Never mind when Sting talks about tantric sex.
Sting’s stamina as a performer and musician should be celebrated mightily.
At the scenic Filene Center at Wolf Trap Sept. 1, Sting played the first of two sold-out shows to kickstart the new North American leg of his My Songs tour, an outing that has circled the globe since 2019 – excepting a 2020 pandemic sidelining – and detoured as a Las Vegas residency.
Without pausing for a breath or break, the 71-year-old craftsman of some of the most sophisticated pop-rock in modern music barreled through an opening quintet of chestnuts that seesawed between Police mainstays (“Message in a Bottle,” “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”) and his storied solo career (“Englishman in New York,” “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”).
These are not three-minute radio hits. They’re songs packed with challenging lyrics, complicated rhythms and serpentine codas. Intermingled elements of jazz, pop, rock and reggae. Poetic expressions of soul searching, quixotic love and yearning.
And yet, there was Sting, his voice as muscular as his biceps, headset firmly locked to allow him to roam the stage, bass neck titled upward as he leaned into his nimble finger work, rolling through his repertoire with ease.
In a field of graying rock icons, Sting is a platinum-topped torch bearer.
With a resume spanning nearly more than 45 years of material, Sting’s musical cup overfloweth with options.
But the point of the tour is to spotlight hits – still an impossible task given his dozen Top 40 smashes as a solo artist and another nine with the Police – while also paying remembrance to a few meaningful album tracks.
The precise musicianship of his excellent band, including longtime musical partner Dominic Miller on guitar, Zach Jones on drums and Kevon Webster on keyboards, provided “Fields of Gold” with a silky warmth (the stage, naturally, bathed in a burnt-orange hue) and pushed the soaring melody of the erudite “All This Time.”
Sting teased ace harmonica player Shane Sager that he couldn’t match the proficiency of Stevie Wonder’s original playing on “Brand New Day,” but the twentysomething Sager met the challenge with his soulful squawking throughout the song’s lackadaisical sway.
The well-paced, 19-song set list is bookended with some of Sting’s most recognizable singalongs, including Police favorites “Walking on the Moon” (no one “eeh-yoh-oh”s like Sting) and “So Lonely,” which dovetailed into its spiritual mate, Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” a showcase for Sting’s fluid bass work.
One of the most dynamic aspects of Sting’s music is its broad-minded sensibilities. Not many pop-rock stars could fashion a hit out of a pairing with an Algerian singer, as Sting did in 2000 with Cheb Mami. Their worldwide hit, “Desert Rose,” still stimulated with its collection of chanting, atypical cadence and Sting’s suggestively jutting right hip.
Likewise, the pair of pre-encore tracks from the Police’s final album, the landmark “Synchronicity” from 1983, reminded of that band’s inimitable magic.
“King of Pain,” its lyrics stacked with elegantly bleak imagery, its bridge both puzzling and profound, proved emotionally searing (Sting’s son, Joe Sumner, who opened the show, returned to trade verses with his dad).
And of course, the song most associated with Sting and the Police, “Every Breath You Take,” elicited the expected roar from the crowd as they sang along to this speedier live version over Sting’s haunting bass line.
While the radio favorites are certainly worth commemorating, the chosen album tracks and smaller hits that Sting has curated for the show also warrant attention. Background singer Melissa Musique slayed during a joyful spotlight moment on “Heavy Cloud No Rain,” while fellow backup vocalist Gene Noble infused “Shape of My Heart,” its chiffon melody as gorgeous as ever, with meaningful soul.
Early in the show when he finally paused, Sting graciously offered, “I am a very lucky man to be standing here right now.”
Indeed, he is. But his fans share in that good fortune.
Given the length of the My Songs outing, it’s no surprise Sting and his band present a taut, 100-minute production.
They’ll continue to unfurl this sleek outing through Oct. 15 – including Sting’s One Fine Day festival in Philadelphia Sept. 9 that will reunite him with unlikely musical buddy,
© USA Today by Melissa Ruggieri