57th & 9th
Feb
01
2017
Vancouver, CACommodore Ballroom
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Sting kicks off sold out tour for lifelong fans...

The incomparable Sting spent a few days rehearsing in Vancouver, perfecting his set list to kick off the 57th & 9th world tour at the iconic Commodore Ballroom. The crowd chatted and became quick friends, all seemingly in disbelief that they would take in an intimate experience with Sting, who had no issue previously packing Rogers Arena or even GM Place with the reformed Police a decade ago.

For the sold out show, the man welcomed the eager crowd himself and introduced the evening line-up because, well, when you’re Sting you both open and kick off your own damn tour and show.

“So here we are,” grinned the 16 time Grammy Award winner.

He confessed to his lifelong fans that he chose to kick off the tour in Vancouver because every good story starts at the top left hand corner of the page. Recalling a few of his vivid memories of playing intimate clubs verses arenas, he said Vancouver would be getting the grittier, dirtier, and less polished version of the tour. The crowd happily obliged.

Sting stripped it down for a quick acoustic taste of his new tune “The Great North Road” from his first album in thirteen years, 57th & 9th, before stepping aside. The opening band from Texas, The Last Bandoleros, jumped around with southern rock ‘n roll drawl for a few tunes; Sting joined in for their song “Where Do You Go”. Two cute acoustic songs followed by Sting’s own son, Joe Sumner, one “Jellybean” that had the crowd cooing as he dedicated it to his kids.

Both Joe and The Last Bandoleros backed Sting for his entire two-hour set. They were joined by Sting’s “right-hand man for 30 years” Dominic Miller, drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Guns N’ Roses), and Dominic’s son Rufus Miller, who Sting cried “lowered the median age of the band”, which is always important.

The set pulsated though the overwhelming database of new songs, solo material, and classic Police hits, yet wasn’t without Sting breaking up the show to express his feelings on the current state of the world and climate change. During “One Fine Day” he admitted that he would love to live in a world where climate change is a hoax and on “Material World” you couldn’t help but taste the moment he crooned “our so-called leaders speak” as Sting’s smirk was palpable.

Some of the new songs–“Down Down Down” and “Pretty Young Solider”–fell flat and seemed to lose the connection, but won the crowd back during “She’s Too Good For Me” with a good opportunity for a rip on the accordion. The Commodore floor bounced along to the overly horn dog anthem “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You.”

Throughout the snug show, Sting sipped and gargled on a single shot of apple cider vinegar. Although he’s 65 years old, he didn’t seem to break a sweat and still had the mojo rippling through the night, nailing most, if not all of his vocals. The second half of the night featured a few of the classics: the comforting wail of “Walking On The Moon” and “So Lonely,” and a serious crowd chant-along (“be yourself no matter what they say!”) during “Englishman In New York.” Sting told the crowd “you are good Vancouver” to which he received the night’s biggest roar.

The familiar rubbery bass line of “Message In A Bottle” was a nice counterpart to his reggae version of “I’m So Happy That I Can’t Stop Crying”. a number two hit written for country singer Toby Keith. The first encore (yes, there were about four but we began to lose track), was a beautiful medley of the crowd echoing every word of “Roxanne”, to Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”, and “Roxanne” yet again. He threw in the night cap of some of his best–“Every Breath You Take” and “Next To You”–and finished the evening with his new Academy Award Nominated tune “The Empty Chair” based on “Jim: The James Foley Story”, a documentary about an American journalist captured and beheaded by ISIS.

Sting is a universal story teller, built from the stuff of what they say legends are made of. He seemed understandably confident yet he actually looked like he was having fun on stage, albeit at times carrying the energy for the rest of the musicians. It was a real treat for Vancouver to witness Sting in a 1000 person venue; no one in the crowd would have missed a chance to stand so close.

(c) Vancouver Weekly by Casey-Jo Loos

Sting gives longtime fans the show of a lifetime in Vancouver...

Sting kicked off his 57th & 9th tour with a surprise: Sting. Nobody expected when the lights went down at the Commodore Ballroom (capacity: just under 1000) that the rock star headliner himself would walk out onto the stage. But that he did, catching the chattering, largely vintage crowd off-guard as they rushed to whip out their smartphones and capture the moment.

Sting, in a slim-fitting black blazer, was chatty, gracious, funny. He seemed relaxed, real. It felt as if we were getting a glimpse of the man rather than the pontificating performer.

He recalled playing the Commodore in 1979. “Don’t pretend you were there,” he said. “I was 12.” He played the place again in 1980. “I remember those gigs,” he explained. “I’m very honoured to be back.”

This being the first show of a wildly different tour for him – rock ‘n’ roll in intimate venues – he explained that we could expect a “bit of dirt, bit of grit, a few mistakes.”

What we got was the show, maybe, of a lifetime.

For those of us who had grown up with the Police on repeat during their Police Picnic heyday – eyeballing the crowd I feel confident I was not alone in this demographic – this was an awesome, in the true sense of the word, experience: Sting right there, a few metres from us, on this amazing stage in this tiny place.

And this was not holier-than-thou, taking-myself-oh-so-seriously, I’ll-play-a-few-Police-hits-if-I-must Sting. This was rock’n’roll Sting, playing the guts out of his bass guitar and sounding fantastic. Yep, still got those pipes, still got those biceps. The king of pain was in great form – and seemed to be having a wonderful time. Sure, this was a nostalgia show. But nobody was mailing this in in the interests of collecting a paycheque.

Sting (real name: Gordon Sumner) was also a gracious host, opening with an acoustic appetizer from 57th & 9th – the autobiographical Heading South on the Great North Road, then explaining how the evening would go: first the opening acts, then “the old man will come and finish it off.” Then, making room for San Antonio, Tex.’s the Last Bandoleros, Sting dragged his chair off the stage with him.

But he didn’t disappear. He accompanied the Last Bandoleros (who were great) on their last tune and returned to the stage to introduce his other opener, his son Joe Sumner. “The next musician, I’ve known his entire life,” Sting said.

After Sumner (“baby Sting!” one of the women behind me kept yelling) played a couple of tunes – including the wonderful Jellybean (in which he showed off his Stingesque vocal range), he took his place with the other backup singers (the Bandoleros!) and out came dad.

Sting and his excellent band burst into Synchronicity II. For those of us who had worn out our Synchronicity cassettes back in high school (see above) this throbbing, angry tune that charts a litany of domestic boredom and frustration took on new, profound meaning. Ah, we get it now, Sting. We get it now.

Spirits in the Material World and She’s Too Good For Me followed. An audience-singalong Englishman In New York was an early high point. (“This is why we start in Vancouver, British Columbia,” Sting said, in praise.)

Sting spoke of climate change (oh, how he wishes it were a hoax), quoted William Blake, asked his band for some help as they tried out a reggae version of the Sting-penned country song I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying, which he also recorded with Toby Keith.

He drank apple cider vinegar from a shot glass and joked “nobody’s going to want to kiss me after this.”

Wanna bet?

On that note, quite a bit of pushing and shoving broke out around me in the general admission venue, as people (mostly women, I observed) aggressively worked to get closer to the stage. One woman, who identified herself as being in her 30s, explained to me in no uncertain (and unprintable) terms what she would like to do with Sting, in spite of his age (65).

But back to the show. The new stuff sounded great, including Petrol Head – about a man obsessed with his truck, religion and sex (“I only have one of those things in common,” said Sting, crossing himself). Another track from the new album, 50,000, was written about the deaths of fellow superstar musicians such as Prince and David Bowie. “Rock stars don’t ever die, they only fade away,” Sting sang.

But of course, it was the older stuff, as always, that had the place going middle-aged nuts. So Lonely, Walking on the Moon, Roxanne, Message in a Bottle, Next To You, the widely misunderstood stalker-tune-turned-wedding-dance-favourite Every Breath You Take.

Sting ended as he began, quietly, on a stool with his acoustic guitar. He sang the Oscar-nominated song The Empty Chair, written for the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story.

Foley, a U.S. journalist, was abducted in Syria in 2012 and murdered by ISIS in 2014. Sting spoke to the importance of Foley’s story “at this time when journalists and the truth are being attacked every day.”

For one night, those of us so disheartened by the news and a little exhausted by life, veterans of so many suburban family mornings, were able to take a break from it all and recall the soundtrack to our teenage angst and joy, on an unforgettable night at a tight, hot venue. After all that has been going on in the world, what a relief it was to dance again, to gather with a bunch of strangers and shout at the top of our lungs, “sending out an SOS.”

Tickets for this tour are scarce and expensive. If you can find one and you can swing it, it’s worth every cent you pay.

(c) The Globe and Mail by Marsha Alederman

Sting strips it down at the Commodore Ballroom...

At times in his career, Sting has been insufferable. Don’t argue or I’ll make you repeatedly listen to De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da or watch Brimstone and Treacle.

The man has come across as a tad self-inflated on more than one occasion. Just a few.

That this existed alongside creative output of undeniable quality has made him a justifiable heavyweight. One with a fan base more than willing to forgive those lute albums or the Last Ship if he remembered to throw songs like Synchronicity or Spirits in the Material World into his set.

These were the first two tunes of the set at the Commodore Ballroom, the opening night of the star’s small venue tour in support of his return to pretty straight-up pop song craft on his latest album, 57th and 9th.

As someone who has seen the 65 year-old play with the Police and on numerous solo tours, it was hands-down the loosest, most unfettered performance he’s ever given here. I think he was genuinely having fun.

Acting as MC from the moment the lights went down, he introduced San Antonio’s rising stars of Tex-Mex crossover, The Last Bandoleros. He joined them onstage for the band’s single Where Do You Go? and had them backing him later, smiling away.

“The next musician I’ve known his entire life, my son Joe Sumner.”

Looking like a cross between his dad and a buff Billy Bragg, Joe performed two tunes. Jellybean, dedicated to his daughter, was rather cute and he sang the heck out of it. It was just the right length for Joe’s set.

The cover of Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes in the middle of his dad’s set was utterly unnecessary.

Sting roared on with his stripped down quartet of longtime sideman, Argentinian-British guitarist Dominic Miller, Miller’s son Rufus and killer onetime Nine Inch Nails drummer Josh Freese. The format meant that in numbers such as the Quentin Crisp-dedicated Englishman In New York, the sax solo became a crowd singalong and She’s Too Good For Me a killer accordion break.

And I never would have imagined the guy could write a rocking trucker tune, but Petrol Head is one. Mind you, with a William Blake refrain because he just can’t help it.

Fragile, Message In A Bottle, Roxanne; his voice was far better than his last arena tour throughout the night.

As always, his bass playing was that seductive mix of rubbery reggae and new wave energy that was always a defining feature of all his work.

This was particularly evident on I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying, the track from his fifth album Mercury Falling that was later a number 2 hit for Toby Keith and Sting’s only country charting. Freese totally shone in this version, working his cymbals and high hat with the precision finesse Stuart Copeland developed with the Police as Sting slid in fat, meaty basslines.

Speaking of that trio, their body of work was surprisingly well represented in the show. He hasn’t done that many Police songs in a long while. The highlight of these was an extended and sinuous take on Walking On the Moon. The back and forth with the audience recalled the Regatta de Blanc tour in the early eighties.

About the only off note was the beginning of Brand New Day where the band seemed to lose the rhythm and Sting appeared to be having trouble with the lyrical hook. It was a brief glitch in an otherwise lockstep-without-stiffness show.

No doubt that this is the way fans want to see and hear the singer - stripped down and driving through a hit-laden set without the lecture portion.

Here’s hoping those shots of Apple cider vinegar keep that voice in the form it was for the duration of the tour.

This one was a treat for fans.

(c) Vancouver Sun by Stuart Derdyn

Sting gets back to basics to kick off world tour in Vancouver...

The King of the Mild Frontier wasn’t always that way.

Since The Police worked their last shift in 1986, Sting’s journey from new wave colossus to MOR mainstay has provided oft-replenished ammunition for critics looking for a soft (rock) target. But last night, as the cosy confines of Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom hosted the opening date of Sting’s 57th & 9th World Tour, Newcastle’s most celebrated son rolled back many of his 65 years to reveal a heart that still pulses with the spirit of 1977.

It’s worth stressing that artists of Sting’s magnitude don’t usually kick off tours at 1000-capacity venues. Despite the exorbitant ticket prices, this was a show that prioritized fun over finances; a point neatly illustrated as Sting strolled on stage to introduce support act (and his son) Joe Sumner, whose sweet acoustic musings and instantly recognizable vocal style delighted the crowd.

Sting and his band moved into place as Joe was still wrapping up a brief two-song set. Sumner Junior took his place with the other backing vocalists (support band The Last Bandoleros) as Dad claimed centre stage and launched into Police classics “Synchronicity II” and “Spirits in the Material World.” Sting shrugged noticeably as he delivered the line “Our so-called leaders speak,” an astute reminder of how prophetic a writer he once was. The crowd, delighted to be welcomed by old favourites, roared its approval.

Disappointingly, filler quickly balanced out killer. New tracks “One Fine Day” and “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” provided a pair of opportunities for early bathroom breaks before the Commodore’s dance floor was reignited with a bass-heavy rendition of “Englishman in New York.”

A second trip to last year’s “57th & 9th” album portrayed Sting as an artist with little to say; “Down, Down, Down” and “Petrol Head” both competing for the crown of most workmanlike song of the night. A maudlin, Spanish guitar-driven “Fragile” did little to allay fears that this was Sting at his self-indulgent worst. Those concerns were misplaced. “Message in a Bottle” arrived with a crash, delivering a much-needed jolt of energy into the room. Joe took centre stage for a fine acoustic rendition of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” before Dad returned for a reggae version of “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying.”

It was old school all the way from there. “So Lonely” and “Walking on the Moon” both remained faithful to their minimalist origins. Sting’s vocals were never less than impeccable, a testament to the power of the apple cider vinegar shots he was downing throughout the show. Perhaps he dodged the highest of high notes on finale “Roxanne,” but morphing that hit into a version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” was still the move of a singer enjoying himself while oozing confidence in his abilities.

The encore of “Every Breath You Take” (still the best song written from a stalker’s point of view) was followed by a pedal-to-the-floor “Next To You,” the first song on the first Police album and the closest Sting would ever come to the punk rock that inspired them.

From the intimate choice of venue to the vintage hit-packed set list, where this rekindled fire in Sting’s soul has emerged from remained unclear. But if Show One is any indication, the fun has only just started.

(c) CTV by Robert Collins

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