We know Sting as the King of Pain, the Prince of Tantric Sex, the Chief of the Police. Who knew he was the Family Guy?
That role was very apparent Thursday night at the soldout Myth nightclub in Maplewood. The Hall of Famer waltzed onstage precisely at 8 p.m., offered a solo acoustic number about where he grew up in England and then introduced his son, Joe Sumner, who sang three numbers with a Sting-like voice.
The family parade continued with the next act, San Antonio's Last Bandoleros, which features a pair of brothers, and then Sting himself took the stage, along with his longtime guitarist Dominic Miller and his son, guitarist Rufus Miller, and, of course, Sumner and the Bandoleros on backup vocals. Lest he leave anyone out, the bandleader mentioned that drummer Josh Freese had family from Edina.
But Sting was more than Family Guy on Thursday. He was Rock Hero, wearing tight pants, a tighter T-shirt and a frequent smile. I can't remember him having as much fun onstage in the Twin Cities since he made his debut in 1979 with the Police at the now-defunct Longhorn in downtown Minneapolis. Oh, yes, Sting remembered that. He even mentioned it. Because he's also History Guy.
At 65, Sting knows his reputation all too well, and he has fun with it. He joked about his wealth ("my little house, well, castle really") and self-seriousness (he didn't have the authenticity to write a country song because he's from a country but not the country). He even toned down the seriousness of his music, rocking out on new numbers like the full-tilt "Petrol Head" (about "a truckdriver and religion and sex"), the swinging 1993 oldie "She's Too Good for Me" and the Police's ebullient "So Lonely."
The band was loose but seldom cut loose during the 110-minute performance. Even though this is probably the most rock-oriented tour Sting has offered during his 32-year post-Police solo career, he doesn't allow for much spontaneity. Solos were economic, jams rare.
Nonetheless, the bassist/singer carried on with sufficient rock 'n' roll spirit to thrill the mostly middle-aged crowd and send himself into bursts of "yay-o" or "a-yo." You can gauge his happiness onstage by how enthusiastic he gets for those call-and-response chants of his hallmark non-words.
One of Sting's most savvy moves for this tour was enlisting the Last Bandoleros, a Tex-Mex meets Brit pop quartet, as opening act and auxiliary musicians. Not only did the male harmony singers add a new dimension to Sting's sound but so did the accordionist, who enlivened both new and old material. This was certainly Sting's least jazzy solo trek, save for his tour with an orchestra.
Sting's set list on Thursday was drawn heavily from last year's "57th & 9th," his first pop/rock album in 13 years after self-satisfying sojourns into lute renditions of Renaissance music, orchestral treatments of his own music and Broadway.
Several new tunes didn't connect with the crowd. "One Fine Day" was pedestrian pop and "Down Down Down" was too down-tempo and tuneless while "50,000" was too serious, addressing rock-star deaths without Sting ever mentioning hometown hero Prince in conversation.
By contrast, the Police-evoking "I Can't Stop Thinking About You" surged triumphantly, and a solo acoustic guitar reading of "The Empty Chair" worked as the night's finale. Sting set it up by not only saying he'd played it Sunday on the Academy Awards but also explaining the circumstances under which he wrote the piece about an American photo journalist beheaded by ISIS in Syria. "I like to leave you with something quiet and thoughtful," he said. And he did.
However, the fans are more likely to remember the night they saw a seemingly ageless rock icon deliver invigorating versions of "Message in a Bottle," "Every Breath You Take" and "Roxanne." In a club no less. They never thought they'd get to stand so close to the Family Guy.
(c) The Star-Tribune by Jon Bream