A mere 46 years after last performing in the town, Sting, one of the world’s most successful recording artists, arrived in Scarborough on Sunday evening to perform a sell-out show at the North Bay’s Open Air Theatre.
Back in 1977, when punk rock reigned, The Police performed at the Penthouse, a long closed but infamous club located above a high street bank in the town centre.
Much has happened since that September evening. Of course, The Police weren’t punks - all the members were experienced musicians – but the do-it-yourself attitude of the genre, coupled with hard gigging and Sting’s songwriting brought them success that saw them selling out baseball arenas less than six years later.
The singer’s My Songs tour has garnered rave reviews as it has travelled around the world - including a residency in Las Vegas - and in Scarborough it was easy to see why.
The songs, the stagecraft and the musicianship on display meant a polished performance was never in doubt, and not even a pre-show torrential downpour could dampen the audience’s spirits despite most having to endure soaking wet clothes for a couple of hours.
Opening number Message In A Bottle got the show off to a great start, the instantly recognisable guitar riff note perfectly played by the singer’s long-time guitarist Dominic Miller. Two further classic tunes followed, Englishman In New York and Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic both of which had the crowd excitedly singing along.
Sting, the fittest looking septuagenarian I’ve probably ever seen, smiled broadly as he commanded the stage throughout aided by the mobility provided by his headset microphone.
It is 30 years since Sting’s album Ten Summoner’s Tales was released and it contributed extensively with If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, Shape Of My Heart, Heavy Cloud, No Rain and the gorgeous ballad Fields Of Gold all included in the set. The latter featured a wonderful melodic nylon string guitar solo by Miller.
The inclusion of All This Time and the rarely played Why Should I Cry For You? from the introspective 1991 album The Soul Cages further delighted the hard core fans in the audience.
The second half of the show consisted mainly of songs from the singer’s days as frontman of The Police, in other words stone-cold classics. The familiar bassline of Walking On The Moon was a joy to hear, especially under the actual waning crescent moon shining through the clouds above the theatre, before it segued straight into a killer version of So Lonely.
A suitably exotic and arabesque version of Desert Rose was another highlight before the singer dipped into the band’s Synchronicity album - now 40 years old - for King of Pain and Every Breath You Take now, incidentally, the most played song in radio history.
The band returned for an encore of Roxanne, extended and mashed with Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry and with plenty of audience participation to a wash of brilliant red lighting, and the final number Fragile, with Sting playing guitar.
As he said his farewells, he said: “Thank you Scarborough, please invite us back again.”
Let’s hope that happens because shows of this sheer quality in terms of songs, musicianship, sound and lighting deserve to be in our region regularly.
(c) York Press by Dave Lawrence
Sting – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre...
As one of the world’s best-selling music artists, Sting’s incredible 45-year career has seen him go from frontman with successful new-wave band The Police to achieving international mega-stardom as a solo artist. He has won a bewildering number of awards for songwriting and, at 71, has probably played more gigs than some of his younger fans have had hot dinners. So, it was with great anticipation that I and around 7999 others packed into Scarborough’s amazing Open Air Theatre to experience first-hand the phenomenon known as Sting.
After solid support from Joe Sumner and the excellent Dagny, the atmosphere, already electric from an earlier thunderstorm, became even more charged. When the band stepped out onto the stage casually followed by the man himself, the theatre promptly erupted.
Dressed in a pair of white jeans and a tight-fitting t-shirt that showed off his impressively sinewy arms, Sting has a physique that would be the envy of most 20-year-olds and is a walking advert for the benefits of yoga, which he famously practises. But thankfully quashing my suspicions, he was not here to strut around the stage like a peacock, and instead launched straight into classic Police song, ‘Message in a Bottle’, the opening bars sending the audience into a frenzy. His distinctive voice sounded as excellent as ever, soaring through the seagull-peppered sky. The audience sang along enthusiastically.
Next up was ‘Englishman in New York’ and again, the crowd named that tune in one, roaring their approval. From here he continued with all the favourites, ‘Every Little Thing She Does is Magic’, ‘If You Love Somebody Set Them Free’, ‘Desert Rose’, ‘Every Breath You Take’, ‘Shape of my Heart’ – his back catalogue is an embarrassment of riches and there was barely a single one of the impressive 22 songs that we didn’t all sing along with, word for word.
The staging was cleverly done, with the lighting bars lowered to create a more intimate atmosphere around the performers. Similarly, the video backdrop was kept shy of filling the whole space, which again avoided shrinking those on stage and added to the audience’s sense of proximity to the action.
The backing band that Sting had assembled for the tour were incredible. The three backing singers with which he shared the stage were remarkably talented – one of them, who doubled on harmonica, gave Stevie Wonder a serious run for his money. The other two singers duetted with Sting on several tracks and he gave them their limelight in a very generous fashion. In fact, the whole gig was characterised by a wonderful warmth and genuine joy. Rather than trying to remember which particular town he was performing to that night, as has happened in the past with some other acts, Sting was delighted to be able to tell us that he used to holiday in Scarborough with his family when he was little, which went down a treat with the crowd. His introduction to ‘Fields of Gold’ was also memorable; he told us about how it was inspired by the barley fields around the cottage that he bought, “Well, more of a castle, really…” which also went down well.
This was one of the best gigs I have ever attended. Sting is still very clearly at the top of his game; his performance was flawless yet still retained passion, and his happiness at being on stage performing his own brilliant songs, filled the entire theatre and every person who was lucky enough to be there. If you get the chance, go!
(c) On Yorkshire Magazine by Charlotte Oliver
Sting at Scarborough Open Air Theatre...
'This is a song called hope,’ says the opening act, one Joe Sumner, Sting’s son. As the heavens have just unleashed a mighty downpour of moisture, and I sit in my shorts feeling slightly grumpy, I’m cynical.
Sting’s lad (now a few years off 50) isn’t half bad, belting out songs and ‘warming up’ the crowd. Next on are a Norwegian pop act Dagny who provide a pleasant if not revolutionary set before we get to the main act. By this time, the idea of hope seems (hooray!) not so daft after all. The rain holds off, and the crowd cheer when the sun breaks through the clouds.
Sting, now aged 71, wears a tight fitting T-shirt (something a lot of blokes his age wouldn’t dare to do on stage), with a body honed by exercise. He looks amazing – a picture of health and vitality, and fronts a band of six musicians including long-time guitarist Dominic Miller. Opening with Message In A Bottle, the still brilliant Police number from their fantastic second album Regatta De Blanc (an influence on Radiohead, no less), they then roll into Englishman In New York, followed by Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. None of these songs are younger than 37 years old, but they’re perfect for the Yorkshire audience, many of whom are in their late 50s or older.
The whole set is comprised of hit songs. Sting could have included more – there are several Police numbers he doesn’t touch (including the brilliant Can’t Stand Losing You), but the set is so strong that it doesn’t matter too much. We get, of course, Fields Of Gold, which Sting dedicates to his wife Trudi Styler. This is one of his best songs, but the vulnerability inherent here exposed his voice as sounding, unfortunately, rather worn and thin. Shane Sager plays a mean harmonica (aping Stevie Wonder superbly on Brand New Day) and backing singer Melissa Musique gets her moment in the sun during Heavy Cloud No Rain after Sting teases the crowd about the weather.
They close the 100 minute set with more Police classics, including the creepy Every Breath You Take (why do couples choose that for their weddings?) and crowd singalongs during Roxanne, the penultimate track. The red lighting mirrors the lyrics of the song; the stage looks amazing. The set is closed with the reflective Fragile. A brilliant gig from a man who knows how to put a gig together. Three cheers to Scarborough Open Air Theatre, surely one of the best venues in Yorkshire these days, with a stellar line-up each summer. Nearly 8000 punters go home damp but happy after a fantastic gig. That’s the way to do it.
(c) York Calling by Miles Salter