Performers who made their names in the '80s still sharp...
On Friday, Annie Lennox, 49, finally put on a show for me and a bunch of other people in the MGM Grand Garden Arena after taking a lot of years off from touring so she could live her life, which was selfish of her.
That's what I was thinking when I was listening to her sing the intense ballad, 'No Turning Back', which started out loud but slow and ended up fast yet soft. That Annie Lennox is some dynamo.
Next, though, she blew me away. She sang 'Cold.'
'Cold' is one of the loveliest waltzes. Its gloomy melodies march down, down the scales, and its heartbeat almost dies, but then it rises up just enough to take a gasp of eternal heartbreak. Lennox, a mistress of many volume levels, gave the sad thing its plain pain: 'Come to me, run to me, do and be done with me.'
I'll remember that forever, I hope. The subsequent image I'll carry of the song is of white lights, sitting on the front of the stage, flashing up at the front of Lennox, throbbing and pulsing against her English-white skin, her long outstretched arms, one hand on a microphone stand. Her body was a stick of sinew, moving in rhythms, dancing to the soul broadcasting from her throat.
Such an interesting face: red lips, sunken eyes, platinum bob. A look not unlike when she became famous in the 1980s for singing 'Sweet Dreams', 'Here Comes The Rain Again' and 'Missionary Man' as half of the synthesizer duo, The Eurythmics.
On Friday, Lennox sang those melodies pretty close to the way they sounded once upon a time, with both her low, booming restraint and her screaming, gargantuan mouth. Backup singers added a gospel beginning to 'Missionary Man', and Lennox sang 'Here Comes The Rain Again' while playing piano alone.
At the end of her hour, she let it rip with the roar of 'Why', a relationship-hell song: 'And these are the years that we have spent. And this is what they represent. And this is how I feel... I don't think you know how I feel.'
She was flawless. Fearless. The kind of rare talent that makes the potential for error seem like a statistical improbability.
Lennox played only an hour because she was the opener for Sting.
You have to hand it to Sting. He must feel confident and unthreatened to keep hiring great opening acts. Three years ago, the man with one name who enjoys a plenitude of libidinous tantric sex, so we've been told, hired the amazing Rufus Wainwright to open for him. This time, he not only paired with Lennox, he let his guitarist open for the both of them. Sting even went out and sang with the guitarist.
Sting, 52, has returned to my favourite form, too. The last time I saw him, in 2001 at the Aladdin, I felt I was getting a Sting show as if by soft jazz. I want Sting to be Sting, the guy from the Police rocking out, or Sting from the late 1980s when the jazz he preferred was off-kilter and mesmerizing.
That's what I got. Right off the bat, he faithfully did the Police's most fun song, 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', and the band's most brilliant song, 'Synchronicity II'. Here's a reminder of its take on an 'industrial ugly' couple: ''Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration, but we know all her suicides are fake.''
And the mind-set of the father in this presumably British labor family is not so great: ''Another working day has ended. Only the rush-hour hell to face. Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes. Contestants in a suicidal race. Daddy grips the wheel and stares alone into the distance. He knows that something somewhere has to break.''
Sting's hour and a half was really very good, with the slight exception of a 15-minute or so version of 'Roxanne', which was about 10 minutes too long. Plus, Sting doesn't need that huge band of drummers and keyboardists and such. The Police made great music with three people in it. At the MGM, Sting could have done without, at the very least, the second percussionist, and certainly that guy's metal chimes. (Chimes on porches: good. Chimes in pop music: bad.)
Sting took along a nice video screen setup. During his very pretty 'Fragile', he sang softly, 'On and on, the rain will fall, like tears from a star.' And monitors showed images of war bombs falling and exploding. Industrial pollution burped out of smokestacks. Oil wells pumped. Civilization.
Some people give Sting a hard time for being an Earth-loving activist with a big mouth. I think of Sting as an earnest doer, living in an age of ironic viewers.
We are not just lemmings packed into shiny metal boxes. We are lemmings typing on shiny metal boxes, and we're typing about how shiny all our metal boxes are. We could choose to breathe freer and act more charitably, but we don't. Lemmings are programmed to think they have it good.