Second Night. First Row...
It's not every day you get Sting and William Shatner on the same bill at the venue, ok on different nights! (I couldn't resist that :)) I went to both nights. Usually, the last three months in the year is when the music industry likes to release the most important new releases of the year, this year is no exception. What I hadn't realised until last night, is that William Shatner has relaunched his musical career? No I haven't lost the plot, honest, the reason I mention this is that he has, wait for it, covered "Walking on the Moon!" Shatner's version of "Rocket Man" has a unique place in the musical archives, so you can imagine what his vocal performance on the Police classic is like! I can guarantee it will be the perfect ice-breaker to any party in future years? Well if you thought I enjoyed myself on the first night, well the second night delivered some special Ontario magic. I really do like Massey Hall as a venue, but am I the only one that can't get comfortable in the seats. When I first sat down, I thought I'd broken the seat, it slides forward!
Sometimes I am a stickler for procedure and doing things my way. For instance I like to know where I'm sitting before I reach a gig. The suspense was killing me, I had a VIP ticket, but all I knew that I was somewhere in the first 15 Rows? I was anxious in anticipation, I was nervous and excited at the same time. I obviously worry waaay too much, I blame my work for that. The Livenation rep was genuinely surprised to see my tattered British passport on my check-in, yeah I have seen some action on the Sting front and that's just this year! "you've got a great seat" she proudly exclaims, in the back of my mind I'm thinking she says that to everyone. Actually, she was right, I had the best seat in the house, front row centre and on the aisle! There was a lot of group hugging when my Canadian friends found out where I was located. It also felt there was huge weight on my shoulders to get the crowd out of their seats for the whole gig. What transpired was probably somewhere in between?
By my own admission I was the epitome of a reserved English gentleman, yeah right! Like so much in life, it's about timing and space? (the final frontier, that was the night lol) I absolutely like to rock out to 'Demolition Man', so it won't surprise anyone that I launched out of my seat at the start of the song. Soaking up Dominic's guitar riff I was in my element. My damn laminate kept hitting me in the face! I get the feeling not many people have those problems, that's just the intensity of my dance moves. If the band hadn't noticed me at first, they did now, I was the only one up! I glanced around at the audience, whilst my laminate hits me in the face again, some are smiling, some are giving me the stare of death, others just think security will deal with him? Nobody next to me is following my lead, I decide to sit down and carry on air drumming. You could almost hear the relief from my neighbours that I'd calmed down, this is rocking, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. The musical climax of the song, I leap and time my Sting jump to perfection and I landed well. Both Sting and Dominic were smiling, it might have had something to do with me, but everything to do with nailing a stella performance. I get asked a lot, why go to same concert two nights on the trot, it's an absolute necessity. There are things I didn't notice on the first night, you get different viewpoints/seats and performances. Sting seems quite taken with the idea his dressing room at Massey Hall. He likes the idea of ghosts, especially as a musical metaphor, but these are the first ghosts to produce feedback during his opening remarks.
Thankfully, loud feedback is as rare as a white label first pressing, which leads me on to 'Ghost Story' it was at this point in the concert Jock came over to see me. We are both there, motionless, still , you don't need words to convey your emotions, it was obvious to us that a truly powerful and moving performance is playing out before us. Sting is also clearly moved, Jock was in stunned silence, I was welling up and expecting a Niagara moment from my tear ducts to materialise. I just about held it together? Sometimes when there are tears, there shall be laughter? For the concert's comedy moment, nothing to do with Sting, everything to do with me!
During 'Driven to Tears' a fan behind started dancing down the aisle towards me. I don't notice this at all, my gaze is firmly fixated on the stage. Next thing I know this guy is tapping me on the shoulder..."get up!" He is holding a different virtual guitar from me, but is clearly in need of some company! So naturally I oblige, by this stage you could sense people on the left hand side are laughing at this spectacle! You couldn't stage something like this? In fact I was getting the vibe the guy was trying to hit on me? It was very funny, I thought I better sit down in case I was becoming too much of a distraction to the audience. My instincts were right. Patti later told me about the people who were laughing at me and making fun at my expense "Who is that guy?" Patti had a priceless answer.
Sting on night two seemed more shy than the previous night during all the song introductions, and kept looking at me during the natural break in his conversations. It was like he was looking for reassurance from me, knowing full well I could step in, as a witty tele-prompt if he lost his train of thought when members of the audience were shouting out compliments to him. Any reference to England in his introductions, I was there, even if my responses did almost sound Geordie? When he started talking about "Soul Cakes originating in England" My voice really did carry....a resounding "yes!" was heard echoing around the hall.
It was interesting to note Rufus was looking over in my direction for a good part of the concert. Had his dad had words to observe that fan that can change Dominic's moody pose into uncontrollable laughter in a couple of dance moves? The middle guitar riff in 'Fields of Gold' has been passed from father to son. Surly the Ghosts of Paris aren't still haunting dad? The musical pairing of Jo Lawry and Peter Tickell throughout concert is amazing, 'Never Coming Home' is the pinnacle for me. Jo Lawry really went for it vocally during the "want to live my life on my own.." lyric (something I said?) she went that extra mile on the performance, I like to dream it was for me, wow. When she shares the mic with Sting, it's a finely judged move, one wrong step of the mark, she could accidentally go flying across the stage, a near miss tonight. The song is definitely my signature tune now.
I get the feeling sometimes my reactions and emotional expressions during a Sting gig are on the higher end of the Richter scale, I was getting quite animated and singing the lyrics during 'Inside' with some passion, I felt I was the only one doing so, sting could clearly see and hear my enthusiasm.
I do hope the fun version of 'Heavy Cloud, No Rain', lasts the tour. My timing had an almost comic effect, when I stood up only at each "No Rain!" part in the audience participation stakes, my arms aloft and then sit down again.
The most Awesome moment was still the climatic duel between Sting and Peter Tickell in an edge of your seat musical feast during 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)' that had Peter Tickell trading bars and riffs with Sting, that is what I can only describe as the violinist version of air guitar! The applause was long and rapturous, Sting looked slightly overwhelmed...Peter had stolen the show? It was interesting to note during 'Next to You' Sting wanted to do a leap with Rufus at the end of the song, but Rufus was looking the wrong way and standing in the wrong spot, Sting did laugh about it, got to remember we are early on in this tour.
Sting clearly loved the second night at Massey Hall, I think more than the first, well most noticeable on 'Message in a Bottle' where he joked with the audience "This is so Easy!" the show was nearing its climax, loud shrieks were heard from adoring females, something in G? I don't know what was in that Caesar cocktail I had before the gig, but it hit the spot. My singing was loud and in perfect harmony. Sting looked me directly in the eye and said "you should go on tour?" I shouted out "I Am!" (priceless) he was tickled, beaming away at me. A perfect ending to my Toronto leg of my travels.
(c) Roger Puplett for Sting.com