Concert Review: Sting Heats Up St. Louis With His Sensational Summer Tour
by Jeff Ritter
Published: June 6, 2012
Re-published: June 7, 2012
It may come as a surprise to some that the hardest performances to review are often the best performances. Bad shows are easy to critique. The singer was off key, the microphone had a short, the guitarist was playing something different than the rest of the band -- criticizing the bad stuff is as easy as pie. Heck, that's why we're called "critics" and not "praisers."
So thank you, Sting, for making my job harder with a performance that easily ranks in my personal top 5 shows I've ever been priviledged to witness.
I've been a fan of Sting since I first heard "Don't Stand So Close To Me" when he was with The Police. Syncronicity was the first Police album I ever bought and it's still a masterpiece to me. But as good as The Police were, Sting seemed to flourish on his own. His unique voice is capable of taking on just about any genre, from jazz to blues to rock and even a little country. The packed house at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis enjoyed a little taste of everything.
With no opening act, Sting's St. Louis fans welcomed him to the stage with a strong ovation shortly after 8:00 pm. He the proceeded to take his audience on a tour of his musical catalog for a little over 2 hours. The show opened with "All This Time" from the somber but profound Soul Cages album. He meandered from album to album, including a few Police numbers and touching on virtually every solo record. Sting engaged the audience between songs with anecdotes to explain a little of the thought process that went into each song. It was like catching up with an old friend while strolling through familiar territory. There seemed to be a genuine warmth from the performer for his audience that you don't often get from big name performers.
Speaking of performers, Sting's band is excellent and highly underrated. I admit that I would have never thought to include Dominic Miller's name in any discussion of rock guitarists before this concert, but I certainly will now. Like Sting's voice, Dominic's guitars can fill in the pleasent soundscape of "Fields of Gold" or bowl you over with the driving force of "Demolition Man" with equal skill. He demonstrated nearly every guitar technique I know of, from Eddie Van Halen-style tapping to country plucking and rock & roll picking. One of the musical highlights was a friendly duel of strings between Miller and violinist Peter Tickell. I think the violin is a vastly underappreciated instrument in the rock genre, and Sting wisely gave the spotlight to Peter several times during the performance. Pianitst David Sancious and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta were spot-on throughout the show. Vinnie in particular seemed remarkably precise, every strike of his drumstick seemed perfectly measured for the desired effect. Jo Lawry provided excellent backing vocals. Sting himself seems to have hardly aged in 20 years. His unique vocal qualities and range seem uneffected by years of belting out hit after hit, show after show. I detected no weakness in his pitch nor any hesitation on his part to go for a note that might seem out of reach for man of 60. Sting is living proof that age is nothing but a number. He handeled the bass duties as well.
As far as the setlist goes, Sting could have gone on another hour and not come close to exhausting his radio hits much less my personal favorites. I was delighted with the entire band's performance of "Driven To Tears," which featured Peter's electric fiddle to the fullest. "Heavy Cloud No Rain" is one of my favorite songs and I was surpised to hear him play it. It's usually my luck that my favorite song from any particular artist is one they seldom play live. Sting gave me a double-dose of good fortune when he played one of my favorite Police songs, "King of Pain," in the first of two encores. "Love Is Stronger Than Justice" and "Desert Rose" were also wonderful surprises. "The Hounds of Winter" was hauntingly good. The crowd appreciated "Every Breath You Take" and the final encore of "Next To You" sent the Fox audience home with a rousing finish. I hear a mumble here and there about the absence of "Roxanne" as the Fox audience filed out. Personally, I didn't miss it. At this stage of his career, with an enormous catalog of hits to choose from, he could have played twice as long as he did and still not do "Roxanne." You can't have everything, but what we got was fantastic.
I'm probably still too young to be worried about my bucket list, but seeing Sting play live was something that I've wanted to do since Synchronicity. It's taken a long time, but the wait was worth it. Sting's musical craftsmanship and the intimate connection he made with his audience adds up to a bravura formance that should not be missed. If Sting and his wonderful band brings their tour anywhere close to you, treat yourself and go see them. Few mainstream musical acts are more uplifting.