Sting Brings Thousands To New York's Central Park - Pop singer joined by Sheryl Crow, Cheb Mami as he plays Police and solo hits...
Thousands of New Yorkers begged off work early Tuesday in hopes of scoring a prime spot in Central Park's East Meadow for a free concert by Sting.
Backed by a full moon and the skyline of Manhattan's Upper East Side, the 48-year-old singer led a comprehensive two-hour set that included hits from his Police days, including 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take', all the way to his recent solo hit 'Desert Rose'. Singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow and Algerian-born rai singer Cheb Mami made brief appearances onstage.
Many in the crowd of 25,000 ticket holders lined up at the entrance gates early in the afternoon for the 8 p.m. show, sponsored by the retail chain Best Buy; tickets were free but had been distributed in advance. Thousands of others jockeyed for blanket space within listening distance outside the concert space. Some ticketless latecomers, hoping for a better chance at a view, paid scalpers as much as 0 for the free tickets.
''I can't believe we got so close! This is so amazing!'' said Eileen McGlyn, 17, of Staten Island, who was with her friend Joe Pucciarelli, 20, in nearly the front-row-center spot as Sting and his eight-piece band walked onstage to open the show with If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free).
It was their first time in Central Park and their first time seeing Sting. McGlyn and Pucciarelli said they skipped class and work to get to the park around 2 p.m. Although you could catch every kiss, wiggle and wink the singer tossed to the front rows, the view and sound were just fine from more than 100 yards away, thanks to two enormous video screens and towering walls of speakers.
Unlike Central Park's flat Great Lawn, the site of historic concerts by performers such as Paul Simon and Diana Ross, the East Meadow has a gentle, semicircular slope. Tuesday night, the tall, full trees bordering the north and south edges of the meadow glowed in shimmering shades of mauve and silver as their leaves reflected the stage lights. ''You just can't beat this,'' Austin Formato, 27, of New York said from his spot about 50 yards away from the stage. ''Sting, the stage, the screens, the people dancing up front. There's even a full moon. It's amazing. They throw the best concerts, New York.'' In a city where people live to complain, it was hard to find anyone with anything negative to say about the show, which started on time and left the 75-plus police officers on duty with little
to do but watch the crowds go by.
Sting, dressed in a fitted black sleeveless T-shirt and iridescent brown cargo pants, gave those who paid 0 their money's worth. The stage, which took seven days to build (according to a crew member), was simple yet elegant, with several different fabric backdrops and decorations, including flowing white panels, glowing, suspended orbs, and dancing red cloth ''flames.'' His 19-song set had fans waving their arms to hits such as the Police's 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and a medley of their 'Bring On the Night' and 'When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around', which included a breath-defying trumpet solo by Chris Botti.
Sting also took a solid trip through his solo career, with 'Fields of Gold', 'Seven Days', 'All This Time', 'Fragile' and, of course, 'Englishman in New York'.
The crowd warmly received songs such as 'Fill Her Up' and 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' from Sting's 1999 CD, 'Brand New Day', which has sold 2 million copies with plenty of help from the single 'Desert Rose'. (The album will slip one spot to #12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week, its 50th week on the chart, according to sales figures released Wednesday [Sept. 13] by SoundScan.) However, they didn't sing along until rai singer Mami, who appears on 'Desert Rose', joined Sting to sing it - a good sign for Jaguar, the car company whose ads feature the song.
''The first time I sang this song in New York City was in October 1978, at a little club in the Bowery called CBGB's,'' he said before playing the Police's first hit, 'Roxanne'. ''I'd never seen America before, and America had never seen me.''
Roxanne remains the most requested song at every Sting concert, and he manages to play it a little differently every time. This time, he started out with the traditional spare bassline that builds to the rousing chorus before slipping into a jazzed-up ending, in which he sang snatches of lyric while letting the audience echo with the calls of Roxanne that back up the chorus.
There were a few celebrity appearances onstage. Comedian and ''Monday Night Football'' commentator Dennis Miller warmed up the crowd before the show with a few jokes. Early in the set, Crow, who played her own Central Park concert last year, appeared to flub a couple of verses of 'Fill Her Up' and quickly exited in a tangle of blushing blond curls. Blues guitarist Jonny Lang showed up for a brief yet mesmerizing guitar solo later in the song.
(c) Sonicnet website by Elisa Bradley
Central Park Sting-Along...
Under clear skies, Sting joined the exclusive Central Park concert club that includes Paul Simon, Elton John and Diana Ross, among others, with a free open-air concert last night. The Englishman in New York was all smiles, fronting his eight-man band in a program that tapped his entire career from his days as Police chief to his latest solo disc, 'Brand New Day'.
Sting, who celebrated his 49th birthday Monday, didn't waste any time with any mopey music. Instead, he had the 25,000 fans on their feet and in the palm of his hand from the start of the show.
Sting's famous post-Police mix of jazz, funk, rock and even a little rap jelled early in the show on 'Perfect Love', from the new album. Chit-chat was at a minimum with Sting thanking the city for, ''letting us play here,'' Best Buy records store for sponsoring the show, and the fans for coming.
If the audience that danced on beach blankets and around picnic baskets was as enthusiastic as it seemed, there was no need for thanks. The crowd was ecstatic.
Considering that tickets to this show were distributed by a chance lottery around the five boroughs, the crowd seemed to be predominantly Sting fans who knew the man's music. As in past Central Park concerts, Sting's park debut was peppered with guest appearances. Among the best-known performers were Sheryl Crow, who made a brief singing strut across the stage, and young blues man Jonny Lang, who ripped a terrific lead-guitar solo. This was Lang's second surprise appearance of the week, having performed at the Hanson show Monday night.
While it was a free show, the production elements were very good. The set had a bucolic theme that fit the park setting nicely. Musically, Sting caught up with his past at mid-show, when he dusted off the old Police standard 'Everything She Does is Magic'.
That song, with its hint of reggae in the rhythm, was the song that got hips swiveling, hands clapping and most everyone singing along. Less successful was Sting's, 'Moon over Bourbon Street', which was a dark, moody piece that would have been more comfortable in a cabaret than a rock show.
Sting's reedy voice held throughout the 100-minute concert, but seemed strained when he performed his ultra-positive, life-affirming song, 'Brand New Day'. His no-holds-barred vocals were still in top form for his ode to a prostitute, 'Roxanne'. The encore was balanced with a pair of old Police songs, 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message in a Bottle', for which the crowd joyously offered backup vocals: ''Sending out an SOS.''
(c) The New York Post by Dan Aquilante
Star Wears Well - Every little thing he did was magic for park crowd...
Greying rock star Sting seems out of place in the Britney-Eminem generation, but he filled Central Park with hip-hopless song for more than 25,000 fans last night, and they just loved it.
''I could listen to him forever,'' gushed Mary O'Connell, 42, of Queens, as her idol, clad in a black tank top and loose-fitting brown pants, strode onto the East Meadow stage, laser-looked at the crowd and launched into 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free'.
''If ever there was a sexy man, it's him. Look at those arms,'' O'Connell said. The only teens at the free concert - the last show in Sting's summer tour - seemed to be those dragged there by their parents.
But Sting fans for the past 20-something years couldn't have been happier to spend a balmy late-summer night in the park with him. And when the first bars of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' rang out, it was as though a bolt of electricity shot through the crowd. The old tune, which he did first with his old band, the Police, brought people to their feet and had them cheering, clapping and dancing in the moonlight.
Another high point came with 'Roxanne', which Sting first crooned in New York in 1978 at the East Village club CBGB's. The crowd also went wild when Sheryl Crow came on stage to sing with Sting.
Regina Awe, 43, of Manhattan, said she was attracted by Sting's music, of course, but also his longtime rain forest advocacy. ''I love him because he's a good person. The things he stands, for I admire,'' Awe said, adding, with a giggle: ''He's not bad-looking, either.'' Nearby, 78-year-old Helen Bass Murray, of Harlem, sat in a portable chair, tapping her foot as Sting performed another crowd-pleaser, 'Englishman in New York'.
''My music is really jazz, but I thought, 'What the hell? I'll come and see him.' You know, he's got a nice beat - and the harmony isn't bad, either,'' she smiled.
The Central Park shindig was staged by Best Buy, a Minnesota-based electronics retailer, which distributed the free tickets. However, hundreds of people stuck outside the park last night said they couldn't find a ticket anywhere. A man in his 30s sporting diamond studs in his front gold teeth was selling the supposedly free tickets around Fifth Ave. and 90th St. Did he feel any guilt in making money off a free event?
''Naaah,'' the scalper said. ''It's just supply and demand. And a scalper's dream.'' Cops ignored him.
(c) The New York Daily News by Leslie Casimir
Sting Offers Up Solo Hits, Police Classics, & Special Guests In Central Park...
New York's Central Park has a long history of sponsoring mammoth, history-making shows (Simon and Garfunkel, Diana Ross) that unite an entire city in shared musical goodwill. Tuesday (Sept. 12) night's Sting show, held before 25,000 people in the park's East Meadow, wasn't one of them.
Sponsored by Best Buy, the show was instead in the grand new tradition of last year's performance by Sheryl Crow, who played to a comparable size crowd in an event paid for by American Express.
It's a tribute to Sting, who also recently struck deals with Jaguar and Compaq and has done everything but auction off various body parts to the highest bidder, that he has managed to sell out so baldly without seeming to sell out. The singer barely mentioned Best Buy - and seemed a little embarrassed doing it - during what was an exceptionally fine, and exceptionally low-key, performance.
Preceded by a short monologue from Dennis Miller (Who knows why?) and more 'Englishman in New York' jokes than anyone could reasonably ever want to hear again, a tank-top-and-cargo-pants wearing Sting took the stage around 8:15, accompanied by an eight-piece band. Sting (who is still a fine-looking man and seems to know it) progressed briskly and cheerfully through a set that was a satisfying mixture of Police classics, solo hits, and a good portion of his newest record, 'Brand New Day'.
Sting has managed to stay relevant in part by injecting elements of world music into his unadorned pop. His older songs (particularly a fine 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Every Breath You Take') were tinkered with just enough to keep them interesting (an added Eastern rhythm here, a gospely back-up there), and not enough to offend any purists. Sometimes his genre-bending is a little much (surely the French rapper wasn't really necessary), but it often works beautifully, like on 'Desert Rose', which featured a guest turn from show-opener Cheb Mami.
Other cameos were more confusing: Sheryl Crow flitted onstage for about 30 seconds during 'Fill Her Up'; Jonny Lang did the same. Except for the occasional hip-thrust, Sting didn't actually do much, and only addressed the crowd in general, ''I-can't-hear-you-New-York'' pleasantries.
Although Sting, who keeps an apartment on Central Park, had previously joked about walking home after the show, recent published reports suggested he would have to leave the country by midnight or be considered a U.S. citizen (thanks to the liberal amount of time he's been spending Stateside recently) and be subjected to a huge American tax bill. The show ended around 10 p.m.; Sting reportedly had an airplane on standby in New Jersey.
(c) CDNOW website by Allison Stewart
Sting is arguably more popular than he's ever been...
Just weeks off his 49th birthday and more than 15 years since his first post-Police solo album, Sting is arguably more popular than he's ever been. Want proof? His twice-platinum 'Brand New Day' album is No. 11 on The Billboard 200 after 49 weeks, and has outsold its drab 1996 predecessor 'Mercury Falling' by more than a million copies. Even the ubiquitous single 'Desert Rose' featuring Cheb Mami remains at No. 24 on The Billboard Hot 100 and in a Jaguar commercial on a TV screen near you.
To top it all off, Sting gave a free concert last night (Sept. 12) in New York's Central Park. Thankfully, he sidestepped the plump pricetag for admission to his earlier area visits in support of 'Brand New Day' by partnering with electronics retailer Best Buy. The company, which will open a host of stores in the region in the coming months, handed out 25,000 tickets to lucky fans throughout the city.
What they got was a 19-song, nearly two-hour set that overcame a pronounced lack of spontaneity with winning showmanship to provide an entertaining evening for all. Indeed, Sting's voice has rarely sounded better, and his tanned, toned physique belies any notion that he's just another aging pop star.
To that end, Sting has always surrounded himself with the finest players in a live setting. On this night, the group rarely missed a beat as it plowed through Sting's copious catalog of hits, from his first solo smash 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', to the snappy 'We'll Be Together', a credible version of the Police's 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', and the atmospheric folk ballad 'Fields Of Gold'.
An airing of 'Englishman In New York' was a no-brainer, seeing as how Sting had been presented with the title as his official Parks Department nickname during a press conference in the park last week.
And although surprises were few and far between, Sting did offer some interesting reinterpretations of familiar favorites. The Police standard 'Roxanne', which he reminisced about debuting in New York's famed CBGB club in 1978, traded the zing of earlier incarnations for a sparse, lengthy breakdown in its midsection.
Later, he transformed the lean funk of his old band's 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around' - currently enjoying new life in clubs everywhere as a dance remix by Different Gear - into a swing hall rave-up, marked by Jason Rebello's nimble piano runs.
A nearly unrecognizable Sheryl Crow - who performed in the park nearly a year earlier - jumped onstage to sing a few lines on 'Fill Her Up', while young guitar phenom Jonny Lang unleashed a searing solo. The audience seemed confused about just who these guests were until Sting thanked them after the song was finished.
The evening's second encore gave Sting the chance to showcase his seldom-seen guitar chops. He played solo on the Police hit 'Message In A Bottle' and was joined by the rest of the band for a tender turn on 'Fragile', as a beautiful full moon shone brightly overhead. One wonders why Sting barely skims the surface of his ''non hits'' in concert; mustn't he be sick of rattling off 'Every Breath You Take' every night by now? Whatever his motivations, his millions of fans don't seem to mind in the slightest. And with support like that, it's unlikely that Sting's 'Brand New Day' will be slipping below the horizon anytime soon.
Here is Sting's setlist: If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, After The Rain, Perfect Love Gone Wrong, All This Time, Seven Days, Fill Her Up (with Sheryl Crow and Jonny Lang), Fields Of Gold, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Moon Over Bourbon Street, Englishman In New York, Brand New Day, Roxanne, Desert Rose, When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, Every Breath You Take, Message In A Bottle, Fragile.
(c) Billboard by Jonathan Cohen
New York finds love for a Police man...
''The first time I sang this in New York,'' said Sting in his distinctive rasp, standing onstage in Central Park's East Meadow Tuesday night, ''was in October 1978. I was in a little club in the Bowery called CBGBs. I'd never seen America, and America had never seen me. And I sang this song just like this,'' he said, breaking into the opening of 'Roxanne'.
The 25,000-plus in attendance, many of whom had been in the park since mid-afternoon, and who had sat through an opening set by Algerian rai singer Cheb Mami's ensemble, cheered as if they had been there in the legendary - and tiny - club the first time around.
Comedian and Monday Night Football commentator Dennis Miller came out to introduce Sting to an increasingly restless crowd, following speeches by a New York City official who listed previous park concerts from Barbra Streisand in 1967 through Garth Brooks in 1997, and a representative of sponsor Best Buy. ''I'm gonna do an acoustic set tonight,'' Miller wisecracked, promising ''I'll get off in a second - I'd be pissed off, too, if I were you.''
The large band, mostly made up of players from the recent 'Brand New Day' album, filled the massive, if spartan, stage. Sting's set ran from his earliest material with the Police through a large sampling of his latest solo work, highlighted by the appearance of special guests. Sheryl Crow, in a sparkly bare midriff outfit, sauntered out to sing a verse on 'Fill Her Up', followed by blues whiz kid Jonny Lang, who ignited the crowd with the evening's most pyrotechnic guitar work.
Drummer Manu Katche, replacing Vinnie Colaiuta from the CD, propelled the band, particularly on a boisterous Every Little Thing, while pianist Jason Rebello reprised his role and added extended, two fisted jazz/funk solos.
Sting, in black pants and a black muscle t-shirt showing off his yoga-sculpted biceps and triceps, worked the full stage, playing to the fans on the sides as well as in the center of the massive field. His audio bottom end may have been lost in the trees, but he wiggled his hips and bobbed his head from the far corners while other members soloed.
'Moon Over Bourbon Street' was played to a full moon high over the park (and a second full moon on stage, projected on a lantern) on a perfect, balmy Indian summer evening in Manhattan. Trumpeter Chris Botti blowed high and hard, reworking Branford Marsalis' moody sax solo from the original recording as Sting dipped into a throaty sound, calling to mind Louis Armstrong and evoking the rowdy spirit and flavor of N'Awlins.
An abstract New York City skyline projected on the rear curtain introduced 'Englishman in New York', bringing some of the biggest cheers of the night and a clap- and sing-along chorus.
Near the end of the set, Cheb Mami returned to the stage with a percussionist and violinist from his band for 'Desert Rose', the single from 'Brand New Day' on which he duets with Sting. His high, keening ecstatic vocal educed an equally ecstatic response from the crowd as young women were suddenly hoisted on shoulders and enthusiastic dancing spread across the lawn.
'If I Ever Lose My Faith' was the first encore, and if Sting was getting horse and warbling off key, no one seemed to notice or care.' Every Breath You Take' had the audience clapping along, while the second encores of 'Message in a Bottle' and a delicate 'Fragile' featured Sting on acoustic guitar, first solo and then with band. For the latter tune, the black curtain behind the stage suddenly filled with stars to match the lyric (''Like tears from the stars...''), though only a single star was visible in the night sky above.
(c) Rolling Stone by Chris Rubin
It's Sting's World...
The general mood surrounding Sting can be read almost as an economic indicator, like the number of new cars recently sold. In austere times the enduring hit-maker's gentility seems pompous, the privilege of an aristocrat in need of a quick beheading.
But when consumer confidence is up, Sting's aura seems graceful rather than pompous, his good life and smooth art enviable properties. This year, everybody loves Sting: his latest album, 'Brand New Day' (Interscope), is riding a slow wave to the top on the strength of the catchy ''Arabian Nights'' tale 'Desert Rose'. Even the critics who love to pillory him admit that this latest effort is a pleasure.
On Tuesday night he joined the elite club of pop stars who have staged special events in Central Park, performing in the Great Meadow before 20,000 fans who obtained free tickets from the chain music store Best Buy, celebrating its entry into the New York market. This event capped a period in which Sting became the most sponsored star this side of the Backstreet Boys: his Web site (www.sting.compaq.com) and summer tour received support from the computer company Compaq, and Desert Rose gained popularity through a video and complementary television commercial featuring him promoting Jaguar luxury cars.
No one seemed the least bothered by Best Buy's ubiquity at Central Park; such deals do not undermine Sting's credibility because they are utterly congruous with his image. Sting's music is the sound of money well spent. His signature mix of torchy balladry and uplifting dance pop can absorb almost any outside influences, and he furnishes his songs with cosmopolitan touches like the Algerian rai music that underlies Desert Rose or the Cuban conjunto rhythms that occasionally enlivened Tuesday's show. It's the old colonialist way, updated for an age of corporate, rather than state, domination: if you love something, buy it up. It's possible to view Sting's genre-shopping as artistically commendable. After all, this is pop, whose essence is assimilation.
In his groundbreaking band the Police, Sting rubbed reggae against punk to create a hybrid whose energy reflected the anxiety caused by such miscegenation. As he matured, Sting grew suspicious of rock's amateurishness and moved toward an ideal based in poised musical interplay instead of conflict. His belief in a true world music led him to form outstanding bands, including the one appearing Tuesday. It also pushed his music toward a rootlessness that can seem decadent.
His cosmopolitanism illuminates when it holds that seed of self-awareness. It's there in 'Desert Rose', in the amazing second vocal by Cheb Mami, the Algerian rai vocalist who joined Sting as an opening act at the concert. Sting, the Englishman, can nearly match the North African's sinewy technique, but Sting's fairy-tale lyrics about a veiled seductress are undermined by the immediacy of Cheb Mami's voice. Performing the song with him, Sting finally surrendered, allowing his partner to lead its final crescendo. Humbly giving over to his inspiration, Sting proved himself a sensitive collaborator.
The same thing happened on his many jazz-inflected songs when he let his instrumentalists break out. The drummer Manu Katche added a suave French rap to 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong' and agile syncopation throughout. The keyboardist Jason Rebello stood out as the most authoritative soloist, moving the band toward serious swing with his confident runs. The trumpeter Chris Botti and the guitarist Dominic Miller showed great skill but erred toward the side of vagueness; they settled for atmospherics when they should have shown some guts.
That was easier to do when Sting's songs themselves had a tougher core. He has a weakness for the poetry of rain, moon and sun, which turns his lyrics toward banality. He's not so great at dispensing moral lessons, either; the sentimental conclusion of 'Fill Her Up', for example, sapped the life out of that country music parody, despite charming cameos by Sheryl Crow on vocals and Jonny Lang on guitar.
'Moon Over Bourbon Street', a wandering torch song in which Sting fancied himself a vampire, and the Police's 'Roxanne, which allowed for an extended foray into dub reggae, had the edge Sting could always muster. The bass player also switched to guitar and showed off some dazzling Spanish fingerwork in 'Fragile', the hymnlike final encore.
That devilish side that leads him to play with his musical sources and not just absorb them and to write from the perspective of a man who might be as corrupt as he is enlightened is the source of Sting's integrity. In this time of easy acquisition, few people care to wonder if he always maintains it. Times will toughen, though, and he'll need it again.
(c) The New York Times by Ann Powers
Sting enjoys clear skies, calm crowds...
Sting is widely assumed to lead a charmed life, but who would have guessed that his mere presence could stave off bad weather?
That apparently was the case Tuesday night, when the singer gave a free concert in Central Park, joining a list of performers including Elton John, Paul Simon, Garth Brooks and Diana Ross. Showers and thunderstorms had been forecast throughout the day, but when Sting and his band hit the stage in the park's East Meadow shortly after 8 p.m., only thin clouds hovered above, and conditions remained clear and breezy for the duration of their two-hour set.
Computer and electronics retailer Best Buy, which staged the concert in association with NYC 2000 (the Official New York City Millennium Committee), began distributing 25,000 tickets earlier this month. Many fans who had not been able to score tickets - thousands, according to Parks Commissioner Henry Stern - hovered outside the park, listening in and hoping to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. Stern, who joined comedian Dennis Miller in introducing Sting, rather hyperbolically likened the event to Woodstock.
Despite the saturation of people in and around the East Meadow area, there were no reports of violence or unrest. The crowd seemed relaxed when Sting, clad in brown pants and a black tank top that showed off his yoga-honed torso, launched into his first solo hit, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.
The pop star also performed a number of songs from his most recent album, 1999's 'Brand New Day', which has enjoyed a surge in sales over the past several months. The rousing title track and the soulful 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong' took on sinuous jazz accents, while 'After the Rain Has Fallen' segued into a funky version of Sting's 1987 hit 'We'll Be Together'.
French-Algerian singer Cheb Mami, who appears on Sting's current hit 'Desert Rose', showed up to re-create his artful vocal on that single. There also were two surprise guests, last year's featured Central Park performer, Sheryl Crow, and precocious Generation Y star Johnny Lang, who respectively lent tangy harmonies and a muscular guitar solo to the rootsy 'Fill Her Up'.
But the emphasis was on Sting and his bandmates. Veering from solo material to such Police classics as 'Roxanne' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', they interacted with a playful virtuosity that attested to their chops as both musicians and entertainers. Dominic Miller's nuanced guitar work, Chris Botti's frisky trumpet playing, and Manu Katche's crisp, deftly syncopated drumming were high points, as was Sting's singing, which has rarely sounded more resonant.
Sting appeared on stage alone for part of his encore, delivering haunting renditions of 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Fragile'. The rainclouds were thickening by then, but for that moment, Central Park was high and dry.
(c) USA Today by Elysa Gardner