REVIEW / Sting: something simple: Sting in 'sense of humour' shock. Giles Smith reports from the Albert Hall
Thursday 18 March 1993
OK, it's not exactly Groucho Marx, but this is Sting we're talking about here, a man not renowned for comic turns. There's been much talk of a recent character shift, easing off on the clenched seriousness. There's a fair chance that this is mostly just convenient PR, an easy narrative for the magazines to help give his new album a bit of top-spin. Sting may jaw on about the rainforests far less frequently these days, but then again, there he is in this month's Esquire, demonstrating for the interviewer the yoga exercise with which he vacuums his bowels. Plus ca change.
Still, there's definitely a light airiness blowing through this current touring show. It sets Sting at the heart of a simple but extraordinary band, his best context (witness the Police); Vinnie Colaiuta plays drums; Dominic Miller is the skinny guitarist, almost completely obscured behind a floppy fringe; and at the keyboards sits the remarkable David Sancious, who seems at times to be playing with five hands. They were with him last time round, touring to promote The Soul Cages which, caught up with Sting's own writer's block and explicitly about his father's death, was by no means the album of a party animal. Still, even then this band kicked life into songs that lay defiantly flat on the record. Their reward is to return and have a lot more fun messing with the numbers from Ten Summoner's Tales, an album that isn't, strictly speaking, 'about' very much other than Sting's enjoyment in making it.
We're told he knocked the songs together in a fortnight, and it's meant as a compliment that, played loud and clear here, they sound as though they took him a good deal less. Some of the numbers are quick and unfussy in a manner you could reasonably have thought you would never hear from Sting after the Police broke up and he started fooling around with jazz musicians. The album does have its complications - its occasional self-involved curlicues, its moments of puzzling 7:4 time. But these seem to have more to do with noodling about for a laugh than with voyaging into the (doubtless fascinating) recesses of Sting's soul. 'Seven Days', played here with additional bounce and snap, is a gorgeous song with a chorus that, unsually in pop, evolves, rather than simply walks a nice phrase round the block a few times. 'The Shape of My Heart', meanwhile, is this album's 'Fragile', sweet and spacey.
The show doffs its cap to the Beatles by taking a brave stab at 'A Day in the Life' and including 'Penny Lane' as a karaoke encore. But there were far more convincing gestures towards a group who were nearly as successful. 'Here's a song by the Police,' said Sting, and the backdrop lit up, while the band charged noisily into 'Synchronicity', unseating the entire stalls area.
We also got a rather woozy and inflated 'Roxanne'. More reliable by far were the numbers that were austerely clipped - 'Fortress Around Your Heart', say, and the encores, 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Fragile', which brought him ovations. These are never entirely guaranteed in the Albert Hall's muggy hush. It must be the way Sting tells them.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
- 5 Watch Richard Dawkins read his own hatemail: 'I hope you do get sodomised by satanic monkeys in hell'
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after Wembley Stadium rant
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Emma Watson to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now