Sting at Hammersmith Apollo, London
“Sometimes I'm scared of being Ozzy Osbourne. But it could have been worse. I could have been Sting.”
The lute-loving, former Police frontman has always rather divided opinion, and the Geordie’s fixations – the Amazonian rainforest, tantric sex, medieval balladry, terrible acting – make him the easiest of targets. Which Sting would be thrust upon us tonight? Well, in the main, the more engaging, bass-playing version, complete with a few, less than profound anecdotes and a (too) light smattering of killer pop tunes among the insipid solo gumpf.
The 60-year old is looking trim, sporting a tight T-shirt that shows off his enviable torso and wears a self-satisfied smile that rarely leaves his lips. After kicking off impressively with “All This Time”, from 1991’s The Soul Cages, Sting grants us “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, Police’s most complete pop song and it brings the well-heeled audience to their feet with exclamations of “Oh my god, amazing”. However, after a vigorous “7 Days” and rousing, riff heavy Police track “Demolition Man” the gig becomes markedly less “amazing” as Sting inflicts his patchy solo career upon us and let us in on his “concerns”, namely sex, religion, gardening, divorce and chicken coops.
However, Sting is backed by a slick, well-drilled band, with boisterous fiddler Peter Tickell and precise drummer Vinnie Colaiuta particularly impressive. The problem isn’t with the band, it’s with the songs. They lack soul. In the flabby middle of this experience there is a sustained period of earnest dirges and a wearisome sequence of seven songs where it was well-nigh impossible to stay awake without pinching, quite hard, one’s own leg.
Thankfully, we’re spared the dismal “Russians” (they love their children too, you know), but we are served meandering dross like “Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)”, “End of the Game” and “Love Is Stronger Than Justice” – all prefaced by Sting explaining what the songs are about, namely infidelity, romantic foxes and a baffling conflation of The Magnificent Seven and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Other in-between song banter includes quoting Oscar Wilde, his strained relationship with his father and showing off about his castle. Just stop banging on and play “So Lonely”. He doesn’t.
At the end of this occasionally arduous affair his loyal, never less than appreciative audience are treated to three Police tracks, the excellent “stalker” anthem “Every Breath You Take”, the punk-infused “Next to You” and, finally, a lone Sting on acoustic guitar performing “Message in a Bottle.” We could have done with more of this.
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