Sting: My Songs Tour

San Diego, CA, US
Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre

Sting’s San Diego concert an arresting, full-circle family affair for the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer…

Sting came full circle at his alternately rousing and understated concert Wednesday night at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre at San Diego State University.

On Aug. 14, 1985, the celebrated English musician kicked off his debut solo tour at this very same venue — then known as the SDSU Open Air Theater — after leaving The Police, one of rock’s most successful and creative bands. Sting’s first-born son, Joe Sumner, was 9 at the time. Now, Joe is the opening act on his famous father’s current tour and lends vocal support to his dad on the songs “King of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take.”

On Sept. 5, 1983, Sting performed with The Police at SDSU’s nearby Aztec Bowl, topping a bill that included Oingo Boingo and Madness. Since 1997, the bowl has been the site of the university’s Viejas Arena, about a 5-minute stroll from the Open Air Theatre.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been here,” Sting said Wednesday, following an ebullient, four-song opening salvo that included “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.” “And,” he added with a smile, “I’m very happy.”

True to his word, Sting sounded like well over a million dollars, if not quite $300 million. That’s the estimated amount he received last year for selling the rights to the more than 600 songs he has written. One of them, the 1983 Police classic “Every Breath You Take” - with more than 15 million airings - is the most played song in radio history.

Sting’s sold-out SDSU concert devoted eight of its 22 selections to his Police days, starting with “Message in a Bottle,” the charged opening number for his two-hour performance. It concluded with his aching 1987 lament, “Fragile,” whose lyrics of loss in a world beset by hatred and tumult are, sadly, even more timely now than when he wrote them.

No less resonant is a couplet from 1993’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” Sting’s eighth selection. When he sang: “I may lose my faith in politicians,” the 4,700-strong audience roared its agreement.

Sting stayed true to the hushed “Fragile’s” delicate melodic filigrees. On other songs, he was happy to demonstrate that his music remains as flexible as it is durable, deftly mixing elements of rock, reggae, funk, country, Celtic airs, gospel hymn-inspired vocal surges, and - on “Desert Rose” - soaring Algerian raï flourishes.

Sting extended some of his selections, including “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and “Roxanne.” The latter number at one point found him slyly singing the chorus to the 1931 Duke Ellington classic, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”

Some of the added touches were so brief and nuanced they were easy to miss, such as the unison piano, guitar and harmonica line that fleetingly provided counterpoint during part of a verse in “Fields of Gold.” On the bouncy “Brand New Day,” Sting punctuated one of his vocal couplets with shimmering harmonic accents that paid homage to electric bass innovator Jaco Pastorius’ groundbreaking work in the jazz fusion band Weather Report.

During his spoken introduction to the luminous “Fields of Gold,” Sting wryly referenced one of the several homes he owns around the world. “I have a house in the English countryside,” he said, then added: “It’s more like a castle.”

Sting’s stage attire was more veteran rock star than king: dark leather pants, a gray t-shirt. His white hair attested to his having turned 72 on Monday, but his physique is so trim and muscular he appeared to somehow be in better shape than at his 1985 SDSU show.

That concert 38 years ago found Sting backed by a talent-packed jazz band featuring saxophonist Branford Marsalis. On Wednesday, the more improvisational moments came from harmonica ace Shane Sager, whose supple solos indicated he is well-versed with the pioneering work of Toots Thielemans.

Backing singers Gene Noble and Melissa Musique both soared when given the spotlight, while guitarist Dominic Miller and keyboardist Kevon Webster expertly navigated the broad dynamic range and slippery shifts in Sting’s songs. Drummer Zach Jones is a solid replacement for Josh Freese, who this year joined the Foo Fighters.

Sting and his band performed with equal precision, conviction and enthusiasm throughout. His engagement with his music is still palpable after all these years. That made Sting’s parting line Wednesday - “We shall return!” - sound more like a vow than an empty declaration.

(c) San Diego Union Tribune by George Varga

An SOS to the world, Sting returns to San Diego - The Police frontman united listeners through bouncing grooves, soothing lyrics and heartfelt tributes...

As the lights dimmed upon the CalCoast Amphitheater, the deafening roar of anticipation heard from the crowd signaled that Sting was about to take the stage.

British singer-songwriter Sting finally returned to touring after a long hiatus caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. On Oct. 4, Sting performed at CalCoast, treating San Diego to an evening of his most popular tunes.

After the initial applause began to die down, the opening notes of “Message in a Bottle,” from The Police’s 1979 album Reggatta De Blanc, resonated from the stage. Fans rose up out of their seats once they recognized this iconic, arpeggiated guitar riff.

Sting, who had just turned 72 two days before, kept the energy high as his band transitioned into one of his most popular songs titled “Englishman in New York,” featuring a reggae inspired groove that drives it. The crowd sang as one during the song’s outro, repeating the line “be yourself, no matter what they say.”

Whether he was doing vocal tradeoffs with his backing vocalist on soulful songs like 1993’s “Heavy Cloud No Rain” or reaching for the crowd during the timeless Police track, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” the singer fully displayed his retained vigor. Sting also set the mood when the situation called for it, opting to sit on a chair close to the stage’s edge on slower, more intimate songs, such as the 2021 track “Loving You,” from his album, “The Bridge.”

A high point of his set came when he played his 1993 song, “Shape Of My Heart.” After playing through a few of the song’s verses and choruses, backing singer Gene Noble took center stage to deliver a powerful rendition of “Lucid Dreams,” by the late artist Juice WRLD, which samples the guitar riff from “Shape Of My Heart.” The crowd could be heard joining along in singing Higgins’ lyrics while also applauding the tribute. This however, wasn’t the only tribute paid of the night. While performing the heavily reggae influenced Police hit “So Lonely,” Sting and his band rejoiced with the audience, interpolating lyrics from Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.”

Sting closed the set with notable Police songs like “King Of Pain” and their most known hit, “Every Breath You Take.” Fans were also delighted with having Sting’s son, Joe Sumner, join him on stage to play guitar and sing before finishing the set.

Fourth-year San Diego State business student Kevin Steinhilber was on his way home from a late class when he heard “Every Breath You Take” radiating from the amphitheater, at which he then decided to take a seat and listen to the rest of the show.

“It’s pretty cool that you can hear a lot of the show just from sitting behind the theater,” Steinhilber said.

Sting and his band re-emerged for a two song encore, playing the fan favorite “Roxanne,” by the Police and an emotional rendition of “Fragile,” a song from Sting’s 1987 album titled “…Nothing Like The Sun.” Extending the list of tributes, snippets of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” could be heard by keen listeners during the band’s performance of “Roxanne.”

Sting and his band followed by thanking the audience and promptly exiting the stage, to which they were met back with a roar of applause from the audience.

After the show ended, Colin Taquino, a third-year music recording and audio design student, recounted his admiration for Sting and his performance. Taquino stated that his parents urged him to see the show after they learned that Sting would be performing, something which he says he was glad to do.

Logan Bishop, a multi-instrumentalist and third-year accounting student, stated that he was personally inspired by the music of Sting and The Police, citing original Police drummer Stewart Copeland as his main drumming influence. Sting on the other hand, plays more of a direct role in influencing Bishop’s songwriting and composition.

When asked his favorite song of the night, Bishop stated that it was the Arabian inspired “Desert Rose” that surprised him the most with how many elements of the studio recording were able to be reproduced live.

Bishop emphasized the significance of someone with legendary status such as Sting coming around.

“Opportunities to see legacy artists like this don’t come too often, he said”

(c) The Daily Aztec by Zen Yokel