Sting's tunes, with a classical twist...
It's not every former punk rocker who can offer you an intimate, sultry summer's evening by the lake with his favourite orchestra.
But Sting is not your average former punk rocker. In a career that now spans 3Â½ decades, the son of a Newcastle upon Tyne milkman has shown himself to be an unusually versatile and adventurous musician.
After a recent foray into the 16th-century world of English composer John Dowland, as well as a tour with his old band, the Police, the man once known as Gordon Sumner has organized the ultimate in retrospectives. With a twist.
Sting has ordered up three-dozen orchestral arrangements from his Police and solo catalogues, going back as far as 1977. He is performing two dozen on each stop in a massive North American tour that launched in Vancouver last month.
"This is the biggest band I've ever had in my life," declared a beaming Sting on Friday night, as he stood in front of 45 members of England's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and veteran pop conductor Steven Mercurio, at the Molson Amphitheatre at Ontario Place.
Dressed in a tailored, buttoned-up black jacket for the first half, and comfortable loose white cotton shirt after intermission, Sting was clearly having a great time.
The artful musical arrangements gave the evening a whiff of nostalgia, casting the singer as seasoned balladeer and amiable storyteller. Besides the orchestra, there was able backup vocal help from Jo Lawry and guitarist Dominic Miller, as Sting crooned a wry 'Englishman in New York', 'Roxanne', 'Straight to My Heart', 'When We Dance' and 'Russians', among other favourites.
The moms in the audience - a cross-section of every demographic you can imagine - sang along or screamed as loudly as their daughters and granddaughters might at the sight of Justin Bieber.
Except that this concert came off with infinitely more class.
It is not unusual to see symphonic musicians backing up pop acts such as Josh Groban or Il Divo. But you don't often hear arrangements that take full advantage of all the sounds and textures strings, woodwinds and brass can bring to a concert.
Founded in 1946, the Royal Philharmonic has long made a point of bringing classical music to a broader audience. The 45 members on tour with Sting are only part of the full orchestra, which also plays a season of summer concerts back home.
The sound system at the Molson Amphitheatre was turned down to showcase the orchestra's abilities - except for the one piece, 'Russians', which was meant to showcase its power. Opening with a portentious excerpt from Modest Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov before morphing into a quotation from composer Sergei Prokofiev, the Royal Phil's blasts were cranked up electronically, distorting them beyond recognition.
At other moments, individual clarinet, cello and violin solos were given their full due, with Sting stepping out of the spotlight to give the classical musicians a chance to shine - and rack up substantial cheers from the audience.
Â© The Toronto Star by John Terauds