Sting: My Songs Tour

Los Angeles, CA, US
Hollywood Bowl

Sting delivers a night of solo and Police classics during Hollywood Bowl return...

As Sting returned to the Hollywood Bowl stage for an encore on Saturday, he claimed to be at a loss: “My only problem,” the singer-bassist said, “is I have no idea what song you want to hear right now.”

He gave a little smile. Most of the 17,000 people in the Bowl laughed and cheered. Were there any in attendance who didn’t expect to hear “Roxanne,” the signature song of Sting’s years in The Police, next?

Sting’s first proper concert in Los Angeles in six years was part of his My Songs tour, named after his 2019 album of new versions of hits across his solo and Police catalog: 24 songs in two hours that felt much faster than that given that almost all of these are the ones you know by heart.

Sting performs at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 7, 2023. (Photo by Drew A. Kelley, Contributing Photographer)

The show kicked off with “Message in a Bottle” from the Police’s second album, “Regatta de Blanc,” its racing rhythms and Sting’s pleading vocals pulling fans out of their seats in an instant. It was followed by “Englishman in New York,” slowing slightly into the jazzy swing of Sting’s second solo album, “… Nothing Like the Sun,” and the pattern for the night fell into place.

The Police songs mostly fell at the start and the finish of the main set, with eight in total, two each from four of that band’s five studio albums. (Sorry, fans of the third album, “Zenyatta Mondatta,” you got nothing.)

Sting remains a musical wonder. His vocals throughout the night felt as strong and crisp as ever, shifting effortlessly early in the set from the rapid-fire delivery of the Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” to the soaring highs of “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.”

Wearing a headset mic, he roamed the stage singing and playing a well-weathered 1957 Fender Precision bass. And yes, he’s a bit weathered too, but at 72 you’re bound to have a few wrinkles. Unlike Sting, however, you’re probably not going to have a ripped physique to show off in a T-shirt that looked like he’s been wearing it since the Police days. (Note to self: Is it time to start doing crunches?)

The My Songs tour isn’t quite all hits. Two years after the album that gave the tour its name, Sting released “The Bridge,” his 14th studio album, in 2021. Three songs from that record showed up as a mini-suite early in the show, including a pair of love songs that Sting announced he would play and then have a little discussion about.

“So, that was a love song of a type,” Sting said after “If It’s Love,” the first of those two. “The least interesting love song is ‘I love you and you love me.’ It’s very nice but it’s not very interesting. Whereas I love you but you love somebody is painful but it’s interesting.”

Much of the night was full of small stories like that about the songs he’s written over the past 45 or so years.

“I have a little house in the English countryside,” Sting said by way of introducing “Fields of Gold,” a song inspired by the barley fields that surrounded his home. “Well, it’s a castle, but it’s really nice. If you ever go to Stonehenge, just come down the road to my house. Knock on my door and I’ll make you a cup of tea if I’m not on tour.”

The harmonica part on “Brand New Day” was originally recorded by Stevie Wonder, he reminded the crowd, introducing his harmonica player Shane Sager by jokingly wondering whether he could fill Stevie’s shoes.

Sager did a very good take on that song and others throughout the night, as Sting, who has long been surrounded by fantastic musicians going back to guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland in the Police, was accompanied by a typically tight ensemble here.

Guitarist Dominic Miller, who has played with Sting for 30 years now, was a standout throughout the night, his soloing on songs such as “Fields of Gold” and “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” among the highlights. Backing vocalist Gene Noble got several spotlight turns, including “Shape Of My Heart,” where he sang a bit of the late Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams,” which was built on the Sting song.

The set peaked near the finish with a strong run of Police songs. “Invisible Sun,” from 1981’s “Ghost In The Machine,” was as poignantly moving as ever, its lyrics of a world riven by war, hunger and poverty still relevant today. “So Lonely,” from the Police’s 1978 debut album “Outlandos d’Amour,” was the first Police song I ever heard, stumbling onto while trying to find a radio station on a road trip through Northern California as a teen.

It’s a personal favorite for that reason, but it’s also a fantastic song, its reggae influence clear on the record, and clearer still on Saturday when Sting blended it with Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry,” which inspired it.

After the solo song “Desert Rose,” with its Middle Eastern accents, the main set wrapped up with “King of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take,” both of them from the Police’s final album “Synchronicity,” both of them guest vocals from Joe Sumner, Sting’s son, who opened the night with a short set of his own songs.

The encore, as noted, kicked off with “Roxanne,” which Sting and the band stretched from its original tight form into a jazzy improvisation, Sting challenging the crowd to follow his lead as he shifted shapes through the familiar chorus.

“It is my custom to finish an evening with something quiet and thoughtful, so you can go home quiet and thoughtful,” Sting said as he swapped his bass for an acoustic guitar and took a seat on a stool at center stage.

“Fragile,” one of the most beautiful and sadly moving songs in his catalog followed, and like the rest of the night, lingers in the memory today, just as Sting hoped.

(c) The Los Angeles Daily News by Peter Larsen