Sweet Sting of success

Ken Simmons
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Veteran performer doesn’t disappoint with career favourites at Mile One

Amidst the cheers last winter, when it was announced Sting would visit St. John’s on his Back to Bass tour, were the inevitable moans. “Dinosaur rock,” some groused.

It is true, at 61, the artist formerly known as Gordon Sumner has enjoyed little recent notoriety.

His latest chart-topping solo hits are a good decade gone, and the first ones to cheer that New Wave sensation, The Police, are old and grizzled.

Fans of today’s music might see him, as one wag stated, “another washed-up has-been.”

Think what you want, youngster. Sting packed Mile One Centre Wednesday night, and none of those terms came to mind.

Unbridled enthusiasm

Instead, the gathered thousands cheered, danced and welcomed the bassist and band with unbridled enthusiasm.

True, it’s not as if we Newfoundlanders (not sure about the Labradorians) don’t love us some classic rock.

Heck, the biggest shows in the last five years have been solid gold, back when gold was worth something. Neil Young, John Fogerty, Leonard Cohen, Deep Purple — need we go on? The promoters know this, and we enjoy the fruits of their labours every summer and, more and more, throughout the year.

It’s not like we’re alone in this, people. St. John’s is just one stop for all these acts, and they’re not playing Joe’s Bar and Grill in the bigger towns.

Sting’s Back to Bass tour started in 2011, launched its Canadian leg in May and has been collecting stunning reviews and huge crowds at every stop.

The tour is built on simplicity; six musicians, a bit of razzle, some musical dazzle. Original E-Streeter David Sancious sits at the keyboard, with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and guitarist Dominic Miller, violin and mandolin from Peter Tickell and the added richness of Jo Lawry’s backing vocals.

It’s a tight, intimate group you might like to see at Joe’s, but they had no trouble filling every ear at Mile One.

Can we single out one performer as shining? No. Each brought maximum talent to the stage. Nicely chosen. (How does one get hired to play for Sting, anyway?)

On their feet from the moment the show opened with “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” a Grammy-winning tune from 1993’s “Ten Summoner’s Tales,” the crowd ate it up.

Trim and fit, in black jeans and white T, Sting brought the funk from the start. Bass player, right?

And that voice, the voice that pulled The Police into the highest levels of popular music, and held the man himself there for years, remains nearly as crisp and bright as it has ever been.

Goading the audience into singing — it didn’t take much — right at the second song, The Police classic “Every Little Thing She Does,” he jumped across the catalogue, the years, the many albums. And the styles.

Much of Sting’s solo work tastes of jazz, has orchestral sweep, digs in for the heavy drive. All this he brings to the stage.

Never speaking too long, the singer did share the origins of  “Fields of Gold,” (the crops surrounding his English castle), his country-music ambitions (Johnny Cash covered his “I Hung My Head”) and his Screech-in experience (and resulting illness on Signal Hill, to great ovation.)

There was another ovation for “Message in a Bottle,” the 1979 Police single Sting has said is his favourite song.

Apparently, he’s not alone in that.

And at the end, after “Roxanne,” the encore came quickly, and the second just as quickly after the stalker anthem “Every Breath You Take” and the third with one of The Police’s best, “Next to you.”

And still all were left wanting more as he eased them out with “Fragile.”

What more would you want from a concert?


This is an updated version


Geographic location: Signal Hill

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Recent comments

  • sc
    June 27, 2013 - 12:18

    If they raised the stage 5 ft or so, those in the floor seats could see even on a night like last night when most of the people in the floor seats stood up for the whole concert. or have a sloping floor. The concert sounded good. Video screens would also help & have been appreciated at other concerts - yes, they block some views - but Mile One could easily not sell seats with obstructed views or sell them for lower prices.

  • John Smith
    June 27, 2013 - 11:57

    saw the show...loved it...

  • Steve
    June 27, 2013 - 09:51

    Remember when Sam Shades and sponsers brought in a bunch of hip hop acts to Mile One. Yes....those same acts are now found in the 99 cent bin at your local grocery store. Sting, like most seasoned artists (not singers) have spent years mastering their talent. Sorry Game, Ludacris, this bus is full. Maybe the Mount Pearl Rec Centre will have you, I hear they have a large black wannabe population.

    • newfiecraig
      June 27, 2013 - 12:46

      Why the ignorant racist comments?

  • Jeffrey Mackay
    June 27, 2013 - 09:49

    I saw his last show in the US at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut last weekend (and saw him here 2 years ago for the same tour), and he hasn't lost anything over the years! Fantastic show! Awesome supporting band members, although it would have been nice to have Dominic Miller's son on stage again. Can't wait for the new album in September (from his play "The Last Ship")

  • Sting Lover Too
    June 27, 2013 - 09:24

    I have seen many concerts in St. John's; from Tina Turner, Hughie Lewis and the News to Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray and Willie Nelson. Last nights concert was by far my favorite!! From the first note to the last, Sting didn't disappoint. Often times you hear an artist on a CD, then see them in concert and go away disappointed. Not last night!! His voice was truly perfect in tone and clarity. I loved every single minute and if he were to perform again tonight, I would be looking for another ticket to witness the whole thing over again! Come back soon Sting!!!!!!

    • Enjoyed
      June 27, 2013 - 10:34

      He was good but Tina was better, by far.

  • Mike
    June 27, 2013 - 09:12

    You can call it Dinosaur rock if you want but bands today just don't move you like the older guys. Keep going Sting we're still listening to ya!

  • Joey
    June 27, 2013 - 08:30

    Great concert, poor sound system!!

  • Saucy Face
    June 27, 2013 - 08:28

    The so called major acts of today's generation won't play anywhere outside of the major cities because most don't last more than a couple of years and they need make the money while they can.

  • Enjoyed
    June 27, 2013 - 08:05

    I enjoyed it, even though he was 15 min late (Screech-ins can be rough). The back up singer hit a note that would put Mariah Carey to shame. I liked that he talked to the crowd a bit.

  • Sting Lover
    June 27, 2013 - 07:47

    The concert was absolutely amazing. But, Ken, why even begin this article with the negative spin that "some" groaned when the concert was announced, heralding it "dinosaur rock"? Why even go there? Equal groans can be heard when teen pop groups or country stars come to town. Musical taste varies. You make some really irrelevant points. Rock on, Sting! :)