Possibly the Longest Intro to a Concert Review Ever
Sting is my Yoko Ono. He broke up my favorite band of all time. Unlike Yoko, Sting was actually in the band he broke up so I liked him as much as I hated him. I followed Sting’s solo career hoping it would sound something like the Police. It didn’t.
But I enjoyed his first three solo albums and was mostly with him through the fourth.
In the 80s, I read a Sting quote basically saying he wanted to stop before getting old; something about prancing around on stage as 50-year old being undignified. I remember being panicked at the thought of no more Sting music. Then Mercury Falling came out and I wish 30-year old Sting had convinced 45-year old Sting to stop before pouring that noise poison into my defenseless ears. I didn’t like a single song on that album. Verily, verily I cried unto Sting, “What did I do to deserve country music?”
The televised concerts I saw during the Brand New Day era were awful. He rearranged song after song to sound alike–S-L-O-W and stripped of all their energy. Sting is the artist and the music is his canvas and all that shit, so he can rearrange his own songs however he wants. But I am free to hate the crap out of it.
In his early solo phase, I called his penchant for rearranging “jazzification.” The jazzifying strained, but did not break, my patience. After hearing the “All This Time” re-interpretation of songs, I changed the term to “Stingification.” Because there was no jazziness, no sign of life at all, in these arrangements. Stingification is a term I’m trying to get into more common use. It simply refers to someone pissing all over something you love because they can. This makes me so sad:
Back to Bass Tour – DAR Constitution Hall – November 10, 2011
Last week, I gambled and went to my first solo Sting show since 1991. The tour was meant to celebrate 25 years of Sting, which implied a focus on his best stuff. I purposely didn’t investigate the set list or the new “best of” CD, because I wanted to keep hope alive.
First things first, Sting is an amazing-looking 60-year old. I was a little taken aback when he came out almost as bald as a cue ball, given the contrast from his recent Grizzly Adams phase. Maybe he just seemed small from my vantage point, but something about his head and how wee he looked made him appear almost elfin.
I didn’t really have any complaints about the five-piece band, you know, other than their not being the Police. The song arrangements were pretty tight and not overly slow. Sting also seemed to be singing more normally than he did during the Police reunion, without any of the annoying mumbling and “scat” vocalizing I got chastised by Sting fans for complaining about on the Police fan club forum (one of my fellow complainers totally nailed it with this, “It’s like the words are running down his chin!”).
The show started out very energetic and promising. But even though everyone sounded great, the energy ground to a halt for me pretty quickly because of the set list. Sting and I simply disagree on what his best work is.
The energetic opening of “All This Time, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” “Seven Days,” and “Demolition Man.” “Seven Days” was probably my favorite performance of the night. It was my favorite song from Ten Summoners’ Tales and it sounded like it should sound, which is so unlike Sting it made me smile.
“Fortress Around Your Heart” This is one of the only solo Sting songs I ever thought sounded Police-like so I’ve always loved it. While they played it, I was transported to Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, OH where I saw Sting for the first time with my big brother when I was in seventh grade.
“Message in a Bottle” Sting came back out alone at the end and did it sort of Secret Policeman’s Other Ball style, which made me all warm and fuzzy inside remembering how much I loved Sting in my youth. Look at how lovable Sting was in 1981:
I couldn’t get over the song selection. If Sting’s written a country song he didn’t play, I’m not aware of it. About half the songs were from Mercury Falling onward. Sting talked more than I’m used to between songs, mostly about song writing and the stories behind his songs. I really enjoyed that, and found it necessary since he played five songs I didn’t even fucking know. Four were from Sacred Love, which I naively never imagined he’d dip into that much because it sucks (and now I’ve just increased my possible human alienation count by as many as a million or so more people, assuming the million or so people who bought this album think it doesn’t suck…sorry, write your own review).
Sting clumped these low energy songs together, sometimes three to five at a time, which didn’t allow the show to build or sustain any momentum. I got bored during those stretches and if it weren’t for the backing vocalist screeching like her pubes were being pulled out on “Hounds of Winter” and the electric violin solos on a couple of songs, I might have fallen asleep.
The backing vocalist was very talented, but her performance on some of the songs got a little too theatrical for my taste. Every line seemed to have deep meaning for her.
As a Police fan, I also have no particular need to hear Sting and his back-up band play a lot of Police songs. He played six and while most sounded OK, I missed Andy on “Driven to Tears.” More importantly, note to Sting: PLEASE. STOP. PLAYING. NEXT TO YOU. LIKE. THAT. Thank you.
Worst of all, Sting didn’t play a single song from my favorite album, Nothing Like the Sun. My two favorite solo songs are “The Lazarus Heart,” and “Be Still My Beating Heart,” and I realize “The Lazarus Heart” wasn’t a single, but “Be Still My Beating Heart” was a rather successful single. Why was it excluded from the show and the “best of” CD? It can’t be as petty as Andy having played on it, right?
If there’s one guy, just one guy
Who I’m not going to see live again, oh my…
It’s hard to say it
I hate to say it
But it’s probably Sting.
Because I still regret talking myself out of taking a camera when Dave and I had front row seats to see the Police in 2007, I now take a camera to every show even though concert pictures are always low-quality crap. Here is my obligatory, proving I was there, crappy picture of Sting and people’s heads. Elfin, no?