Sting "The Last Ship" - October 2, 2013
"An Evening with Sting" at the Public Theater in New York City, celebrated both Sting's birthday, and the release of his new musical "The Last Ship." The tickets said 8 pm, but starting early at 7:30 (and you dares'nt be late!) the show kicked off with a rousing standing ovation as Sting strode into the intimate, 260 seat theater. Dressed in a gray T-shirt, jeans and boots, and looking impossibly chic - he seemed very happy and excited to share his new project with the audience of enthusiastic fans. The backdrop featured images of massive ships, ship builders and the sea, setting the tone for the tale. Sting explained the inspiration for the story - set in the shipyards of Newcastle, the community where he grew up. But this time, he escaped his writer's block by writing for a cast of characters, not about himself. Proving himself a master storyteller, inventive wordsmith (rhyming nobility and compatibility) and as always, comfortable in a wide range of musical styles, Sting took us on a musical journey.
From the opening strains of the Northumbrian pipe (featuring Kathryn Tickell) on "The Last Ship", to the lilting beat of "Dead Man's Boots" to the haunting "August Winds" (performed twice that night), he alternated between explaining the character's, to bringing them to life musically. The exquisite "Practical Arrangement" was sung as a duet with Jo Lawry, and it was breathtaking. His collaborators ultimately rejected the character he wrote the song for, sending him into a "massive sulk" - but hopefully the song will make the cut. It is a gem. Another favorite, the rousing: "What Have We Got?" featuring Jimmy Nail, who will play Jackie, the factory foreman in the show. "Jock, the Singing Welder" drove the crowd into a frenzy with Sting showing off some Elvis style dance moves.
We were treated to a song by the robust men's chorus of the Wilson family - earning another standing ovation of the night. Rob Mathes is a joy to watch perform, his expressive face and mannerisms, while directing the band or accompanying on piano or guitar, convey every nuance of the music. Peter Tickell, who played violin on "Back to Bass" tour, and his older sister Kathryn Tickell ("Soul Cages") performed a violin duet that brought the house down. Also included in the evening's performances were two classics: "When we Dance" and "Ghost Story". They seemed to fit perfectly with the story and themes. Will they be included in the musical? We will have to wait and see. Sting did an encore of "All This Time", another tune that would seem to fit thematically in the musical.
In case you're wondering, we did sing "Happy Birthday" - but he clearly didn't want it. In fact, he said "No, don't sing that f****ing song!" Maybe he just doesn't like the song…musically. "The Last Ship" is musical theatre at its best: it tells a story, it moves you, it entertains you, and ultimately - uplifts you. Personally, I can't wait to see the final production of "The Last Ship". The only problem for a Sting fan: Sting will not be on stage to sing his songs when it is finally staged. Ah well, one can't have everything. The October 2 concert was filmed for "Great Performances" on PBS, to broadcast in a few months. So if you missed it, you will soon have the opportunity to experience it as well.
(c) Tammi Reed for Sting.com