Monday, Dec. 3
There's something comforting about seeing Sting with a bass in his hands. That is, after all, how he first>"/>
Monday, Dec. 3 The Paramount
Monday, Dec. 3
There's something comforting about seeing Sting with a bass in his hands. That is, after all, how he first endeared himself to music fans as the leader of The Police in the late '70s, one of New Wave's finest--and most enduring--bands. And with his latest outing dubbed the Back to Bass Tour, it was with a four-string in hand that Sting greeted the crowd Monday night, the first of a sold out two-night stand at the Paramount, in which the 60-year-old Mr. Sumner offered up a two-hour set of mostly well-known material. Here are some highlights from the show:
His voice. Sting has always had one of the most distinctive voices in rock, and the dude can still belt out a song as well as he ever could. Sure, there was no "Roxanne" to really push the upper reaches of his range, but his voice was in great shape, as was the rest of him.
Punk rock jumps. Ok, that should be singular, but it was still awesome to see Sting do a full-on, knees-bent punk rock jump on the final downbeat of "Demolition Man." He is 60 after all. Think Paul Simon can jump like the guys in Rancid? Or Paul Simonon for that matter?
The father-son guitar team. Sting's longtime guitarist Dominic Miller was joined by his eldest son, Rufus, on the tour. The pair flanked Sting on opposing sides of the stage, bringing a familial vibe to the proceedings and making it obvious why his band played so well together: Some members have been together, literally, for a lifetime. "I've known him since he was this high," Sting said of Rufus, who got his hair mussed up by dad at one point during the set. But it was sweet to see the pair playing together and sharing a few smiles, a few knowing nods.
The set list. Sting has a ton of hits, and his three-encore set included many of them. He played some Police songs too, three at the front and three at the back, concluding things with a solo acoustic version of "Message in a Bottle," the only song he didn't play bass on. Sting said he decided on bass after a musician from Seattle came to his hometown and played his guitar so well he knew he'd never top it. It was Jimi Hendrix.
Heckler guy. As if on cue, the only heckle of the night, a seriously loud, "Roxaaaaanne," echoed through the entire theater over the opening chords of "Ghost Story," an emotional ballad about the death of Sting's father from 1999's Brand New Day. "There's one in every crowd," the guy sitting next me said.
Song backstories. Keeping his pompousness and pretentiousness at bay, Sting charmed the crowd with the stories behind several songs, including "Fields of Gold," "Stolen Car," and "Love Is Stronger than Justice," which he said was a mash-up of the plots to two of his favorite westerns, The Magnificent Seven and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.
The band dress code. Unless you were the band's lone lady, backup singer Jo Lawry, Sting's band was bound by a strict dress code of rock & roll casual. The five guys dressed in tight jeans and T-shirts--laid back rock & roll attire for a laid back rock & roll set. There were three black tees, one with a print, and a white one -- for Sting, of course.
Vinnie Colaiuta. Holy snare drum! Calaiuta is an insane musician, and perhaps the only drummer that drummers love more than the Police's Stewart Copeland. Calaiuta even plays with his left stick in a traditional grip like Copeland often did. It was nice to see Caliaiuta back playing with Sting again, and he made playing the set look easy, which it isn't. He deftly transitioned from restrained to raging, while effortlessly playing songs in difficult time signatures, like "I Hung My Head," which is in 9/8 time.
Country songs. Sting confessed that he loved to write country songs, something he said he has no business doing as a man from England. He did, however, take pride in Toby Keith scoring a number one hit with "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" and in Johnny Cash covering the murder ballad "I Hung My Head," which Sting played back-to-back, two of the set highlights.
White light/white heat. There was only one color of light on stage: White, which kept the focus on the music and the stage show pristine. Each musician was bathed in a spotlight during their time to, um, shine, and Sting was occasionally lit from behind, providing just the right amount of drama without being distracting or focusing too heavily on aesthetic.
Sting plays the Paramount again tonight at 8 p.m.
The crowd: Middle-aged white people.
Fun fact: Sting first played the Paramount in 1979.
Embarrassing confession: As a boy I thought "Message in a Bottle" was called "Mrs. Jinabatu," about some married lady who had a weird name.