Sting wasted no time getting to know his sold-out audience at the Pageant on Friday night during a stop on his up close and personal “57th & 9th Tour” stop, initially gracing the stage before opening acts the Last Bandoleros and Joe Sumner.
At the top of the evening, Sting walked onto the stage with a few words and a song.
“I’m glad to be here. It’s my first time here. It’s nice to be in this environment,” he said of the Pageant.
He reminded the crowd of what he said was his first-ever visit to St. Louis, a 1979 concert at Mississippi Nights with the Police, which was met with cheers. Then came “Heading South on the Great North Road,” a cut from the new “57th & 9th” album.
“All right, let’s get this show started,” Sting said by way of introducing his son, the aforementioned Sumner, for a brief set followed by another brief set by the Last Bandoleros.
It was a night, as Sumner said, when everyone was in everyone else’s band, including Sting standing in on tambourine and vocals on the Last Bandoleros’ “Where Do You Go?” and Sumner joining them as well.
If there was a star of the night, it wasn’t just Sting. Making the concert one to remember — and it will be remembered — was its locale.
Fans got to see superstar Sting in a setting as intimate (for him) as the Pageant, certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity mirroring what he’s doing around the country. Taking the show down this way with Sting playing well below his draw made it an even bigger event than it might have been.
“I can see you. You can see me,” said Sting, who is used to performing in arenas and amphitheaters.
Accompanied by guitarists Dominic Miller and Rufus Miller and drummer Josh Freese, Sumner and the Last Bandoleros, Sting offered a strong mix of songs from his Police repertoire, his solo material and selections from his new album, which for him marks a return to making rock albums.
He opened with “Synchronicity II” and “Spirits in the Material World,” easy hooks when it comes to reeling in an audience, as it did here. The excited, if also occasionally too vocal, crowd basked in the Police favorites.
The hits, naturally, resonated most clearly, including “Shape of My Heart” and “Message in a Bottle.”
“I wrote that song 40 years ago. Its first audience was the dog,” he said of “Message in a Bottle.”
“Englishman in New York” erupted into a funky drum and hand clap explosion, with chants of “Be yourself no matter what they say.” “Desert Rose” maintained its exotic vibrancy. The new “50,000” bled seamlessly into the old “Walking on the Moon.” “Roxanne” delved unexpectedly into Bill Withers’ soul classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Sting revisited his “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” which he recorded both solo and more successfully as a duet with country star Toby Keith. But he reclaimed it in reggae form here.
“I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” “One Fine Day,” “Petrol Head,” “Down, Down, Down” and “Pretty Young Soldier” were among the new songs, none of them unworthy but not all of them necessary.
That’s true in light of the many missing solo hits such as “Fragile,” “Fortress Around Your Heart,” “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” “We’ll Be Together” and “When We Dance.”
Trimming a few of the new songs might have allowed more classics in, though Sting wanting to showcase new rock songs after having not released any for over a decade is understandable.
Sumner stepped up to perform Bowie cover “Ashes to Ashes” while his father watched from the side of the stage.
Sting saved “Every Breath You Take” for the encore. And wanting to leave fans with something “quiet and thankful,” he sat with an acoustic guitar and performed “The Empty Chair,” currently up for an Academy Award.
The song is from the documentary, “Jim: The James Foley Story,” about the first American citizen murdered by Islamic State. Sting said he wrote the ballad from the perspective of a father with a child missing during wartime.
(c) St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Kevin C. Johnson