Peter Gabriel and Sting Kick Off U.S. Tour With Exuberant, Inspired Collaborations: Concert Review...
Peter Gabriel and Sting last toured together in 1986 and 1988 as part of a string of Amnesty International benefit concerts. Last night, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, the pair kicked off their new Rock, Paper, Scissors tour with a marathon set brimming with exuberant collaborations.
In fact, it’s more precise to call this a co-mingling tour, not a co-headlining tour, because both artists (and their respective bands) collaborated throughout the two-hour-and-40-minute set. Sting even lightly characterized the night as an “organic battle of the bands,” even though the competition was clearly friendly.
The show started off with both groups backing Gabriel on “The Rhythm of the Heat,” the first track from 1982’s Peter Gabriel. Having two drummers and a percussionist on the stage was a boon for the song, which felt like a volcano simmering and then exploding. Sting then bounded onstage for a buoyant take on his solo hit “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” which featured additional and cutting flourishes from fiddle player Peter Tickell.
Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” was another early standout: Sting and Gabriel not only shared lead vocals, but they harmonized together on the chorus, their voices blending and weaving around one another perfectly. That push-pull matched the song’s strident, prey-stalking rhythmic backbone: In tandem with the arrangement, Sting and Gabriel marched across the stage and around each other, like a toreador circling a bull. “Solsbury Hill” also benefitted from the collaboration: Couples danced in the section of arena seats behind the stage - and Gabriel himself galloped around the stage - as both bands ran through the folk-flecked, uplifting song.
At times, the concert’s song swapping was even more pronounced and intriguing. Sting did an admirable job taking over lead vocals on Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey,” which featured skittering electronic currents reminiscent of drum ‘n’ bass. As a preface to the Police‘s “Message in a Bottle,” Sting delighted the crowd by singing a brief, nearly a cappella snippet of Genesis‘ “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight.” A few songs later, a laid-back take on the Police’s “Walking in Your Footsteps” segued right into him tackling Gabriel’s equally funky “Kiss That Frog,” a tune highlighted by David Sancious’ keyboard wizardry. Gabriel and his band later returned the favor by transforming Sting’s upbeat “If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free” into an ominous, Pink Floyd-reminiscent prog dirge with rich, soulful overtones. At the end of the song, Gabriel whispered “Set them free” and “Let ’em go” with barely concealed creepiness.
In other spots, however, these collaborations were subtler. For the Police’s “Invisible Sun,” Gabriel and Sting band member Jo Lawry huddled stage right at Gabriel’s piano/keyboard setup and added surging backing vocals. And during Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Gabriel added mincing, smoky vocals on several verses, a perfect match for Sting’s jauntier delivery. Throughout the set, each musician (and his band) moved on and off the stage seamlessly - sometimes so stealthily that it was a surprise to see who might be contributing to a song. That’s a testament to the weeks of rehearsal they’ve spent preparing for this tour, time and dedication which absolutely made a difference to the night’s flow and balance.
Both Sting and Gabriel did periodically do songs with their own respective bands, however. Gabriel’s song picks included fan favorites “Secret World” and “Darkness”; during the moody, ambient latter, Gabriel walked around the stage with a camera in his face, making the predominant crowd screen feature a stark, black-and-white close-up of his visage. “Red Rain” was absolutely massive and thundering, with prominent piano and Gabriel’s gravelly voice conveying appropriate gravitas, and “Big Time” was a colorful, funky burst of energy boasting some of the night’s coolest production flourishes: stage lights and film footage of band members bathed in 3-D-like effects.
Sting’s set was loaded with Police hits - highlighted by a Steely Dan-esque take on “Driven to Tears,” with red-hot guitar work from Dominic Miller, and a jazz-combo take on “Roxanne” with an interlude of “Ain’t No Sunshine” - but he too pulled out a rare solo cut, with great success: Mercury Falling‘s “The Hounds of Winter,” on which Lawry howled and trilled like a siren breaking glass. Sting’s portion of the night also had subtle political and social commentary; in particular, he gave particular pointed emphasis to the “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” lyric, “You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians/ They all seemed like game show hosts to me.”
On a somber note, Sting also referenced the Orlando mass shootings, and said the “way we can counter unspeakable cruelty and mindless stupidity is empathy and solidarity,” before doing a moving, Spanish guitar-inflected version of “Fragile.” Later in the night, Gabriel told a story about meeting a young activist who was thinking about going into politics - and revealed it was British MP Jo Cox, who was assassinated last week. He then dedicated a stunning, somber new song to her, which featured minimal percussion and a breathy, keening chorus repeating the phrase “love can heal.”
That revelatory moment gave way to a percussion-heavy, hip-swiveling “Desert Rose” and then everyone again coming together for an upbeat, optimistic version of Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” Every musician onstage was moving and grooving - even Sting, in the back ceding the spotlight to Gabriel, by adding harmonies with the rest of the auxiliary singers. The entire concert was like this: no ego and no preciousness about the music from any corner of the stage - just seasoned musicians passionate about performing and transforming.
That joy shone through on the encore of “Every Breath You Take,” another joint production, and the night-closing, Technicolor horn explosion “Sledgehammer.” This closer was exuberant fun, featuring charming choreography - onstage right, Gabriel pointed at Sting and the auxiliary vocalists at stage left, and mimed pulling the troupe toward him, as if they were on a piece of string - and plenty of goofy, unaffected singing and stage moves. The musicians and audience alike clearly having a blast - a fitting end to a night where even familiar songs played hundreds of times felt and sounded invigorated and refreshed.
(c) Ultimate Classic Rock by Annie Zaleski
Sting, Peter Gabriel kickstart Rock, Paper, Scissors tour in Columbus, Ohio...
It’s cool enough just to have one rock and roll icon playing your town on a Tuesday night.
Put two legends together on the same stage and it’s, well…magic.
Sting and Peter Gabriel kicked off their joint Rock, Paper, Scissors tour last night with a three-hour show at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, each man playing a solo set peppered with his own hits before joining forces for an unforgettable musical matchup..
Renowned for their work fronting two of rock’s most successful - not to mention influential - bands, the Englishmen seemed in good spirits (and excellent health).
Gabriel rose to fame in the ‘70s as the costume-and-makeup-wearing mouthpiece for the art-rock quintet Genesis (1967-74). His first four eponymously-titled solo albums established him as a socially-conscious visionary with a gift for exotic rhythms and menacing verses. Gabriel metamorphosed into an MTV superstar in the mid-‘80s, while the ‘90s found the Real World guru reinventing himself as a divorced father at middle age.
Sting combined elements of pop, punk, and reggae as singer / bassist for The Police (1977-1985). His solo debut The Dream of the Blue Turtles was a hit despite its jazz leanings. Subsequent releases Nothing Like the Sun, Soul Cages, and Ten Summoner’s Tales cemented his status as a hit-making philanthropist who’d do whatever he wanted - including a lute-centric album and Police reunion tour - with whoever he wanted, wherever he chose to do it.
So two of England’s favorite sons landed in the Buckeye State on the first full day of summer, accompanied by a coterie of brilliant musicians who’ve all logged time with one or the other. The multicultural ensemble of men and women included two keyboardists, two percussionists, a violin player, two background singers, a guitarist…and Chapman stick player Tony Levin.
Gabriel also played keys when not wandering the stage with a headset mic. Sting played one of his battered electric basses.
Gabriel started first with “Rhythm of the Heat” and “No Self Control,” during which Sting strode into view, bass at the ready for “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.”
“Invisible Sun” was the first of several Police cuts on offer. Indeed, Sting as many of those (“Message in a Bottle,” “Roxanne,” etc.) as he did solo selections.
Sting joked that the evening would unfold like a “battle of the bands” between himself and Gabriel, but in truth both employed the same hybrid band - which minimized the need for set changes and technical adjustments. Crowding the expanse of the dramatically lit stage (with a dozen or so vertical LCD banners), the Rock, Paper, Scissors symphony shuffled between Sting / Police and Gabriel / Genesis fare with practiced ease.
“We’ve been here rehearsing all week,” Sting reported early on.
“Yes, I guess that makes us honorary Columbians!” quipped Peter.
Gabriel dusted off So and Us smashes like “Red Rain,” “Sledgehammer,” “Don’t Give Up,” and “Kiss That Frog.” Further removed from his old band than Sting from The Police, Gabriel only teased vintage Genesis (with Sting chiming in on a couple verses). But classic ‘70s songs “Solsbury Hill” and “Games Without Frontiers” more than made up the difference between old and, ah…older PG.
Gabriel issued the new single “I’m Amazing” last week but sang the even newer (and more topical) “Love Can Heal” for the intrigued Ohio crowd.
But just because this was a musical match made in heaven didn’t mean either headliner skimped on his set. On the contrary, both Gabriel and Sting brought about fifteen songs apiece to the affair. And they all came off great.
So nobody went home shortchanged.
The pair first toured together in the late ‘80s (with Bruce Springsteen) for the Human Rights Now benefit concerts for Amnesty International.
Tonight, they sounded telepathic and tight whether guesting on one another’s tunes or receding into the band as just another player, letting the other guy take over.
The tour continues through the end of July.
(c) The Examiner by Pete Roche
Sting and Peter Gabriel Trade Hits, Covers During Three-Hour Tour Kickoff...
What do you get when you unite two socially-conscious British frontmen-turned-solo-artists known for bridging pop and world music? On Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio, you got Peter Gabriel and Sting sharing a stage and top billing in the three-hour greatest hits tag team kick-off of The Rock Paper Scissors tour at Nationwide Arena, which was long on moody resiliency and arty grandeur.
After opening the evening with Gabriel's "The Rhythm of the Heat" (off 1982's Security) and Sting's "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" (off 1993's Ten Summoner's Tales), the two convened in the middle of the stage.
Gabriel, wearing a monk-ish black hoodie (hat down), explained that because of the different heritages of their U.K. origins, "by the end of tour he's going to teach me to build a ship, and I'm going to teach him to milk a cow." Sting said that as they'd spent the last two weeks rehearsing in Columbus, he and Gabriel considered themselves "honorary Columbus-ians" to a roar of approval from the near sell-out crowd.
Clad in a simple black shirt with small Amnesty International pin on his right breast, Sting pointed to the competing red and blue color schemes for their individual backing players, describing the night as a "Battle of the Bands." The format for the evening emerged organically, with Sting explaining: "We got together in a big room and Peter played a song and then I played one." And that's pretty much how it unfolded for the veteran rock icons and their more than a dozen backing players.
For more than three hours they traded numbers, sometimes sharing vocal duties and offering accompaniment, other times ceding the stage, and on a couple occasions covering each other's songs. Gabriel took a stab at Sting's first big solo hit, "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," while Sting used the first bit of "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" (off 1973's Selling England By the Pound by Gabriel's old band, Genesis) as a lead-in to a powerful version of "Message In a Bottle."
Both artists were in fine voice, and moving well, as evidenced by shared numbers like Gabriel's terrific "Games Without Frontiers," where the two danced across the stage trading stanzas, with Sting's crisp vocals giving his verses added zing. At one point, Gabriel even did something of a military march, keenly appropriate to a song which conflates our flighty passions and predilection for war.
The artists' bands alone and in unison created a rich, warm sound that never went over the top. The three percussionists did a nice job of bringing both singer's supple world rhythms to life, and both backing vocalists did well in their duet turns, particularly on Gabriel's "Don't Give Up," recently covered by John Legend and Pink.
Many of Sting's finest moments came when he reached back into the Police catalog for tracks like the pert "Walking In Your Footsteps," a particularly evocative "Invisible Sun," and, of course, "Roxanne." Among the solo highlights was a touching take on "Englishman in New York." While Gabriel's come a long way since dressing up as a flower for Genesis' 1969 bible parable/debut album, From Genesis to Revelations, he's still quite spry, bouncing around the stage for several of the more upbeat numbers, notably "Big Time," which hasn't lost any luster in 30 years.
Other Gabriel highlights included "Solsbury Hill," "Red Rain," and "In Your Eyes." The latter found the women all around us pulling their boyfriends out of their seats to dance, for which we can probably thank John Cusack and Cameron Crowe (who famously featured the song in the romantic comedy Say Anything.)
After a two hour and forty-five minute performance, the pair returned for an encore of their biggest individual hits, "Every Breath You Take" and "Sledgehammer," respectively, for a proper exclamation point.
Sting and Peter Gabriel at Nationwide Arena...
Sting described his collaborative Rock Paper Scissors tour with Peter Gabriel, which kicked off at a packed Nationwide Arena on Tuesday, as an “organic battle of the bands,” suggesting the two assembled the set list as casually as old friends spinning records in a basement rec room. We took turns playing songs and then “responded to each other’s choices,” he said.
It’s not unusual for stars to pair up for a tour that lets them to play for a larger audience than a solo jaunt might allow (see Drake and Future tag teaming Nationwide in August). But rarely do established artists intermingle as joyously as the Sting/Gabriel mutual admiration society, which shared everything from an armada of backing musicians to actual material. When percolating synthesizers announced the arrival of Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey,” for one, it was the reedy-voiced Sting who handled lead vocals. Later, Gabriel returned the favor, digging deep into his compatriot’s catalog for a bluesy “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.”
Despite sharing an obvious kinship and similar backgrounds - both were born in England just a couple years apart (at 66, northern-born Gabriel has two years on 64-year-old southeasterner Sting) and both have taken to exploring global sounds over the course of their decades-spanning careers - the concert often highlighted pronounced differences between the two musicians, who previously toured together in the 1980s in support of Amnesty International.
In general, Gabriel staked out artier terrain, traversing foreboding, machine-like rhythms on the aptly titled “Darkness” and turning out a doom-laden “The Rhythm of the Heat” that could have soundtracked a musical version of Dante’s descent into Hades. Sting, in contrast, tended to revel in the populist role, following the latter with a soaring version of “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” that cut the overcast skies with the force of the high noon sun.
The trend repeated itself as the concert drew to a close, with Sting falling back on time-tested fan favorites (“Roxanne,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Every Breath You Take”) as Gabriel interspersed hits like “Solsbury Hill” and “Your Eyes” with more unexpected fair like “Love Can Heal,” a tender ballad he offered in tribute to British legislator Jo Cox, who was assassinated by a gun- and knife-wielding attacker earlier this month.
Similar bruising revealed itself on Sting’s “Fragile,” which the musician dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse night club in Orlando, citing a need to embrace empathy and solidarity in the face of hatred and violence. The tune arrived in the middle of a three-song suite that unfolded like a commentary on these horrific events, beginning with Sting’s “Driven to Tears” (“What is my reaction? What should it be? Confronted by this latest atrocity,” he cried) and closing with Gabriel’s “Red Rain,” in which the narrator appeared to be trapped in a nightmare he or she couldn’t escape. “I can’t watch anymore,” Gabriel crooned, a feeling shared by many inundated with cable news updates over the last week.
At times, Gabriel’s presence appeared to loosen up Sting, who interrupted “Roxanne” with a verse from Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and paid tribute to his dueling partner by kicking off “Message in a Bottle” with a Celtic-tinged verse from Genesis’ “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight.”
Sting further flashed this playful side in the abrubt transition between his own “Walking in Your Footsteps” and Gabriel’s “Kiss That Frog.”
“They say the meek shall inherit the world,” he sang at the close of the pastoral, introspective “Walking…” He then launched immediately into the strutting, cocksure riff from “Frog,” a move that suggested he wanted no part of that earthly inheritance.
(c) Columbus Alive by Andy Downing
Sting and Peter Gabriel may be a combo for the ages...
Peter Gabriel and Sting walked - rode bikes - among us for two weeks leading up to the opening night of their Rock, Paper, Scissors tour, which debuted in Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night. During that time, the pair rehearsed the program in the Arena, beginning with just their own songs and a belief that a musical dialogue would emerge. The two hadn’t toured together since the late 1980s.
Gabriel explained that he grew up among cows, while Sting grew up close to ships. He believed they both had plenty to learn from the partnership. Sting described it as a battle of the bands.
It was nothing like a battle, but more like a pas de deux.
That’s not to say that the two famous rockers didn’t display the deep differences in their approaches to rock music, Sting emphasizing the melodic and visceral in his work with the Police and a more introspective side solo, while Gabriel’s arty beginnings in Genesis and his commitment to world music while solo both staked a claim Tuesday night.
First and foremost, though, the two displayed a deep respect and care for each other’s material. The two, virtuosic bands melded frequently; the two artists exchanged roles, singing during and leading each other’s songs.
One of the evening’s highlights - and a sequence that summed up both their distance and common ground - began as Sting quietly sang the opening from Genesis’ “Selling England By The Pound,” from that last album Gabriel made with the group, its magical imagery and hook line about to fit into a larger theme. From there the singer segued into the Police’s “Message In A Bottle,” broadening the song’s personal loneliness into a plea for international sanity.
During songs such as Gabriel’s “No Self Control” and a few of Sting’s, the two traded verses, in a scheme that not only reinforced their camaraderie but showed a fine sensitivity toward each other’s melodies.
Gabriel’s delivery of Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” was a sweet display of artistic friendship.
Still, the balance needs a little tweaking. It was plain before deadline called more than two hours in - the concert began 25 minutes late - that Sting’s rockers generally would get the loudest reaction, leaving the following songs saddled with an energy deficit. The transition from Sting’s “Message” to Gabriel’s foreboding but lovely “Darkness” was problematic even though each was successful on its own.
The tour opener nonetheless set the stage for a memorable combination of major talents, a marriage made of uncommon respect and enthusiasm. If it evolves over the course of its travels, it will be one to remember for a long time.
(c) The Colombus Dispatch by Curtis Schieber