Sting in the Desert at Chula Vista...
Under a cooling Fall Southern California sun, we joined the line of traffic heading into the desert venue in Chula Vista. The initial impression of the venue was ''Where the fudge are we?'', but as it turns out, the Coors Amphitheatre is a hidden gem, buried as it is East of San Diego.
The overwhelming impression I am left with after this concert is one of gratitude - happy that Sting is back on form after his somewhat disappointing lurgy-infested last trip to the Pantages earlier this tour - and of Awe of the musical skills on show by all.
First Dominic did his somewhat short set, which was well received by the swelling crowds. As has been reported elsewhere, Sting joined him on stage for a rendition of 'Shape of my Heart', which catches the audience a little unprepared as they struggle to find their seats and find locations for their Margaritas. It was very nice to hear Dominic performing solo on the big stage - I've only heard him perform at the 'Shapes' release party at Joe's Pub in New York, and the dynamic of the acoustic on the big speakers was very enjoyable.
Sting returned to introduce Annie Lennox, who was unbelievably good. Every adjective that has been used elsewhere I agree with, along with a few others - Svelte, Sexy, Powerful, Addictive, Amusing (her comments on not needing the clouds of ''illegal substances'' wafting her way from the orchestra pit as she has her own ''natural high'' raised a good laugh for all). Oh and did I mention that the lady can sing! Boy can she sing. Her set comprised of a mix of older Eurythmics and newer solo songs all of which were received with enthusiasm by the crowd, some of whom were clearly Annie devotees (anyone else see the ''enthusiast'' at the front of section 103? ) Ending her set with 'Sweet Dreams', the crowd were left wanting more.
I think it is unusual for the support act to leave the crowd feeling that even if no more music is performed during the night, they had already received amazing value for their ticket price! She succeeded admirably!
Then after a 25 minute stage re-set, Sting blasts on stage with the techno version 'Send Your Love'. The set list I think remained the same as the other recent concerts, but high spots for me were 'Dead Man's Rope', 'Synchronicity', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Never Coming Home'. As for 'Roxanne', as much as I dearly love this nostalgia-filled song, is too long at the moment. I think that it loses energy two thirds of the way through. Sting will always be indulged with being allowed to take his fans on whatever musical direction he feels appropriate, but this version feels as though he is being a bit self-indulgent and he loses a major proportion of the spectators on this one.
The spectacular opening of the concert is a change to the laid back starts I've been used to after the earlier leg, and the new additions to the stage layout added to fill the bigger amphitheatre stage are all effective tools providing the ''big stage'' presentation. I like the background screens more each time I see the performances. With familiarity they no longer have the same overwhelming WOW impression, but they now add atmosphere to the focus of Sting's songs. Sting's voice was much better than his last California visit thankfully (as you can see I felt inclined to review this concert unlike the disappointing Pantages affair) and his energy levels along with the rest of the band seemed to be pumped, almost to say a belated ''sorry'' for canceling earlier in the tour (Sting mentioned this during the show too).
Kipper stated that he thought the San Diego crowds were going to be the loudest to date (I'm sure he hasn't done this before ) and think they tried their utmost to deliver! A fair percentage of the spectators remained standing for the majority of the show.
Honorable mention must go to Dominic for his sterling string-work, and to Jason for his mesmerizing fast-fingered solo work. Also Joy's rendition of 'Whenever' was standing ovation material as usual. Finally Keith's super-high-energy efforts keep everyone well pumped!
The amphitheatre itself was a satisfying venue. From where I was sat way off to stage left, the sound was very good. The two bigscreens were useful in getting the detailed performance views and also alleviating the problem of having a restricted view for a few minutes while fans in front wanted to stand while you wanted a break (not actually applicable in my case but you know what I mean). The atmosphere was better than some of the smaller venues that I have attended. I would recommend you add it to your list of venues to check out.
All in all a satisfying evening, hope that everyone managed to get home safely, especially Eliz, Noelle and Tphxr all of whom had the long trek back to Los Angeles ahead of them.
No photos for me to show this time, I was too far away to even attempt to take anything so hopefully the other fanclub members who were there will be able to oblige.
Just a final comment before I close this review. A number of us have noticed great seats coming available in the last few days before the concerts, and indeed for San Diego, I saw blocks of seats appearing in row 6 of the Orchestra on the day of the concert. You might like to check these out before you hit the scalpers. I was on a knife edge whether to buy the better seats and try to sell my less-good Sting.com tickets at the venue, but in the end I stayed put. The risk of not getting tickets is too great to leave it to the last minute, but it is a little disappointing to see better seats than were offered thru the club to the devoted fans coming up so close to the concerts.
Next stop on the venue trail will be Los Angeles on the 28th, then Irvine of Friday October first. See you there!
(c) Rob Elliott for Sting.com