Paul Simon and Sting: On Stage Together

Auckland, NZ
Vector Arena
Double act weave intoxicating musical mix for fans...

Paul Simon and Sting may sound like a somewhat unlikely pairing - 73 and 63 respectively, they're from opposite sides of the Atlantic, and found fame in different decades with different genres.

But more than 40 years on, their musical ideas seem to be easy bedfellows, and sharing their bands and songs as part of their On Stage Together tour brought many wide smiles to Vector Arena last night.

As the two stars took to the instrument-laden stage (including three drum kits), there was an enthusiastic curiosity in the crowd, and they were rewarded with the pair sharing the stage for more than a third of the set, duetting, adding solos, and generally having a ball.

Both Sting (who was rocking an impressive beard) and Simon (in his signature trilby) have explored many musical cultures in their careers, so there was a dynamic element of experimentation throughout the evening. Their blended 15-piece band added everything from cello to African percussion, French horn, and tuba to the tracks, and songs like 'Mother and Child Reunion' and 'Desert Rose' provided ample opportunity for the instrumentalists to shine.

There was a lovely sense of electricity between them as Sting tackled some muscular new harmonies, or delivered an impressively powerful version of America, and Simon added an emotional vulnerability delivering verses in 'Fields of Gold' and 'Fragile'.

Their turn-about verses on Simon's 'Boy in the Bubble' set the bar for the evening, and though their collaborative numbers (particularly 'The Boxer') had a special sense of magic, their own solo hits were as invigorating - Sting's 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Roxanne' and Simon's 'Me and Julio Down by the School Yard' and 'You Can Call Me Al' being crowd favourites.

It was a night where the whole and the parts added up to one great sum.

(c) New Zealand Herald by Lydia Jenkin

Paul Simon and Sting get Auckland crowd on their feet...

Paul Simon calls it their "little experiment", although it's been one they've been working on for some time, to critical acclaim in the US.

The union of Simon, 73, and Sting, 63, was, Simon explained expansively to a near-capacity Vector Arena, about trying to mould together two "disparate" sounds, but really this was about two musical behemoths co-existing on the same stage.

With almost 20 backing musicians, it was a sizable production, but rarely were all on stage together, and neither were the principal actors. Both had their own drummer and guitarist and while duets bookended the show, they took it in turns to vacate the stage: this was not quite the level of clever collaboration seen on the current Winery tour between Don McGlashan and Dave Dobbyn.

An ironic poster above one of the bars at Vector Arena said: "Next week, Art Garfunkel and the Police". Simon and Sting are not just surprisingly physically well-preserved: you could have closed your eyes and both sounded as they did in the days of the Police and Simon and Garfunkel.

Sting has a powerful, if not particularly sophisticated, pair of lungs and when he belted out his hits, he got the all-seater crowd to their feet. But he was consistently unable to finish the job. Almost every number degenerated into self-indulgent, flatulent noodling, with unnecessary riffs and solos and Sting delivering guttural noises into his microphone – Roxanne turned into something of a teenage jam with a half-cover of Ain't no Sunshine jammed in the middle.

Simon, who was on gentle, bantering form with the crowd ("You love me?" he said, bemused, to one audience interjection. "You don't know me, I don't know you?") was much tighter, as he rolled deftly through most of his most post-Art work, although Simon and Garfunkel purists would have been dismayed: there were only three S and G numbers, a neat Boxer, the other two of them slightly-bungled encore duets (Bridge over Troubled Water and Cecilia), while Sting bellowed his way through a teeth-grindingly tasteless cover of America that hardly counted.

You couldn't deny the effort and energy of these two old men: they gave full value by playing a 165-minute set without an intermission (even if that meant constant interruptions from the significant percentage who found themselves incapable of staying put and enjoying a show they'd paid good money for). And the artists' insistence on preventing the crowd from indulging in that pernicious habit of recording the concert on their iphones was also a pleasant change.

The caravan rolls on to New Plymouth tonight.

(c) Stuff by Steve Kilgallon
posted by bialikma
Auckland is waiting for Sting !!!
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