Paul Simon and Sting: On Stage Together

New York City, NY, US
Madison Square Garden
Paul Simon, Sting Stage 'Little Experiment' at Madison Square Garden - The two singers mashed their bands together and dusted off the hits for nearly three hours...

"Welcome to our little experiment," Paul Simon said early on at his co-headlining show with Sting at New York's Madison Square Garden Tuesday night. "We're putting two bands together, two repertoires together, having two singers sing. As the tour comes towards its conclusion and the bands blend and merge more, I expect we will become more and more alike. I personally feel I will be more Adonis-like in appearance and be able to have sex for days on end. Sting should be anticipating some changes as well."

He was obviously kidding. Sting's not about to morph into a tiny, Jewish New Yorker and we'd rather not think about Paul Simon having any sort of sex, tantric or otherwise. But these two men from different generations and different continents have spent the past few weeks on the road mashing their large bands together and weaving their catalogs into one with remarkable results. They could have simply staged their standard solo concert, coming together for a few duets during the encore, but they opted for something far more unique and interesting. It was a show where "Brand New Day" seamlessly flowed into "Boy In The Bubble" and "Fields of Gold," with Simon and Sting swapping lines back and forth with great ease. 

The two singers have much in common. They both spent the first decade of their careers as the primary songwriter of an insanely successful act that went through a very ugly and public breakup right at the peak of its success. They both went onto huge solo careers where they experimented with world music, and they both agreed to highly nostalgic reunion tours in the mid-2000s that earned them boatloads of cash, but weren't exactly forward-looking endeavors. They're both also at a point in their careers where they can't fill arenas on their own, so on a business level, this tour makes sense as well.

These are not men that enjoy spontaneity at their gigs. The show was meticulously rehearsed, the setlist barely changes from night-to-night and the backing musicians, some of the best in the business, are never going to miss a single note. There were 15 players total, including original E Street Band keyboardist David Sancious and backup singer Jo Lawry from 20 Feet From Stardom. They were able to perfectly recreate the original recording of "The Boxer" down to the booming drum effect, though the Police did a pretty good job with just three musicians and more isn't always better. "Driven To Tears," for example, didn't necessarily require a violin solo. 

After opening duets, Paul Simon left the stage and Sting got everyone on their feet for "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," "Englishman In New York" and "Walking on the Moon," which provided a perfect reggae transition right into Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" and a string of Simon hits like "Graceland," " Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard." It set the tone for the evening where neither man was running the show for long. 

Simon ended his mini-set with a delicate cover of "Fragile," and Sting immediately returned the favor with a stripped-down "America." "Paul has been my teacher and mentor for many, many years," he said. "He is without peer. This song reminds me of the first time I came to America. We rented a station wagon here in New York City and drove all across this country playing in dives and staying in shitty hotels. This song, even though it was a decade before, reminds me of that time."

A show like this is bound to center around hits, though Sting did challenge the crowd by breaking out "I Hung My Head" and "The Hounds of Winter" from his 1996 LP Mercury Falling. Right as the crowd's attention began to wander, Sting won them back with the opening notes of "Roxanne." For his part, Paul Simon dusted off the gorgeous title track to 1983's Hearts and Bones as well as 1991's percussion-driven "The Obvious Child." It's one of his greatest solo tracks, but few people seemed to recognize it, though they lost their collective minds for the double shot of "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and "You Can Call Me Al."

The encore began with "Bridge Over Troubled Water," with Sting absolutely nailing the high notes on the first verse. (Poor Garfunkel. It's hard to imagine this tour is sitting well with him.) Simon sang the second verse and they wrapped it up together before transitioning right into "Every Breath You Take" and a euphoric "Late In The Evening." The band walked off and it seemed like it was over, but Simon and Sting both picked up acoustic guitars and harmonized on the Everly Brothers classic "When Will I Be Loved" that they dedicated to the late Phil Everly. For a brief moment, it almost seemed like we were all in another dimension where Simon & Sting had been a thing for decades.

(c) Rolling Stone by Andy Greene

Paul Simon, Sting rock Madison Square Garden...

Five minutes before the show was supposed to start, throngs of people were still waiting to pass through intense security outside Madison Square Garden. So, when Sting and Paul Simon took the stage a few minutes later, they played to scattered empty seats. But by the end of the second song, the arena was filled to capacity as the two touring musical icons brought the Garden to life.

From the first notes, you could feel the mutual admiration they had for each other. They shared vocals on Sting's "Brand New Day," followed by Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble." After covering Sting's "Fields of Gold," the Queens-born Simon addressed the hometown crowd to loud applause. He even acknowledged driving over the "Ed Koch Bridge," an insider nod to Simon and Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" and what the span is better known by in New York.

The pair rotated on and off stage for the next 2 1/2 hours. After the 72-year-old Simon left the stage for a little while, Sting dug into his solo and Police repertoire, covering songs like "Driven to Tears" and "Walking on the Moon." Before launching into "Englishman in New York," he told the crowd that there's nowhere in the world like the Garden, to thunderous cheers.

Simon then came on for his solo turn, playing hits like "Still Crazy After All These Years" and "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard," which brought everyone to their feet. He was joined again by Sting on guitar, as Simon covered his touching ballad, "Fragile." At the end, Simon expressed his love for the song, and told Sting: "I wish I wrote it."

The 62-year-old Sting quickly replied: "What? You haven't written enough?" before making Simon leave the stage.

Then he told the audience how much he's learned from Simon, calling him a songwriter "without peer," because of his knack for writing songs that serve as markers to the important moments in life. Sting recalled coming to the United States with his band, The Police, before making it big, and he introduced the song that reminded him of that time, Simon and Garfunkel's "America."

Right before the song ended, a stage hand brought him a bass guitar, and without missing a beat, Sting launched into The Police hit "Message in a Bottle," which proved to be one of the evening's most energetic numbers, bringing the crowd to its feet to sing along.

For most of the show, Sting played rocker to Simon's folksy troubadour. Still, Simon managed to energize the audience with lively versions of "You Can Call Me Al" and "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," as well as a reggae-infused "Mother and Child Reunion." While eclectic in their styles, they seemed to complement each other well throughout the show of two hours and 40 minutes. Both artists share a passion for world music and pushing the boundaries of popular music, so their collaboration seems like a natural fit.

By the end of the night, the pair covered a poignant mix of their own songs, each other's, and lots of duets. During the encore, Sting performed "Bridge Over Troubled Water," alternating verses with Simon. They then did The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and Simon's "Late in the Evening." After their 14-piece band left the stage, they concluded the show with the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved."

Noticeably absent from the show was material from Sting's recently released album, "The Last Ship." That album inspired the upcoming Broadway musical of the same name. After an out-of-town run in Chicago this summer, the show opens on Broadway in the fall.

The pair will play the Garden again on Thursday night. The short tour began in Houston in early February, and wraps up in Orlando later this month.

(c) Associated Press

Sting on Paul Simon: "He's the Jewish Grandmother I Never Had"

I'll start with this: Art Garfunkel has nothing to worry about. Paul Simon is not cheating on him. But he is performing a short concert tour with Sting that works better than I ever would have imagined. They come from different generations, but Simon and Sting have a lot in common. What unifies them is a love of jazz, a basic  rich musicality, and a gift for storytelling in their lyrics that is not heard anymore.

The two and a half hour show has no intermission. You don't want one. Both bands are on the stage most of the night at Madison Square Garden, meaning, as Sting told me the other day, "there are more musicians on stage than the New York Philharmonic."

Ironically, Sting and Simon lived in the same building on Central Park West for a long time. They never thought of playing together. I'd never think of it either. Simon's heyday of the soft rock singer songwriter was ebbing in 1977 when The Police rode in on Britain's post punk New Wave. "Roxanne" quickly replaced "Cecilia." Simon said he was still crazy after all these years. New wavers actually were crazy.

Indeed, Simon had a fallow period in the early 80s with "One Trick Pony" and "Hearts and Bones," while Sting and the Police charged by them with the Clash, the Jam, the Pretenders, and Elvis Costello. Paul Simon seemed so out of it until "Graceland"  brought him back in the mid 80s. Both artists have also experimented widely with Third World music and other new influences rather than repeat themselves.

Now together, surprisingly, Simon and Sting segue in and out of each other's songs effortlessly. Simon joins in on "Fields of Gold" and "Fragile." (Simon said of the latter, "I love that song. I always wanted to sing it.")  Sting literally remakes Simon's  "America." He explains how The Police first traveled across this country in a station wagon playing gigs in terrible places; he infuses the song with a memory of that journey. Sting also makes "Bridge Over Troubled Water" soar almost Garfunkel-like. (Simon's voice wavers only here. He wrote one of the three or four best ballads in pop history but it's beyond his range.)

The second show in NY is on Thursday night, then the tour moves on. Get in there to hear them do a countrified "The Boxer" together almost like Simon does it on Jerry Douglas's album with Mumford and Sons. And to hear Sting revive, at last, one of my favorites of his solo numbers, "They Dance Alone." It's about Chile and Pinochet but it could easily be directed to the Ukraine or Venezuela.

Each artist has enough songs for four hours or more. Simon leaves out "Mrs. Robinson" and "The Sound of Silence." I wish they added "Loves Me Like a Rock." Sting could slip in "If Ever I Lose My Faith in You" or "When You Dance." The whole thing could go on all night. As it is, they conclude on neutral ground: the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved." Simon says, "It all began with two guitars and a microphone. That's the way it should end."

Sting is clearly enjoying Simon's tutelage. He joked after the show last night that Simon, who's his senior by exactly a decade, had re-arranged all his songs. "He's the Jewish grandmother I never had," Sting quipped.

Something tells me this pairing isn't done yet.

(c) Showbiz411 by Roger Friedman

Paul Simon, Sting swap songbooks as they blend sweet and bouncy hits at the Garden...

Though they may not be of the same era or height, the Paul Simon and Sting show at Madison Square Garden made for a pleasant pairing.

They date from different eras, hail from distinct countries and stand at separate heights.

But Sting and Paul Simon found a way to bridge whatever waters separate them at their joint headlining tour, which came to the Garden on Tuesday.

The show took as its role model several other big-name two-fer events of late, like the Elton John/Billy Joel pairing of a few years back, or the Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z tete-a-tete from last summer.

In that mold, Sting and Simon spent a significant portion of the show onstage together, sharing vocals while mingling catalogues. They also integrated their bands, bringing together 14 musicians in all.

The show began by favoring Sting, using as an opener his appropriately chipper "Brand New Day," before moving into Simon's bouncy "Boy in the Bubble." Sting buttressed the latter with an impish bass solo.

The initial segment ended with Sting's sumptuous "Fields of Gold."

The softer tones in Simon's voice found a sympathetic home in the glow of "Gold." At 62, Sting has the stronger voice at this point, but the character and conversational style of Simon, 72, went a long way toward closing the difference.

From there, the two artists traded places in four-to-six-song solo sets, dominated by hits, but not devoid of buried tracks.

Sting mined the vim of his Police days in "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" and "Roxanne," while pausing for obscurities like "The Hounds of Winter."

Simon mingled favorites like "You Can Call Me Al" and "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" with less favored pieces like "Dazzling Blue."

Sting took time out from one of his solo sets to plunder his partner's trove, rendering "America." The English artist reveled in its lyrics as only someone from another country can. He navigated its long melody with the eager study of an admiring student. Sting made that relationship plain by claiming Simon as a secret seminal influence.

As effective as the solo sets may have been, the show found its freshness, and its daring, in the duets. These stretches made clear the many things these seemingly disparate stars share - besides Central Park West crash pads and significant bank accounts. They bond on a literary bent, a keen interest in both international sounds and politics, a lust for creative evolution and an uncommon flair for melody.

Sting's flinty ballad "Fragile" could have been written by Simon, and the elder star said he actually wished he had penned it.

"Haven't you written enough?" Sting quipped.

In another revelation of tandem spirits, the two performed Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion," which bops with the sort of pop-reggae beat The Police might have mined.

Songs like Simon's "The Boxer" or Sting's "Every Breath You Take" have tunes designed to be sung by anyone, and, in that sense, suit every artist. But the pair's harmonies graced them warmly.

For the risky "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Sting couldn't attempt the crystalline grace of Art Garfunkel's impeccable original. Knowing that, he and Simon delivered it as a kind of tribute to the song itself.

In moments like this, or a slower, country-tinged cover of the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved," the pair found a high meeting place, allowing two very different artists to forge a sweet and fluid dialogue.

Paul Simon and Sting return to the Garden Thursday.

(c) New York Daily News by Jim Farber

Paul Simon, Sting click at Madison Square Garden...

 It turns out Paul Simon and Sting have more in common than we thought.

The odd coupling of one of the architects of '60s folk rock and one of the pioneers of new wave somehow clicked at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, especially when they joined forces in their mutual love of world beat music. (The duo returns to The Garden Thursday night.)

Simon added a great reggae groove to "Mother and Child Reunion" in order to better match Sting's bouncing "Walking on the Moon" and make the first transition a seamless one.

Like Billy Joel and Elton John's "Face to Face" tours, Simon and Sting played their hits together and separately in their "On Stage Together" tour, using their collaborations as a way to bridge their individual sets.

Though Sting and Simon are clearly equals on the tour, presiding over an impressive 14-piece band, it is Simon who makes the more powerful impact. His breezy version of "Graceland" was delightful, while his jazzy version of "Still Crazy After All These Years" took on a wistful, more poignant feel.

Not that Sting didn't have his moments. His take on Simon and Garfunkel's "America" was a beautiful surprise, while "Message in a Bottle" still rocked hard.

However, Sting was oddly deferential to Simon, singing harmonies and even offering compliments, saying that as a literate songwriter, Simon is "without peer."

Simon said he expected that he and Sting would become more similar as the tour continued. "I will become more Adonis-like," he joked.

(c) Newsday by Glenn Gamboa
posted by Momalaide
Sting & Simon
I saw the show Thursday evening and was blown away by the performance. One of the best ever. It was so refreshing to see these two great artists share a stage. Brilliant!
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