Last Best Show: Sting & Peter Gabriel at the DCU Center...
Sting has experience with I-can-not-believe-this-is-happening events. First came the shockingly-awesome Police reunion in 2007. Then, two years ago, he found a rare synchronicity on the road with Paul Simon that had the icons sharing stages, songs, and bands.
These seemed like mere prologue when confronted with the glory and might, tenderness and joy of the current Sting and Peter Gabriel tour. If that smacks of pathos think about this pairing: the guy who wrote “Every Breath You Take,” “Fields of Gold” and “Message in a Bottle” with the guy who penned “Solsbury Hill,” “Don't Give Up” and "In Your Eyes.”
But these men are so much more than the authors of songs you played from boom boxes held aloft outside your ’80s love interest's house. Along with Simon and David Byrne, they brought global sounds to Anglo ears in the ’80s: As a kid, I used to stare at their liner notes and marvel - What’s a Northumbrian smallpipe? A surdo? A doudouk?
The pair put their kindred artistic restlessness and irrepressible tunefulness on display over nearly three-hours last night at a sold-out DCU Center in Worcester.
The set opened, as it must, with “The Rhythm of the Heat." PG’s dream of Carl Jung's response to watching African drummers, the song - powered by three percussionists - shook my rib cage. This was going to be a great show. Or…?
Sting jumped in with “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” which sounded downright anemic (but bonus points for the topical lyric: “You could say I lost my belief in our politicians/They all seem like game shows host to me”). C’mon Sting, doesn’t that tantric sex give you the energy to keep up with a 66-year-old PG? Actually, it does.
After that set list misstep, the 64-year-old rebounded with a strong set of favorites (both Police and solo) and deep cuts (both Police and solo). At every turn, Gabriel punched back with his own storied catalog.
These two men and two bands love playing with and against each other. On occasion one group would yield the stage to the other, but mostly the 14 musicians crowded on stage together and wailed away trading riffs and vocal cries and middle eastern polyrhythms.
Sting took the lead on Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” and “Kiss that Frog.” Gabriel stole Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and remade it in his image - that of the intruder who can quietly to creep across creaky wooden floors and transform the jazzy number into a haunting tale of obsession. On half a dozen more songs the two split the vocals adding freshness, ferocity.
While Sting fans outnumbered PG diehards, the audience went nuts for Gabriel’s universal hits such as the aforementioned “Don't Give Up,” “Solsbury Hill” and “In Your Eyes.” They also got a master class in blending odd, arty musical ideas with smart, sharp pop - see the beat of “Red Rain,” the crescendo of “Secret World.”
In response, Sting drove his band to rearrange “Roxanne” into a jazz groove, add more thump to “Walking in Your Footsteps” and combine Genesis’ “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” and “Message in a Bottle” into a medley.
I don’t know if these guys thought this tour would be so much fun. I’m sure they didn’t realize how much they’d push each other to sing harder (both men’s voices remain perfect), play with more energy and take sonic risks.
So what’s next? Hopefully for Gabriel a solo tour in 2016. If Sting’s looking for a world music trifecta, Sting and David Byrne next year? Or maybe keep it in the Amnesty International family with Sting and Springsteen? If that happens, expect the tour to move from Worcester to Foxborough.
(c) The Boston Herald by Jed Gottlieb
Sting, Peter Gabriel team up in Worcester...
The "Rock, Paper Scissors" tour took over the DCU Center on Saturday night, with 1970s and '80s rock titans – and good friends – Sting and Peter Gabriel hitting all the right notes throughout an energetic and unpredictable concert.
After warming up with Gabriel's "The Rhythm of the Heat" and Sting's "If I Ever Lose My Faith," the rock giants appeared together on-stage to explain the concept clearly to the audience.
"This is a musical conversation," said Sting. Gabriel would later clarify: both artists would sing songs by themselves, perform others together – and pretty much do whatever they wanted across the 28-song, nearly three-hour set.
Those expecting another by-the-books "greatest hits" package and a dead-on rendition of Sting's "Englishman in New York" may have been disappointed by this format, however.
With each artist staying on-stage to supplement and support the other, songs such as the Police's "Roxanne" or Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" took deliberate and unexpected turns.
Compared to the radio hit known to most, "Roxanne" was performed by Sting in a decidedly laid-back fashion, with the rhythm section replacing the studio version's urgency with layered percussion - and a cover of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" sandwiched between choruses.
"Games Without Frontiers" on the other hand, was a stellar example of a theme constant throughout the night. Although penned by Gabriel, the keyboardist and vocalist remained on the sidelines for much of the tune – allowing Sting to handle lead vocal duties instead.
On the surface, it may appear that the two have at least a few things in common, from their exploration of world music to their insistence of pushing the boundaries of their own material. Reimagining their "hit" songs in front of a live audience, the kindred spirits – now in their mid-60s – retained a youthful energy and genuine sense of excitement throughout their set.
The pacing of the show did appear to be inconsistent at times, however.
A silence would fall upon the DCU Center for some of the night's best numbers, including Gabriel's brooding "Darkness" and the night's emotional high, "Red Rain, " sandwiched between an uptempo rendition of the Police classic "Message in a Bottle."
However, whether or not the juxtaposition between Sting's uptempo solo discography and Gabriel's more atmospheric style was deliberate remains up for debate, given the very nature of the show.
Most of the time the duo pulled off that contrast with no issues, with the show picking up momentum due to the one-two punch of Gabriel's "Solisbury Hill" and the Police's "Every Little Thing She Does in Magic," the former of which featuring stand-out vocals by Sting and backup singer Jennie Abrahamson.
The night ended with a two-song encore featuring Police classic "Every Breath You Take" and Gabriel's explosive "Sledgehammer," with Sting and Gabriel delivering what they promised to begin the night, enthusiastically trading verses and choruses throughout.
(c) The Republican by Chris Dondoros
Fans win with Sting and Gabriel’s Rock Paper Scissors...
Some bands bring energy to their shows with laps around the stage and near ear-splitting screams that threaten to shatter their vocal chords. How refreshing, then, to watch two music greats, sharing the stage almost the entire night, build a vibe not from histrionics, but from the performance of two bands at the top of their craft.
Peter Gabriel and Sting, spending a night at Worcester’s DCU Center Saturday, July 2 as part of their “Rock Papers Scissors Tour” (their only New England stop on the tour), crafted a nearly perfectly-paced show that had the crowd from the very first note of Sting’s opener, “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” and whipped up an energy that exploded exactly when it should have: the finale. Make that the multiple-finale.
Trading hits, at times singing each others’ tunes, and looking absolutely tickled pink to be on stage together, the two icons didn’t do it alone. The show was almost flawless, and for that they owed – and gave – a tremendous thanks to the two backing bands: Gabriel’s “red team” and Sting’s “blue team.” Backup singers Jenny Abrahamson, on the blue team, and Jo Lawry on the red team, at times threatened to outshine the two stars, so impressive where their vocal ranges. Abrahamson filled in admirably for Kate Bush on Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up.” Lawry, meanwhile, captivated the crowd in several spots, including “The Hounds of Winter.”
Make absolutely no mistake, however: the chemistry of the two lead acts led the way. The concert was, as Gabriel said at the outset, “a conversation.” Indeed, with nods to current events, including “Brexit” and British Parliament member Jo Cox, but without an overt attempt to influence their fans, Sting and Gabriel conducted a show that led one fan to remark: “This was an observation of artistry.”
It was also karaoke on a grand scale, with fans singing along to just about every song, start to finish. The artists dutifully played their hits, if not all of them – and they played them at precisely the right spots.
Gabriel followed Sting at the outset with “No Self Control.” After Sting regaled with “Invisible Sun,” Gabriel, who while not exactly appearing in the same physical shape as his stage mate spent far more time strutting across the stage, introduced his bass player, Boston’s Tony Levin, as a “local guy.” Close enough. That led into Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers,” followed by “Shock the Monkey.”
After Gabriel’s “Secret World,” Sting reached back 30 years for “Driven to Tears,” a highlight of which was Peter Tickle on Violin, which sported a camera to afford a close-up view on the overhead screens.
Sting then referred to the Orlando gay nightclub massacre as an act of “unspeakable cruelty and mindless hatred,” before launching into “Fragile,” another oldie.
After Gabriel returned for “Red Rain,” Sting briefly offered his take on the recent vote by Britain to exit the European Union by saying, “Peter and I are a little perplexed by what happened in our fucking country. We seem to have collectively lost our minds.”
That led to the apt “Message in a Bottle,” with the refrain, “I’ll send an SOS To the world.”
The song drew a standing ovation, and gave way to Gabriel’s haunting, “Darkness.”
After “Walking in Your Footsteps,” from The Police’s “Synchronicity,” Gabriel and Abrahamson rolled out “Don’t Give Up.” Not to be outdone, Sting and Lawry floored the crowd with “The Hounds of Winter.”
Things were approaching a fever pitch by this point, and Gabriel’s “Big Time” didn’t deflate it. The song’s line, “so much larger than life,” seemed more than appropriate for a show with two music icons like Sting and Gabriel.
The two of them led a sing-along with Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” with Gabriel following it up with his “Solsbury Hill.”
Next came another hit from Sting’s days with The Police, “Every Little Things She Does is Magic.” Sting sang the song in its entirety, even thought the crowd would have gladly done the honors.
Gabriel drew laughs and applause with his version of “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” the camera on his mic capturing every facial expression as walked to and fro across the stage.
Sting, who appeared comfortable letting Gabriel play ringmaster most of the night, sounded strong on “Roxanne,” which featured a quick interlude in the form of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
A somber Gabriel then dedicated “Love Can Heal” to Cox, who he said he had met two years ago.
A stirring “Desert Rose” came next, followed by Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” By this point, there weren’t many fannies in the seats. The show could have ended right there, but everyone knows a concert isn’t complete with the encores.
After being wooed from a short backstage breather, Sting and Gabriel returned, launching into The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”
The second encore, fitting for a show whose performers had nailed every song, was Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”
Were some of the hits missing? Gabriel’s “Biko” didn’t make an appearance, nor did Sting’s “Fields of Gold.”
Did it matter? Not one bit.
(c) Worcester Magazine by Walter Bird Jr
Sting, Peter Gabriel hit 'Big Time' at DCU Center...
In a lot of ways, there were some unfair expectations on Sting and Peter Gabriel's joint "Rocks, Paper, Scissors" tour, which came Saturday night to the DCU Center in Worcester. The sold-out show promised two music icons with deep, familiar catalogs. The risk was the show becoming sort of a jukebox musical, all spectacle but soulless from decades of dull repetition. That the show met expectations was a testament to the two legendary musicians and the excellent musicians backing them. That they surpassed expectations is nothing short of remarkable.
Not wasting any time, the merged band - comprising members of both Sting and Gabreil's backup bands - took to the stage for a nearly overwhelming rendition of Gabriel's “The Rhythm of the Heat,” with Gabriel's vocals high and intense against the backdrop of a 12-person backing band that included three drummers: Vinnie Colaiuta, Ged Lynch and Rhani Krija. The percussion was so heavy that it reverberated in the listener's chest. Immediately after, Sting joined the ensemble for a raucous, upbeat rendition of his “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.” This pair of songs would set the tone for the rest of the three-hour show, with Gabriel leaning toward ornate intensity and Sting bringing a grounded rock sensibility to even his jazz-influenced numbers.
The pair played musical ping pong for a bit, jamming and trading vocals through Gabriel's “No Self Control,” “Invisible Sun” by Sting's original band, The Police, Gabriel's “Games Without Frontiers” and finally, a rendition of Gabriel's “Shock the Monkey” that saw Sting taking most of the lead vocal duties, a match that seemed unnervingly natural, as though it had always been his song. The song's iconic keyboard progression was heightened by the work of Boston-born bassist Tony Levin, cellist Linnea Olsson and violinist Peter Tickell, giving the song a sort of energy that surpassed already-unreasonable expectations: Rather than wholesale transformation of the well-known songs, the ensemble frequently opted for detail work, bringing exceptional skill to small passages and corners of the songs, and making them pop. It was enormously effective, especially on Sting's tighter-written songs. Gabriel's work, such as the haunting “Secret World,” is more orchestrally composed, and lends itself more to broadly reinterpreted arrangements.
But things were best kept tighter with Sting, whose spare, stripped-down rendition of his song “Fragile,” dedicated to the victims of the Orlando shooting, marked the evening's first truly emotional moment, Sting's rough baritone cracking as he sang, “Perhaps this final act was meant/to clench a lifetime's argument/that nothing comes from violence/and nothing ever could.” In complement, Olsson's cello cut across the song like heartbreak.
That was hardly the night's only political moment, as the recent British vote to leave the European Union was clearly weighing on both Englishman's minds, leading to Sting playing a rendition of Gabriel's old Genesis song, “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” and its plaintive “Can you tell me where my country lies?” The moment of outrage - Sting said they were both perplexed that their country had “lost its mind” - was balanced by a high-energy sequence that included The Police's “Message in a Bottle” and Gabriel's “Kiss That Frog,” before a truly devastating rendition of Gabriel's “Don't Give Up,” with backup singer Jennie Abrahamson taking the part originally sung by Kate Bush on the original recording, and meeting that impossibly high standard.
But while the moments of emotional intensity were stellar, the show really came to life when the pair were having fun. Gabriel and Sting camped through the performance of one of Gabriel's most well-known songs, “Big Time,” to great effect, and when they traded verses on Sting's “Englishman in New York,” an ode to the great British writer Quentin Crisp, Gabriel's voice sparked with life on the lines, “If manners maketh man as someone said/then he's the hero of the day.” Likewise, Sting accentuated the vocals on the lyric, “Takes more than combat gear to make a man/takes more than a license for a gun,” winking as he sang.
As the show went on, the pair's confidence as seasoned musical veterans showed, allowing them to rekindle the youthful fire in which the songs were mostly forged. Gabriel's “Solsbury Hill” and the Police's “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” felt ripped from time, as fresh as they were in the artists' '80s heyday, but surprises were still in store: Gabriel provided a Leonard Cohen-meets-lounge singer rendition of Sting's “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” that was truly hilarious, and Sting extended the Police classic “Roxanne” into a captivating jazz jam, cut with a segue into a tribute to the late Bill Withers and a piece of his best-known song, “Ain't No Sunshine.”
But the night's most stunning and heartbreaking moment came as Gabriel told the tale of his friendship with the late British member of parliament Jo Cox, who was recently, as he put it, “assassinated by a crazy racist.” Gabriel dedicated a tear-worthy rendition of his “Love Can Heal” that was almost painful to listen to. Even Sting's subsequent performance of his Middle Eastern-flavored “Desert Rose,” featuring truly stunning backup vocals by Jo Lawry, couldn't assuage the sadness, but all of that emotion flowed into the set's closing number, a cathartic, blockbuster rendition of Gabriel's “In Your Eyes,” with Sting and Abrahamson dueting on the song's closing vocal sequence.
The night ended with a rousing encore of the Police's “Every Breath You Take” and Gabriel's “Sledgehammer,” two songs that capped an emotional, whirlwind performance on a high note, a fitting end to a concert that demonstrated that these two iconic musicians remain consummate showmen.
(c) Worcester Telegram by Victor D. Infante