The Last Ship (Benefit Shows)
Sep
25
2013
New York, USAnspacher Theater
5
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The Last Ship...

25 songs in 225 minutes, not a bad start for the run of benefit shows entitled “An Evening With Sting – Live at The Public Theater”! Incredibly, fifteen musicians would squeeze into the tiny space where magic was to be witnessed. 

The fifteen musicians included the amazing Rob Mathes (I actually want to see this show again just so I can watch his creative genius at work) and all the musicians who have appeared on the various TV shows along with the addition of the lovely Jo Lawry who took the vocals to play the parts of Meg and Peggy. Another wonderful surprise was the amount of lead vocal that Jimmy Nail performed. To me, Jimmy IS The Last Ship!

The lights dimmed just after 8pm and, in darkness, the musicians appeared.  Kathryn Tickell played the intro to ‘Island of Souls’ and Sting entered the auditorium from a different angle, a nice surprise as we were looking towards the stage area expecting to see him appear next. 

From ‘Island of Souls’, the band launched into ‘The Last Ship’.  Afterwards, Sting chatted with the audience. In fact, he provided a narrative throughout the entire evening, explaining the background to the songs, the characters and the storyline.

There was a lot of humour during the night. During 'Shipyard,' Jimmy Nail played his character, Jackie White, plus the character of Davy Harrison who “likes a drink or two”. Sting took the roles of Adrian Sanderson, a self confessed pompous, arrogant intellectual and also the role of Tommy Thompson the shop steward. As if to provide a visual aid to assist us, he donned a black woolly hat and glasses (looking rather Benny Hill like). Jo Lawry took the role of Jackie’s wife.

Songs we were treated to that are not on the CD (Deluxe) included ‘What Say You Meg’, the replacement in the theater production for ‘Practical Arrangement’. Sting explained that he loves "Practical Arrangement," but the scriptwriters pulled the plug on it, claiming that the play “can’t stand still for three minutes while you express one emotion”. Andy (Finch, of course!) and I have debated this a lot. I much prefer "What Say You Meg" in the context of the play. I never believed the characters in "Practical Arrangement" (the writers agree, before the guy even sings a note, he’s lost the girl – that apparently isn’t a good thing in a play). He’s been replaced by a younger, more virile man who, in my opinion, is a genuine rival for Gideon. Meg will like him. I like him. Andy (and Sting) are of a different opinion, believing it to be a better song.  Maybe it is, but I gotta agree with the scriptwriters on this one; in the context of the play, "What Say You Meg" wins for me!

Other songs not featuring on the album were ‘The Big Steamer’. This was sung by The Wilson Family and got us thinking about our absent friend Carter for some reason.

The final few remaining (previously unheard) songs were rather more sombrely entitled ‘O’Brian’s Hymn’ and ‘Show Some Respect’, relating to some sad news shared between the characters. 

By far the biggest cheers of the night went to ‘Jock The Singing Welder’, when Sting channelled his inner Elvis Presley and rocked those hips! Afterwards he was heard to say “I enjoyed the f**k out of that”.

Another debut we were treated to tonight was Sting’s first ever public performance of the spoons during ‘Sky Hooks And Tartan Paint’.

In addition to all the new songs from The Last Ship, we were treated to 3 back catalogue songs - ‘When We Dance’, ‘Ghost Story’ and, as the evening’s encore, ‘All This Time’.

The performance area was barely wide enough for all 15 musicians to take a bow at the end of the show.  They stretched from Row A to Row A.  I’m thinking of joining them on Tuesday night!

Andy's currently nursing a broken heart after noticing Jo wearing an engagement ring.  That’s another one crossed off his list!

One final note.  It was lovely to see the three familiar names of Tina, Dave and Wendy in the Special Thanks section of the programme.  It would seem you guys are valued all round!

(c) Sue Bett for Sting.com

Sting's 'The Last Ship' sets sail, in concert...

Who will play Sting on Broadway next year?

That was the burning question posed - sort of - Wednesday night at the Public Theater, as the pop veteran launched a 10-night run of benefit concerts introducing songs "inspired by" his first musical, The Last Ship, due to arrive on the Main Stem in fall 2014.

Billed as An Evening With Sting: The Last Ship, the show placed the international star in the Public's 260-seat Anspacher Theater, where he explained to an audience including fan-club members and lottery winners how he conceived his virgin project as a musical-theater composer/lyricist. Set in a Northeast England, where he grew up, it features as its hero a man who is, like Sting, the son of a shipyard worker, who leaves his small community and remains "very ambivalent about where he comes from."

His name is Gideon - not a far cry, Sting wryly noted, from his own given name, Gordon (Sumner). "There's some autobiography there," he said.

But not too much. Sting's newly released album, also titled 'The Last Ship' and featuring songs from the upcoming musical, is his first collection of new tunes in a decade; and it came to fruition, he told the crowd, only after he was freed from writer's block by the concept of crafting songs to be delivered by other people, representing different perspectives.

"That freed me up," he said, likening the consequent outpouring of music to "projectile vomiting."

His set list at the Public - where he was joined by 14 other musicians and vocalists, a number of them also natives of Northern England - featured at least one song that hadn't made the cut for the stage project (but is on the album): Practical Arrangement, a bittersweet duet written for Meg, the feisty single mom who is Gideon's love interest, and a rival for her affections.

The wispy-voiced Jo Lawry sang the parts of Meg and Peggy, another female character, while a droll, animated Jimmy Nail assisted Sting with the male roles. Sting prefaced several songs with explanations of how they fit into the plot, but the mood was generally as informal as his dress: a working man's jeans and T-shirt.

Like the songs on Sting's 1991 album, 'The Soul Cages', also inspired by his childhood and his relationship with his late father, the new tunes liberally incorporated the singer/songwriter's native folk textures. They also showcased his usual conspicuous sophistication, shifting moods and rhythms - in this case, to help distinguish the characters and propel the narrative.

The Celtic-flavored romp We've Got Now't Else was immediately recognizable as a production number, as was 'Shipyard', a song written to introduce various characters - among them a "pompous" laborer with literary aspirations, whom Sting was "born to play," he joked. The wistful 'Peggy's Song', delivered by Lowry, and 'So To Speak', a duet between Meg and a priest who befriends the workers, were more intimate and tender.

There were also a couple of nods to Sting's catalog. He segued from the fetching waltz 'The Night the Puglist Learned How to Dance' to 1994's lilting 'When We Dance', and topped the performance with an encore of 'All This Time', the first single from 'Soul Cages'.

After all, Sting quipped, he didn't want to reveal too much about the theatrical version of The Last Ship: "I want you to come see it."

Set list

The Last Ship
Shipyard
Coming Home
And Yet
August Winds
We've Got Now't Else
Sailor
Practical Arrangement
What Say You Meg
Dead Man's Boots
Hadaway
Peggy's Song
Ballad of the Great Eastern
Big Steamer
Skyhooks
New Rigged Ship
The Night the Pugilist Learned How to Dance
When We Dance
Jock the Singing Welder
It's Not the Same Moon
So to Speak
O'Brian's Hymn
Show Some Respect
I Love Her But...
Underground River
Ghost Story
We've Got Now't Else (reprise)
The Last Ship (reprise)
All This Time (encore)

(c) USA Today by Elysa Gardner

SET LIST

COMMENTS 5
Nofunk February 07,2014
What Say You Meg!!!
Thanks Sue!! Glad to hear your comment about a song I love: "What Say You Meg" is an intriguing, ravishing ballad that in my humble opinion deserves more than a listening. I watched the NY concert on a video, and appreciated the wit that permeates your review. Without any pretense, I've created a page on wikipedia about that song, that everybody can refer to, or link to in public discussion, if you like. This would help in keeping that page alive, if anyone dig to. Thanks again...

Nofunk February 07,2014
What Say You Meg!!!
Thanks Sue!! Glad to hear your comment about a song I love: "What Say You Meg" is an intriguing, ravishing ballad that in my humble opinion deserves more than a listening. I watched the NY concert on a video, and appreciated the wit that permeates the review. Without any pretense, I've created a page on wikipedia about that song, that everybody can refer to, or link to in public discussion, if you like. This would help in keeping that page alive, if anyone want to. Thanks again...
gmsdma October 01,2013
Fabulous!
Is there anything that Sue can not do? Such a wonderfully detailed and intimate review! I felt almost like I was there! Thanks Sue and so glad Mr. Sprance and I got to see you while you were in town attending each and every Sting show/event! Cheers! Denise
marym September 28,2013
Great review!
Sue, I'll be going this Friday. Thanks for the advance info. Hope you and Andy are still around! And thanks for giving our friend Louise a ticket. She texted me during the show that she loved it! Mary
rhoeckel September 27,2013
Thanks a lot!
Thank you Sue! This means a lot for us "stay-at-home"ers...:-) Cheers, Rüdiger
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