Paul Simon and Sting: On Stage Together

Ft. Lauderdale, FL, US
BB&T Center
Sting, Paul Simon at BB&T Center in Sunrise...

Even the T-shirts at the memorabilia counter reflect the respect Sting and Paul Simon have for each other. One shirt reads "Paul Simon and Sting, On Stage Together." A second flips the billing, with "Sting and Paul Simon, On Stage Together."

This is a clear musical bro-mance, sparked by a concert in New York last May with the two Central Park West. Then followed their grand idea - "let's tour together!" - and that tour stopped at the BB&T Center Sunrise Saturday night.

OK, we get it. Sting will be his bodyguard, Simon will be his long-lost pal.The pairing also a.) pools their audiences and b.) puts them in a large arena, under the name of traveling down the same musical path. Hey, business is business. They're not here to be cartoons in a cartoon graveyard.

The 2 1/2 hours were pretty good, at times really good. I mean, you could fill a weekend of radio airplay with the songbooks of The Police, Sting, Simon and Garfunkel and Simon solo. With all that to choose from, not everyone got to hear their favorites. (I argue that's not such a bad thing.)

It was the next-to-last stop on their tour, and they have it down cold- but they also had plenty of bounce in their steps. The pair opened on stage together with "Brand New Day, " "Boy in the Bubble," "Fields of Gold" and "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic." Backed by a dozen or so musicians, the songs allowed them to poke and prod at every rhythmic crevice together - a habit they've long held on their own.

Quick note: I always hold my breath whenever I see two drum sets out there. But in this case, each drummer held back nicely when his singer was away from the mic. You'd expect nothing less, after the two stars set such a loving tone.

The pair's limited banter is down pat, too, by now. Simon commented that his time with Sting has elevated his virility - a line he has offered at most other shows, according to reviews. Sting called Simon "the template for literary songwriters," a line, he too, has found successful this tour.

The crowd seemed to enjoy the night, without going wild. Simon, 72, and Sting, 62, skew older in their fan base, and maybe folks were just too pooped to stand up. But with these rhythms, even the 99.9-percent white crowd could sashay to without looking too bad.

Song choice also slowed things down: Sting's pensive takes often aren't pepper-uppers (even Police rocker "Roxanne" is a grim plea), and Simon's honest assessments - such as the wistful "Still Crazy After All These Years" - are geared toward thoughtful listening. You also can argue that's what makes them so good, the getting into the gray areas of life and their observations. They'd rather lose you in esoteria than be mindless.

Sting's set included the more-obscure "The Hounds of Winter," "They Dance Alone" and "Message in a Bottle." Was it really back in 1984 when I first saw the police, in St. Louis? Geez.

Meanwhile, Simon gave us "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and "You Can Call Me Al." All really good choices, but how could there be a bad one?

The finale together started with "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," with Sting just flat-out belting the closing notes - who does this guy thing he is, Art Garfunkel? - and Simon holding in there nicely for the Police's "Every Breath You Take." Simon's "Late in the Evening" gave us one more spell of multi-percussion rhythms, then the pair ended with an acoustic of The Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved?" made popular by Linda Ronstadt and dedicated to Phil Everly, who died earlier this year. Stripped-down music, with two superstars trying to make each other better  - and keep up with each other. They may be soft in the middle now, but the rest of their life certainly isn't hard.

(c) The Sun Sentinel by Nick Sortal

Sting and Paul Simon: An old-school World Beat supergroup sways into Sunrise...

I'm not the first writer - even the first one this week - to note that Sting and Paul Simon, who end their chummy, mutually admiring and musically magical joint tour today in Orlando, have some things in common: Each the more successful, solo-wise, member of a phenomenally important group, both allegedly prickly in that artiste sort of way, and both geniuses, whether or not you think they're prickly. Their pairing isn't one I would have predicted, and it's started me doing a series of fantasy dream team tours in my head (If Beyonce and Tina Turner ever tour together, my head will explode, the beat will go on forever and every backup dancer in the land will give her best weave and stilettos for a part in the action.) Judging from the show at BB&T Center Saturday, this was a good idea, even if occasionally the notes weren't hit 100 percent - these are dudes who recorded those hits in their 20s and 30s and such. It happens. But the musicality, the memories and the comradery was there. Here are the top five moments:

- Sting has been telling the joke about everyone in Florida looking like they'd just had sex at least since the first Police reunion tour in 2007, but for those who never heard it, it seemed to be utterly amusing - "The king of tantric sex is talking about sex! Ima faint!". Simon also had a funny moment where he talked about the two rubbing off on each other during the tour, making it possible for Simon to now "have sex for hours!" He then expertly paused and said "So, is there anything you learned from me?" And Sting of course shrugged and said "No, not really." A predictable joke. But a cute one.

- Simon sang under a few of the high notes on "Still Crazy After All These Years" - we're at the end of the tour, so maybe he's a little weary. But it's one of those gorgeous, tight songs about the nostalgia of you who used to be, written at a time when your 20s seemed youthful but that's more poignant when sung by a guy in his 70s. The "I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers" line is about the shared scars of those who've been there, and since that's a rarified group, it's particularly gorgeous.

- Sting told a great story, after jokingly shooing Simon off-stage, about how the singer was really his musical mentor, and how Simon and Garfunkel's music has a place in the memories of so many. His was touring the States for the first time with The Police, taking vans to half-empty clubs and crappy hotels. He sang "America," in an aching, innocent, plaintive way that makes you remember those three blond guys with all that hair. Dude's voice is better than it was. How did that happen? For me, the musical highlight of the night.

- A few weeks ago I saw Art Garfunkel, in a notably smaller venue, sing part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in a vulnerable way that spoke of the importance of needing that person sailing right behind. Simon and Sting did it in this packed arena, with those gorgeous harmonies (like the "Sail on, silver girl" line) that make you wanna punch someone because you just can't take the perfection, and it worked. I cried. I cried when Garfunkel did it, too. Maybe this song just makes me cry. Whatever. Magic.

- Has there ever been a more joyous union of horns, "La la las" and musical tourism than "You Can Call Me Al?" Simon seems to truly enjoy doing this one - he was smiling throughout - and when he got to the "Angels, hallelujah" line I thought the happy in the place would burst. I want to live in this concert. It would be a sure bit of real estate.

(c) Palm Beach Post by Leslie Gray Streeter