Nostalgia reigns at Lake Tahoe, the scenic and romantic destination resort spot on the California-Nevada border. Sometimes the entertainment here can be more about great memories and less an ethereal thrill of witnessing something superb, unique and contemporary. There was the fat Elvis in 1976 and a raspy Bob Dylan in 2009. However, Peter Gabriel and Sting performed together in Stateline on Friday night in a show that left an everlasting impression on all 7,000 who attended. It was a thrill.
“It was worth the $950 I spent tonight,” a man laughed as he walked out with the crowd after the 2 hour, 50-minute show. “Sorry, kids, about that college fund.”
Gabriel and Sting, who dominated the music scene in the 1980s – the cool part of it – teamed up for a rock and roll roshambo tour for a month-long tour that started June 21.
“This (tour) is Rock Paper Scissors but it’s also karaoke night in Lake Tahoe,” a playful Gabriel said at the start of the show. “We have the red and blue corners and you are welcome to keep score.”
Sting added, “This is a genial battle of the bands.”
And while each of the headliners had his own fantastic band, the musicians often stayed on stage together, celebrating in unison the brilliant library of tunes from the band leaders of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame groups Genesis (Gabriel) and The Police (Sting.) Each had even greater success after they went solo in the ‘80s. Sting and Gabriel took turns with the 23 songs during the sold-out show at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys.
Just as the house music began at 7 p.m. to introduce the show, a sun ray through a wispy cloud in the Tahoe blue sky cast rainbow colors, and the sound system’s percussion resonated as deep as any show at the venue since Crazy Horse played in 2012. This was to be an extraordinary evening.
Gabriel opened with his powerful song “The Rhythm of the Heat” and Sting countered with “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” getting a roar from his line that he had “lost faith in politicians, they all seem like game show hosts to me.” Throughout their careers, Sting and Gabriel both have been outspoken about world views.
After the second song, Sting and Gabriel embraced and it seemed a bit awkward.
“He has very large appendages,” Gabriel explained.
“I can’t control it,” Sting responded.
Sting wore a short-sleeve shirt and at 64 is still muscularly lean. Gabriel joked about standing next to him.
“I said it was time for me to get back on the yoga mat, and I was there for the longest time,” Gabriel said. “After a few few minutes, (Sting) whispered in my ear, ‘You have to move around a bit.’ After three lessons, nobody can tell us apart. Backstage they call us the Tantric twins.”
What he lacked in physicality, Gabriel made up for it with energy and stage presence. Holding a tambourine, he twirled like Thelonious Monk and sprinted back and forth across the stage like Mick Jagger, all the while looking like a bald, white Fred Sanford.
The frontmen were complemented by outstanding musicians. Jennie Abrahamson captured the audience’s attention during the show’s fourth song, “Invisible Sun,” which Gabriel and Sting played together. Guitarist Dominic Miller worked the pedal to a rocked out version of “Driven To Tears,” which included a fantastic violin solo by Peter Tickell. After a press roll by Vinnie Colaiuta, who Sting called the best drummer in the world, the band played “The Hounds of Winter,” and Sting and singer Jo Lawry’s howls must have startled every coyote in the neighborhood.
As Gabriel had said, the concert did have a karaoke element. The crowd roared with the recognition of each tune, singing along, perhaps the most enthusiastically to “Shock The Monkey.” During another Gabriel song, “Red Rain,” a man in plaid shorts with a red bandana hanging out of a pocket, sang and bounced down an aisle, spilling his $13 beer each time his foot landed on the blacktop.
The highlight may have been Gabriel’s “Games.” As he paced across the stage, Sting whistled and marched behind him with the precision of a military man or an ace bellboy in a modern hotel.
Sting took a more serious stance after “Driven To Tears.”
“Any reasonable person would be driven to tears by what has just happened in France, and Dallas, Minnesota, Baton Rouge and before that Orlando,” he said. “The only proper answer to that is solidarity.”
Later, he said, “in the 31 days since we left our homeland (Britain), we voted ourselves into a constitutional fucking nightmare. These next two songs might seem appropriate or even prescient.” Then Sting sang a phrase from a Genesis song, “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,” about selling England by the pound before going into “Message in a Bottle” and getting the karaoke singers riled up again.
Gabriel followed with a duet with Abrahamson on “Don’t Give Up,” hitting a high note like it was 1986.
Answering Sting’s nod to Genesis, Gabriel sang a soulful gospel version of Sting’s “If You Love Someone.”
Gabriel and Sting traded vocals on Sting’s “Englishman in New York.” The 14 video panels behind the stage, which represented the 14 band members, displayed a gothic cityscape, while Tahoe shined in the setting sun. The crowd sang along, “Be yourself, no matter what they say” as Gabriel skipped across the stage. Old guys rock.
(c) Tahoe On Stage by Tim Parsons