Paul Simon and Sting: On Stage Together

Brisbane, QLD, AU
Entertainment Centre
Sting & Paul Simon Live Review...

Things like this don’t often happen here. Maybe in New York or London, where global luminaries gather and collaborate and maybe let us watch. But, a chance to catch two of popular music’s most gifted songwriters together doesn’t come often to these shores. I’m tempted to say once in a lifetime or even drop in a McAvaney "One for the Ages" , but I don’t believe any cliché will hold this one.

The audience last night bobbed with uncountable grey heads, often with that jerky middle-aged style of dancing. There was hardly a cool outfit or a posing young thing to be seen. Messrs Simon and Sumner matched the lounge-room dress code and looked like they had just wandered in. So, a Vogue shoot this wasn’t, but for those of a certain age - and for those who appreciate quality - this was the place to be.

The format of the imaginatively titled On Stage Together is essentially a celebration of songs, with each legend taking turns solo and then performing together. While the stellar catalogue of both artists is delivered to thumping or swooning effect (depending on the metre), there’s honour here, on this night at least, to others like Chet Atkins, Bill Withers and The Everly Brothers.

There’s a celebration of the power of song - often a short, simple chord progression and some nice words - to hold the narrative of a life, our life. The phrasing of a line, the arc of a melody can hold us in a moment of time and space. You can name plenty who have created the magic. But none are better than these two guys.

Sting, now 63, brought driving bass and delicate acoustics to his sets. The celebrated stance -  the crooked leg, the ball of the foot riding on the bass line - has hardly changed since The Police days. He exudes energy as if the electric cables were plugged into him, not his bass, which looks as old as he is incidentally. He and his power band drove through some Police zingers - Roxanne, So Lonely, Walking on the Moon… - like they were driving a fast car over a searing desert highway.

Classics from his solo era, Fields of Gold, Desert Rose, or Driven to Tears for instance, and some lesser known tracks, like Seven Days or The End of the Game folded his celebrated layered lushness around us and occasionally pierced our hearts.

Paul Simon, 73, appears next to lanky, Tantric-toned Sting like a dishevelled Hobbit, trilby-hatted and white-shoed for effect. But, don’t let that fool you. He shuffled and swayed his head inside those sweet Simon-esque chords shifts like he was still hustling bigger kids playing stick ball in Queenst back in the day.

There were pearlers from the days with that other Queens’ Jewish kid Art, such as The Boxer (Sting actually melodied in on that one) through to the gritty post Simon and Garfunkel trail -  Hearts and Bones and 50 Ways and into the activist era of the Rhythm of the Saints and of course Graceland. His were quieter sets, notwithstanding the Graceland-era rills and beats, but they soared just as high and landed just as gently across us, those poetic lines embracing us as we swooned.

And the songs. Always the songs, rising above the performance to allow us all to go to those places only music takes us. So many songs about love, but so rarely is the word mentioned, so adroitly do both skirt the cliches and find the line that evoke moments in the human condition within tonal grabs and some of the most intelligent, insightful and poetic lyrics ever to litter the sleeve notes of pop music.

There is light and shade here and Sting’s more penetrative approach and Simon’s Jewish uncle style crossed over and merged. Each has the chops, and the material, to go either way. Sharing each other’s space and songs was the real delight -  these moments are the money shots. Both singing Bridge over Troubled Water or Fragile is the stuff of popular musical history, if only because these two are written so largely across it.

And I expect the set lists will shift as each rotates their massive back catalogue and shifts around each others’ material. As Simon said at one point, this is "our experiment…merging our bands and our words" . Who knows what magic could come of that?

Magic is not too hubristic for what On Stage Together is already. They may look aged and sagging in close-ups. There’s a few fluffed lines or forgotten lyrics. But, there’s really nothing not to like here. Such criticisms are simply a pocket full of mumbles and that’s not the shape of my heart.

(c) Daily Review by James Rose

Living legends in perfect synchronicity - Two giants of rock and a staggering shared catalogue all add up to a stellar concert for Brisbane fans.

It was a concert of old friends and old fans. Two of the world's most beloved musical superstars, Paul Simon and Sting, kicked off the Australian leg of their On Stage Together Tour in fine form at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre last night.

Strolling on stage in casual attire, the two legends got the crowd on their feet early asking everyone to "stand up" during opening number Brand New Day. They then launched straight into Simon's Boy in the Bubble and Sting's Fields of Gold.

"This is turning into my favourite country," Simon told the crowd.

Sting, 63, and Simon, 10 years his senior, became friends when they were neighbours in New York in the late 1980s. After both being invited to perform a benefit gig in 2013, they were inspired to tour together.

The tour was an experiment of merging bands, repertoires and voices, explained Simon. "We hope you enjoy it. We do."

With no shortage of material to choose from, the pair took turns to showcase their most loved tunes including Police hits So Lonely, When the World is Running Down and Walking on the Moon, and Simon's Mother and Child Reunion, 50 Ways to Leave You Lover and Graceland.

"I'm sure I'm not the only one for whom a Paul Simon song provides the soundtrack of one's life," Sting said, before launching into Simon and Garfunkel's America and following it up with a rousing Message in a Bottle that had the audience on its feet.

The best concerts are the ones where the performers look like they are enjoying themselves, and that was the case here. It was great to hear two familiar voices singing lines from each other's songs, a match of talents and charming harmonies.

The musical heavyweights surrounded themselves with top talent with 18 musicians on stage playing everything from cello to tuba.

The Brisbane crowd of boomers and their offspring showed their appreciation, giving as good as they got, singing and clapping along. It's a once-in-a-lifetime tour, including, no less, for the gents onstage themselves.

They'll follow their Australian shows at the end of the month with a European tour.

(c) Courier Mail by Sally Browne

Paul Simon and Sting perform in Brisbane...

Well, well, well …

It came like a lightning bolt, two hours into the three-hour show.

Gordon Sumner - better known to the world as Sting - and Paul Simon performed 'The Boxer'.

All of a sudden, in a spotlight centre stage at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, the years fell away.

In 1970, the song had been a number one worldwide hit for Simon and his then singing partner Art Garfunkel.

And here it was in Brisbane, reborn as fresh as a newly-minted penny, with Sting's voice the soaring falsetto, and Simon the tenor: "I am just a poor boy though my story's seldom told, I have squandered my resistance for a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises…"

This was why the 1.6m tall,  73-year-old American and and the 1.8m, 63-year-old Englishman were touring together.

Until that moment, Simon and Sting had been merely superb.

They had played and sung their own songs as 14 multi-instrumentalists and singers who made up their backing bands merged and separated, then merged again behind them.

This was the masterclass. This was the moment it all came together.

The champs were here: two of modern music's best songwriters and performers were holding court.

And entertainment centre, packed with upward of 12,000 people, crackled with the electricity.

They were like Picasso and Da Vinci experimenting on a new canvas together, seriously stepping back and considering the work in places, and splashing about in the colours in others.

And they bounced off each other, fed by the crowd and the band.

Sting did 'Seven Days', 'Fields of Gold' and a brassy version of 'Walking on the Moon'; Simon countered with '50 Ways to Leave your Lover', 'Me and Julio (Down by the School Yard)', 'Still Crazy After All These Years' and 'Diamonds (on the Soles of her Shoes)'.

Then they'd share: 'Cecilia', 'You Can Call Me Al', 'Every Breath You Take'.

"Who hasn't had a time in their lives when a Paul Simon song hasn't marked something special?" Sting mused, "a time when you've met a girl… or a time when you've broken up with one?"

Then Sting sang Simon's 1968 song '(To Look for) America', which, he said, was a marker for his first visit to the US.

And toward the end came the sparkling 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', to which Simon and Sting gave a towering, inspiring gospel treatment.

Twenty years ago, Sting played the entertainment centre with one of the coolest quintets imaginable.

The performance was faultless, perfect.

Last night was not.

These three hours were warmer, looser with a little more humour, the playing no less expert but more spontaneous.
And the joy was not only obvious, it was infectious. It was palpable.

It was simply magic.

Well, well, well…

(c) Sunshine Coast Daily