tuesday evening for a truly unique concert-going experience that thrilled a packed house.

The two musical icons presented a greatest hits style tour in which they shared the stage and their respective bands (as well as combining them) for much of the nearly three-hour show. They also took turns on vocal duties both on their own songs as well as the others.

Gabriel began the evening with an electrifying version of “Rhythm of the Heat” from his 1982 album “Security” that highlighted pulsing, syncopated drums supporting his signature vocals which brought chills as he hit the higher notes. Sting was quick to follow with his solo hit “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” which saw a massive roar of approval from the crowd. The two dueted on Gabriel’s excellent “Digging In The Dirt” before taking a quick break to explain to the crowd their plan for the evening. Gabriel joked that it would be his red team versus Sting’s blue team and the crowd could vote if they wanted, even though they wouldn’t be keeping track.

Sting offered up the first of several songs by his former band The Police with “Invisible Sun.” However, it was severely lacking the sinister urgency of the original version, rendering it completely neutered. A similarly soporific take on “Driven To Tears” suffered the same fate. This would be apparent during a few of his performances throughout the evening. Despite the strength of his songwriting skills or the crowd’s easy acceptance of long-time favorites, it was clear that Gabriel’s material and, more importantly, his performance, was the more consistently intriguing and artistically satisfying.

For example, Sting took on lead vocal duties during Gabriel’s 1982 hit “Shock The Monkey” and again managed to take all the edge out of the material – even with Gabriel himself performing on keys and backing vocals. Conversely, Gabriel offered up a riveting solo take on “Secret World” which built from a quiet ballad to massive finale that saw he and his band mates moving in perfect syncopated dance moves to a thrilling finale.

Gabriel and Sting were in excellent voice throughout the evening – each presenting the very best of their singular vocal talents along with their mammoth musical skills.

Following a brief introduction addressing all of the recent horrible gun violence in our country, Sting offered one of the more moving performances of the evening with a gorgeous acoustic version of “Fragile” from his 1988 LP “Nothing Like The Sun.” After briefly touching upon the Genesis classic “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight,” he launched into a stirring version of “Message In A Bottle,” which set the crowd alight.

Gabriel again stepped up and performed the ballad “Don’t Give Up” with backing vocalist Jenny Abrahamson strongly tackling the parts originally recorded with Kate Bush.

Further standouts included: Gabriel’s funky take on Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” which saw the keyboardist dropping in lines from Beck’s “Where It’s At,” as well as the two teaming up for Sting’s “An Englishman In New York.” The evening’s most perfect moment of synchronicity came with both vocalists and their bands enchanting the crowd with a stirring rendition of Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

The two-song encore brought a middling “Every Breath You Take,” which was quickly redeemed by an infectious “Sledgehammer.”

Whether you preferred Gabriel or Sting, or hopefully were fortunate enough to enjoy both, the event made for a great evening and a rare chance to see two musical legends sharing the stage and each other’s material – and more importantly, having fun doing so.

(c) Reverb by Michael Behrenhausen

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philippyle January 20,2016
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