Now that he's turned 65, Sting was sounding a bit nostalgic Monday night after he played "Message in a Bottle," perhaps his greatest song with The Police.
"Forty years ago when I wrote this, only a dog was listening - and he was barely wagging his tail," he told about 5,000 fans at Verizon Theatre. "Forty years later, everyone in Dallas is singing all the words."
The former schoolteacher known as Gordon Sumner has indeed traveled light years since the 1970s, though he certainly doesn't look it. Chalk it up to yoga, barbells or the miracle of hair restoration surgery -- whatever the reason, Sting remains the everlasting sex symbol of the thinking woman.
More importantly, he's still making valid music. The half-dozen new songs he played from his album 57th & 9th stacked up nicely next to the classics: "I Can't Stop Thinking About You" is his best power-pop tune in decades, and the global-warming themed "One Fine Day" and "Petrol Head" remind you he's a master at writing message songs that don't sound like message songs.
Sting divvied up the show evenly between new tunes, Police songs and gems from past solo albums, including the Arabic rocker "Desert Rose" and "Englishman in New York," his '87 tune about gay writer Quentin Crisp that now sums up the struggle of "aliens" in the Trump era. "It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile," Sting sang. "Be yourself no matter what they say."
Never content to merely crank out the hits, Sting re-arranged a lot of his older tunes - though not always for the better in the case of a hyper-reggae spin version of his country tune "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" and a purposely off-kilter "Walking on the Moon." But he managed to breathe new life into other Police hits, especially "Roxanne," which zig-zagged perfectly into Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine."
The set-closing "Roxanne" finally got fans off their rumps and on their feet. But the crowd's mellow mood wasn't due to a lack of energy from Sting or his band.
The father-and-son guitar team of Dominic and Rufus Miller fleshed out songs with a lively mix of jazz, flamenco and hard-rock while Sting's son Joe Sumner and members of the Last Bandoleros sang backup. The band's star, however, was Josh Freese, a hard-hitting drummer best known for playing with Guns N' Roses and Nine Inch Nails. Pummeling his way through Police rockers like "So Lonely" and "Next To You," Freese gave the show an edge that recalled Sting's first solo tour with Branford Marsalis.
Sting anchored the band with his vibrant-but-subdued bass playing, the most under-rated component of his career. But the real revelation was his voice, which is almost as agile today as it was in his earlier days.
Back then, Sting seemed like an old soul trapped in a young man's body. Today, he's the opposite - rock's elder statesman, still sounding like a virile punk in his 20s.
(c) Dallas Morning News by Thor Christensen