Sumner's Tales: Sting talks...
"Trudie and I lost a friend in the Twin Towers (investment banker Herman Sandler), and singing was the last thing I wanted to do, to be honest with you. I just wanted to crawl into a corner and cry. I put it to the band. I said, 'What do you want to do' And they all said, 'We wanna play.' It was a much more sombre show than what we had planned. But as the concert progressed, the mood changed. We felt we had every right to be there, listening to music, making music, singing; because really it's the opposite of what terrorism wants. Terrorism wants us to be afraid, to be frightened and to be controlled. So even though, at the time, I didn't want to do it, I've had no second thoughts about whether or not it was right to carry on with the show."
Daily Express, Oct 2003
"My first instinct was to stop, to cancel it, to just say, 'Look, I'm too devastated to even think about wanting to sing tonight'. I was convinced by the other members of the band - a lot of them from New York, who couldn't even reach their families at that point - that we should play, because we had a duty to play; that's what musicians do. And I was told I had a responsibility to the audience, which had travelled thousands of miles and turned up to see us."
Denver Post, 12/01
"Although we began very tentatively, as the evening progressed, it became therapy, if you like, for everybody - me, the band, the audience. It ended up with a joyful, healing celebration. I wish the context hadn't been this at all. It's not the concert or the mood we'd prepared. But it was us basically thinking on our feet. We cancelled some shows immediately after that - I was paralysed. But I thought it was right, on that day, that we were compelled to just go forward and do it with the deepest respect for the people who died or are suffering as a result of that tragedy. It wasn't something I would have relished. But now that it's there, I think it's a fitting memorial to that day. I hope people appreciate that."
Denver Post, 12/01
"It was strange - throughout the evening, the songs kept surprising me with how appropriate they were, or how close they were to the situation we were in. In the second song I sang, 'A Thousand Years', there's an image of 'towers of souls' rising into space. That was a little too close, and I apologized to the audience that this was happening. But each of the songs recalibrated itself in the moment."
Denver Post, 12/01
"The genesis of the project was from the record company. They said, 'Look, you've played to 2.7 million people, a successful tour by anyone's standards. Commercially, a live album is what you should do.' Well, normally, you just stick the tapes on for a particular show and just put it out; it's very easy. I wasn't terribly keen on that, because I think it's lazy. So I wanted to give the fans some sort of value added - take that band that had played together for so long, and rearrange every song with the knowledge we'd acquired about them on tour, and give them an extra level of fun. And also add a few new people that hadn't played with me before, like Christian McBride on the acoustic bass or Jacques Morelenbaum on the cello. 'Just a few elements that would make everybody play 'up'."
Denver Post, 12/01
"I haven't seen the special, but what people have said about it is that it was so human to see us having to react under the circumstances. I suppose they see themselves on that day, because all of us in the world went through an alteration, completely. We'd been attacked. For me, it threw up interesting questions about what is music, what is entertainment, what purpose does it serve in this context It reminds me of the first time I was the comedy host on 'Saturday Night Live' - that was the day that we bombed Baghdad with cruise missiles. My timing is not what it should be!"
Denver Post, 12/01
"We'd spent a week rehearsing, we were going to have a wonderful, joyous celebration that evening, a concert, a live Webcast, 200 friends. We'd just had lunch. Someone said, 'You'd better come in and watch the TV,' and we saw the horror of what happened on that morning. I went outside and sat down and decided that I couldn't sing. Why would I want to sing on that night And so I called the band to have a meeting, have a kind of democratic meeting. I said, 'Guys, I don't think I can sing tonight. What do you think "Well, we - well, we have to.' Unanimously, everyone said they had - they had to play, because that's what musicians do. Some of them from New York, some of them couldn't get through to their families, obviously very, very stressed, they still wanted to play. They said, 'Besides, you have 250 people coming to your house, and you're responsible for them. So they'll need something.' So I said, 'Look, as a compromise I will sing one song. I'll do 'Fragile', because I think it's an appropriate sentiment.'"
"I didn't want to put out a tape of a show in some big, rah-rah stadium, which is what most live albums are. I wanted to create something much more personal and intimate - more like a love letter than a noisy concert. And I knew I could invite 200 strangers from all over the world to my home, because I know how respectful my fans are."
USA Today, 11/01
"I decided to ask for a minute's silence, and then it would be up to the audience as to what happened next - a democratic decision. And I was perfectly willing to lay down the guitar and go to bed. Well, the minute's silence was very heartfelt and devotional. And I could hear some people in the audience weeping, even some people in the band weeping."
Denver Post, 12/01
"We were all having lunch when the news came in that this appalling massacre had happened. Everybody's mood changed completely. Did I feel like singing No way. I wanted to sit down somewhere and cry. But we had a band meeting, because we're a democratic outfit, and they all said, 'We have to play. This is what we do - we're musicians. And you have all these people coming from all over. You have to deal with it. I heard at least two members of my band weeping, and more weeping in the audience. I said, 'OK, the Webcast is done; it's just us here in this beautiful courtyard on this terrible day. What should we do' And I heard this groundswell of people going, 'Give us some music.' It was my job to provide that sort of instant therapy. I began tentatively, but as the night progressed, the mood changed to one of healing, then defiance, then genuine joy. We realized we had the right to express ourselves, which is something terrorism tries to destroy."
USA Today, 11/01
"Certainly, I didn't want to sing 'Englishman in New York' - it seemed too happy and frivolous. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' also didn't seem correct. And the way we played was changed. I'm normally pretty detached emotionally from what I'm singing, because I feel that if you've written the melody and lyrics, they already transmit emotion. But here, I was really overcome a lot of the time, and you can hear it in my voice. And the band played out of their skins. We all felt confused and frightened and angry, in varying proportions."
USA Today, 11/01
"It certainly wasn't the concert we'd prepared. And there were songs I didn't want to do. I didn't want to sing Englishman in New York. It's too happy. I didn't want to sing 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'. I had to choose songs that were suitable for the context."
In Tuscany, on the night of September 11...
"This was to be a very joyous occasion tonight. Because of the horrific events of today, it simply can't be a joyous occasion. It's difficult for all of us. I'm angry, I'm confused, I am frightened, and I don't really want to give this meaningless act of violence any credence. It's totally and utterly pointless. We'll sing a song for those people who have lost their lives. Thank you."
"It was always meant to be a personal record, but the context of this day made it even more personal. You know, you see musicians basically thinking on their feet. Nothing was planned, everything was as it was. It's a memorial of that day. I wish it wasn't in that context, I really sincerely do, but it is what it is. I dedicate it, respectfully, to the people who lost their lives, one particular friend of my wife and myself."
Sting's concept for his first live album in fifteen years was to create something intimate and personal, practically the antithesis of a typical live recording. He envisioned the project being something like a love letter, a kind of thank you note to his fans. The plan was to record the songs that Sting and his band had been playing on tour for the last two years. There would also be some new musicians added to the mix.
As Sting said, "We know these songs inside and out, I wanted to play them differently, fresh, and without a safety net." The band would go to Sting's home in Italy where much of the 'Brand New Day' album was conceived and recorded. There, they would rehearse for eight days and following rehearsals, on September 11th, perform for a small audience of fans and friends. They would record the album and simultaneously webcast the concert around the world while a documentary film crew who would also film rehearsals would capture the performance. Sting hoped the beautiful Tuscan surroundings and the group's easy camaraderie would help relieve the pressure of working under such time constraints. On the day of the show, as the set list was being reviewed, camera positions situated and the frenzy of last minute details finalised, the tragic news of the World Trade Centre attack reached the group. Completely shocked, Sting knew that the night could not go on as planned. He couldn't imagine singing. Confused, upset and angry, the band conferred and agreed that they should try to play as planned.
Not only were 200 people on their way to see the show, but playing was the only thing the band felt was under their control and instinctually, they felt, it was the right thing to do. As a group, they'd decided to webcast only one song, 'Fragile', as a mark of respect and then shut the webcast down. After that they would see how both they and the audience felt. That night Sting addressed the crowd by saying simply, "We will sing this song for those who lost their lives." 'Fragile' seemed eerily appropriate. Encouraged by the audience to continue to play, it is the rest of that evening's emotion filled performance that forms the body of the album entitled, '...All This Time'. Dedicated to the victims of the tragedy, the album features Sting's long time band; drummer Manu Katché, guitarist Dominic Miller, trumpeter Chris Botti, pianist Jason Rebello, and Mark 'Kipper' Eldridge and Jeff Young on keyboards. They were joined by acoustic bassist Christian McBride, percussionist Marco Suzano, cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, Clark Gayton on trombone, and vocalists Janice Pendarvis and Katreese Barnes.
The band dazzles: from 'Fragile' with its new arrangements, to the haunting 'Dienda', with music by the late Kenny Kirkland, to the spare, yearning 'Roxanne', made all the poignant by Morelenbaum's pizzicato cello, and a transcendent When We Dance with Sting and his back-up vocalists trading choruses like a celestial choir, this is an unforgettable piece of work. All this time reflects the universal resonance of Sting's 25-year career in music and forever captures the healing intimacy of that night. It is imbued with the spirit of renewal that is the hallmark of Sting's music - songs of soul and commitment. The album is about love and relationships, music and joy. It's about living. And it's from that spirit that '...All This Time' lifts off and soars.
Review from Music Week magazine
Recorded on September 11 this year, this greatest hits live set is respectfully dedicated to all those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center that day - among them a good friend of Sting's.
For, while the rest of the world watched the horrors unfold on CNN, a 200 strong audience of competition winners and record company executives saw Sting perform in the garden of his Tuscan villa, accompanied by an impressive band - featuring pianist Jason Rebello, guitarist Dominic Miller, drummer Manu Katche and pedal steel man BJ Cole.
A poignant, tear-inducing rendition of the brilliant 'Fragile' kicks off this balmy evening among the olive trees and bougainvillea, the opener of a set which offers calm, considered, elegant, jazz-pop reworkings of some of the 50-year-old ex-Police man's finest moments.
For where Sting's previous live outing (1986's 'Bring On The Night') was an exciting, electrifying exhibition of jazz-rock energy and muscular musical prowess, '...All This Time' takes the mellow, intimate, unhurried, slick and polished option.
Best of the largely impressive seventeen tracks here are the gentle love songs 'Mad About You', 'Fields Of Gold' and 'Shape Of My Heart', the sparse, cello-tinged Police tune 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and the jazz piano crooning of the album's only new song 'Dienda'.
There are however, moments when the pudding is well and truly over egged - 'Roxanne' starts stunningly before losing it in a classical cello interlude and sleazy jazz club lope, while the otherwise perfect '(If You Love Someone) Set Them Free' disintegrates into a brassy, Blues Brothers style knees-up.
Even set closer 'Every Breath You Take' is ruined by a smaltzy 'let me introduce you to the band' routine. But that's probably being a bit picky over what is largely an accomplished, enjoyable, in-the-flesh reminder of Sting's not inconsiderable talent.
Review from Q magazine by Peter Kane
Say what you like about Sting - and many do - he's a consummate pro. Planned as a celebration at the end of a two-year world tour promoting 'Brand New Day', '...All This Time' was recorded on 11 September 2001, a day when few were in the mood to party. Not surprisingly, in contrast to the preening self-adulation that made 1986's 'Bring On The Night' so unpalatable, the performances here bend towards restraint, irrespective of the radical makeovers meted out to 'Roxanne' and her companions. And while these versions are unlikely to supplant the studio versions in most fans' affections, this does at least serve as a reminder of the quality of songs such as 'Fields Of Gold' and 'Fragile'.
Review from Rolling Stone by James Hunter
Sting was in Tuscany when he gave this concert in a courtyard there, beginning at nine in the evening, Italian time, September 11th. The show was scheduled as a two-hour Webcast; however, Sting chose to transmit only one song - his hymn like classic 'Fragile' - after he and his multinational crew learned of the events in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The rest of this vividly played, authoritatively sung show was committed to tape, and it pulses inescapably with the aura of its real-time date. The music thrives from 'Fragile' on, through a sly, funky 'Hounds of Winter' and a 'When We Dance' that delivers soulful freedom within a classical structure. This is music filled with mood and memory, refined yet raw with emotion.
Review from The Buffalo News by Tom Moon
Sting's well-documented 'All This Time', complete with a TV special and DVD, was recorded Sept. 11 in a private concert in Italy. It's eloquent and haunting with strings and brass and heavenly backup vocals - all characteristics expected on the lovely 'Fragile' or 'When We Dance' but startling on 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' and 'Roxanne', a number that unexpectedly morphs into a delightfully sexy jazz tune. It's a relaxing and often romantic recording - a Sting record for non-Sting fans.
Review from CDNow by Patrick Berkery
The healing power of music couldn't even begin to soothe the ravaged souls and heavy hearts around the world on September 11, but you have to respect Sting for trying. With 200 fans and friends en route to see him and his augmented band, preparing to record a live album and webcast the proceedings from Italy on that fateful day, Sting and company did what they thought in their hearts was right. The show went on (though the webcast ended early), resulting in the reworked solo and Police compositions that comprise 'All This Time', which is dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
There's no pall cast over the music, though: the musicians play with unbridled passion and amazing focus, immersing themselves in the challenges presented by the radical re-arrangements. The buoyant 'All This Time' is given new life as an R&B testimonial, while 'Roxanne' is re-spun as a sparse ode to unrequited love. Elsewhere, they sink their teeth into the spirited, full-blown versions of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Every Breath You Take'.
For obvious reasons, this is not just another live album. Regardless of what you might think of Sting as an artist, his passion towards the music in the shadow of such tragedy is both moving and impressive.
Review from the Lexington Herald Leader by Walter Tunis
It began as a quest for reinvention. After touring for nearly two years behind his 'Brand New Day' album, Sting and band convened in Italy this fall to perform a selection of his best-known songs with entirely new arrangements. A documentary crew would film the performance, a concert album would be recorded, and a live Webcast would broadcast the undertaking live. The date all this was to take place Sept. 11.
Given the day's catastrophic events, the performance was reorganized but not canceled. Filming and recording went on, but the Webcast was canned except for one song, 'Fragile'. The tune served as a subtle eulogy to what had just transpired. Newly injected with a dose of Brazilian electronica, 'Fragile' also introduces '...All This Time', the album chronicle of the Italian concert.
Those married to the originals that '...All This Time' presents (which covers Police and solo Sting material) might be in for a bumpy ride. 'Roxanne' is transformed from a New Wave reggae blowout to a studied slice of swing, while 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' is served up as revivalistic salsa with Sting delegating bass duties to famed new generation jazzman Christian McBride.
The face lifts don't stop with the hits. Two of 'Brand New Day's' best tunes - the hymnlike 'A Thousand Hours' and the funkfest 'Perfect Love.. Gone Wrong' are melded into a single jazzy suite. Later, 'The Hounds of Winter' rings in with an urgent but lush orchestration, making the tune far more arresting than on 1996's 'Mercury Falling'.
What we wind up with is an album unavoidably solemn at times and unexpectedly soulful and serene at others.
Review from The London Free Press by Darryl Sterdan
It might seem Sept. 11 was the worst possible evening Sting could have picked to record a live album. But judging by 'All This Time', it may have been the best possible evening. After debating whether to cancel, Sting and his band decided to play one song - the anti-violence number 'Fragile' - and continue if things felt right. Things obviously did. And they sound very right on this superior 15-song set of old Police faves ('Don't Stand So Close to Me', 'Roxanne', 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free' and a punched-up 'Every Breath You Take') and solo material ('Brand New Day', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'A Thousand Years').
Presumably spurred by the tragic events of the day and the emotions they stirred, Sting delivers these songs with an urgency and passion he hasn't shown for years. Frankly, we didn't think he had it in him, and we're sorry it took tragedy to bring it out. But we'd be lying if we didn't say we're glad we got to hear it.
Review from The Miami Herald by Author Unknown
Recorded live for invited fans in Tuscany on the evening of Sept. 11, Sting offers dramatically reworked versions of familiar material like 'Fragile' (particularly poignant in this context). As performed in this small jazz club-like way with a jazz band, Sting's music gains intimacy. One of the most satisfying recordings of Sting's career.
Review from New York Newsday by Martin Johnson
This 15-track, hour-long live recording documents a Sept. 11 performance by Sting with a superb band playing at his villa in Tuscany. When Sting learned of the attacks in New York, he considered canceling the concert, but instead, he and the band played on. The emotion of the moment is evident on 'Fragile', as he sings of "fleshing and steel as one." His band includes ace players such as bassist Christian McBride, pianist Jason Rebello, trumpeter Chris Botti and trombonist Clark Gayton, and they rework many of Sting's best-known tunes. 'Roxanne' becomes a lilting shuffle. They get funky on 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. And 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' seems cathartic for both the audience and the musicians.
Review from the The Oklahoman by Sandi Davis
Sting's music has been getting jazzier over the years, and this live album, recorded at Sting's Italian home, is pure jazz. The 15-cut disc has songs he's been singing in concert for the past two years, but all are done with a twist.
Originally this entire performance was set to be webcast live Sept. 11. After the terrorist attacks, Sting and his band decided to simply do 'Fragile' on the webcast, then shut it down. A&E recently aired a three-hour show that featured performances from this disc plus interviews and observations from the artist, but the highlight of that special was the music.
'Fragile' opens '...All This Time' but I especially liked finally getting to hear a live version of 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' from 'Dream of the Blue Turtles'.
The easygoing 'A Thousand Years' shows Sting's lounge lizard side and conjures up a smoky room and a craggy-faced barkeep swabbing a scarred bar.
The addition of a cello is especially appreciated in 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', and I really liked the 'Roxanne' tango, perhaps an echo of the musical number featured in "Moulin Rouge."
This whole recording is as relaxing as a summer evening, and the tunes flow over you effortlessly. This time of year, '...All This Time' may be a welcome stress reliever.
Review from The Oregonion by Scott Lewis
The enigmatic Sting releases his second live album - a collection of Police hits, solo songs and one new track - which was recorded before about 200 friends and fans at his villa in Tuscany just hours after the attacks of Sept. 11. Career capsule: Before he became a member of the select group of musicians to operate under a single, assumed name, Sting was Gordon Sumner, a British high school teacher and ditch digger.
Bleaching his hair and adopting his singular name, Sting joined up with guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland in 1977 to form and front the Police. The trio's nervy rock-reggae hybrid pop was technically well above the group's new wave counterparts, and the band released five acclaimed and popular albums between 1978 and 1983. The band broke up in 1994 after the release of the chart-topping 'Synchronicity', a masterpiece propelled by the smash single 'Every Breath You Take', a creepy, stalking song largely mistaken for a loving and longing ballad.
Eventually, each member pursued solo projects, but neither Summers nor Copeland achieved the success that Sting has enjoyed. Sting showed his more mature, jazz-infused approach to pop on his solo debut of 1985, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'.
Though some critics belittled Sting's solo direction as watery and weepy "adult contemporary," listeners reveled in his softer sonic side. Since then, Sting has released six more studio albums; his most recent, 'Brand New Day', received Grammys for best pop album and best pop male vocal performance.
Sting has also continued to dabble in acting since his role as "The Face" in the Who's film version of 'Quadrophenia'. This CD: This live CD and corresponding Webcast were nearly derailed by the attacks of Sept. 11. Though Sting wanted to cancel the performance, he was encouraged to proceed by his band, some of whom were from New York and unable to contact their families.
Initially, Sting agreed to perform only 'Fragile' (which has become a de facto anthem in response to the attacks) and let the crowd decide the fate of the evening. After a minute of silence following the song, he was urged to continue, and the performance provided a type of emotional catharsis for all.
Fifteen of the 19 songs played that moving night are present on '...All This Time', and the song selection reflects the mood of the moment. The intimacy of the evening is also felt; the performance is almost free of rock-star ego and posturing, and the crowd response sounds appreciative without becoming distracting.
Sting's longtime band is joined by several guests, and the assembled unit definitely has its chops down. Sting holds up his end for the most part, though his voice falters at times and his vocal re-arrangements on a couple of tracks sound somewhat forced and awkward. A complementary DVD, including rehearsal periods and candid moments, has also been released. Must hear/tracks to skip: The flow and feel of this performance were intentional, and the evening's subtly changing flavor is best savored with a complete listening. Opener 'Fragile' is so delicate and mournful, it's as though it were written around the events, and Sting's tender and touching delivery tugs at the saddened heart.
A strong jazz element informs the next three tracks, though Sting keeps his voice subdued and avoids high notes almost altogether. The disc's new song, 'Dienda', is another jazz tune, heavy on the smoky-lounge factor and through which Sting severely limits his vocal range and inflection.
The Police classic 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' benefits from the addition of cello, getting slowed down and subdued, which heightens the tale's tension. Another Police staple and sordid tale, 'Roxanne', sounds close to the original version, filled with a buoyant beat and Sting's chirpy voice, but gets toyed with and dressed up with some storming horn playing. 'When We Dance' doesn't warrant much notice, and Sting hurries and garbles the lyrics to one verse. This occurs again to the point of annoyance during the jumping rendition of 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.
The standout of the 15 tracks is decidedly 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'. Sting's voice is filled with passion and resolve, and the band pumps tons of swinging spirit into the thoughtful declaration. Though not essential by any means and suffering from a feeling of hurriedness and spots of vocal shakiness, '...All This Time' proves that Sting's band is frightfully talented and he still delivers the goods with confidence, poise and flair.
Review from The Richmond Times-Dispatch by Eric Mink
On the day America changed, Sting was a couple of thousand miles away in Tuscany, Italy, setting up for an intimate concert - planned months earlier - that would be taped for a live album release.
After he received word of the World Trade Center attacks (in which he and wife Trudie Styler lost a longtime family friend), he pondered cancelling the gig, then decided it would be better to revel in music than grieve in solitude.
As a tribute to those lost that day, Sting opened the show with a hushed rendition of 'Fragile'. The appropriateness of the song wasn't lost on the small crowd gathered at the villa, and it isn't any less affecting hearing it in recorded form. Though there are no direct references to Sept. 11 on the album - in fact, there is scarcely any talking at all - the mood of the evening has been bottled well. Sting and his fabulous band have toured for nearly two years behind his commercial comeback, 'Brand New Day', and the group's precise playing breathes deeply. In typical Sting fashion, however, none of these 15 songs - many of them ubiquitous hits - is performed in rote studio form.
'Don't Stand So Close to Me' slowly weeps with lust, while a spirited version of 'Every Breath You Take' turns that claustrophobic prowl into a commemoration of independence - and both are accomplished with a few tempo tweaks.
Elsewhere, Sting and Co. are loose and jazzy on 'The Hounds of Winter' and the almost unrecognizable 'All This Time' and 'Brand New Day', and trumpeter Chris Botti receives extensive spotlight time for his sultry wails on 'Fields of Gold' and 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'.
Sting fans will relish the opportunity to revisit his engrossing live arrangements, while casual listeners should be sucked in by the fine display of musicianship.
Review from The St Louis Post-Despatch by Brian Q Newcombl
This live recording - taped on that ill-fated day, Sept. 11 - captures the evolving music of Sting, but given the context of the tragic events that will forever mark that date, it's also a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.
It's been 15 years since Sting's last live recording, thus 'All This Time' naturally includes many of Sting's greatest hits. 'Roxanne', 'If You Love Somebody' and 'Every Breath You Take' are all here, reinvented to suit jazzier inclinations and the talents of Sting's fine band.
But it's the lesser-known tracks that define Sting's music outside the paint-by-numbers world of pop. 'All This Time' deals with his father's death, taking a jaunty jab at simplistic religious practice, while on 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' the New Orleans swing allows the singer to dig into a Louis Armstrong-influenced delivery in celebration of vampires in love. Sting's choice to play and record with a small club-size audience adds to the sense of intimacy and immediacy that comes through these performances. From sad events and dark emotions, beautiful art, moving music can come.
Review from The University Wire by Jenn Young
Numerous artists have released songs in response to the Sept. 11 tragedy, but none have been as poignant and moving as Sting's 'Fragile'. The song, which was written as a tribute to John Lennon, was heard by the world that very night, at a live concert Sting had been planning for months as a massive international performance.
The idea was to play to a small audience in Tuscany, Italy, and simultaneously broadcast the show all across the world via a Web broadcast. The concert would then be recorded and released as a live album. When news of the tragedy reached Sting, though, he decided that the full Webcast would be disrespectful and inappropriate. Thus, he and his band played only the one song, 'Fragile', before shutting down the connection. They continued the show at the request of the audience, and the tapes were still recorded and are now being released as '...All This Time', his first live album in 15 years.
The record is, above all else, an intimate experience. The emotion in Sting's voice transcends anything achievable in a studio, and even hearing it secondhand is an exciting musical experience. Much of his music is intensely personal, and the live, small-venue recording complements this perfectly.
Making this disc all the more enjoyable and exceptional is the musical style that so many of the tracks are in. While Sting has often been accused of creating mellow, New Age music, this album frequently leans toward the world of jazz, which is made complete with the addition of a trumpet and a trombone to the band. Several traditionals like 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'Roxanne' are suddenly reinterpreted with a jazz flair, all the more suitable considering the 200-seat performance hall. Sting's voice easily sails across the jazzy riffs and staccato breaks, making the transition from his unique brand of mystical, spiritual rock all the more fluid.
The best selling point of the album is still 'Fragile', though, as his vocals are concurrently calming and insightful. The lyrics masterfully capture the intangible sense of pain that arises from tragedy. They are also ironically applicable to the events of Sept. 11, with carefully crafted images taking on double meanings in the modern world. The lyrics, "If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one/drying in the color of the evening sun, tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away/but something in our minds will always stay" are indicative of the mood of the piece, which emerges as a cathartic wonder, a song that cleanses the soul from a mere listen. This song alone is worth the price of purchase.
However, the rest of the tracks represent the best of the matured Sting, a joyous remembrance of his early career complete with a catalogue of his later hits, all packaged in a way that both new and old Sting listeners will appreciate. Like all of the great singer/songwriters of his generation, Sting has found a way to continually reinvent his sound to suit new audiences without alienating his die-hard fans, and thanks to this, he has enjoyed boundless success.
The music recorded in the simple Italian theater is some of the most beautiful work released in the world of rock in recent memory, a perfect match for Sting's unmistakable sound. '...All This Time' is a musical experience that must be felt and appreciated for its subtle, emotional simplicity.
Review from The Washington Times by Scott Silverstein
Although Sting never gives any clue about the recording date during this live performance, the answer lies in his voice. There's an emotional depth to '...All This Time' beyond any of his studio albums, a bareness inherently sad and incredibly longing. 'Fragile' begins the show, and it's clear that's exactly how Sting felt on that day - September 11.
After days of rehearsal for his first live album of 15 years and a live Webcast, Sting and his band decided to go on with the show in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Sting limited the Webcast of the show to that one song, but the remainder of the fan club performance in Tuscany, Italy, appears here and on a DVD version. The result A show before a crowd of 200 that feels as intimate as it was, almost as if Sting were an unknown playing at a piano bar. It's an unusual move for a major star - most live albums feature a roaring crowd of thousands in the background - but it works in a beautiful way. The setting allows him to strip down many of his big hits from through the years, to reinvent them the way he would sing them in 2001.
'Roxanne' becomes a slow jazz tune, losing most of its reggae roots. 'All This Time', one of the few songs here that increases in tempo, becomes a Dave Matthews-like jam. 'Every Breath You Take' loses much of its wonderful creepiness but adds a little bounce to close the show.
The highlight here, however, remains 'Fragile', which has become somewhat of an anthem since September 11, partly because of this performance. (Sting also did the song for 'America: A Tribute to Heroes'.) It's amazing how a 14-year-old song can capture the moment best, even as depressing as it was.
Sting: Bass, Guitar & Vocals
Dominic Miller: Guitar
Kipper: Keyboards & Programming
Chris Botti: Trumpet (Courtesy of Columbia Records)
Marcos Suzano: Percussion (Courtesy of Trama Records, Brazil)
Jacques Morelenbaum: Cello
Manu Katché: Drums
Jason Rebello: Piano
B.J. Cole: Pedal Steel
Janice Pendarvis: Backing Vocals
Katreese Barnes: Backing Vocals
Jeff Young: Backing Vocals & Organ (Courtesy of Sun Soul Records)
Haoua Abdenacer: Djarbuka
Clark Gayton: Trombone