Naturally, a show of this nature was stuffed to the gills. It was pretty surprising to see Sting not at a venue like the Sprint Center, but rather, the warm and inviting Uptown Theater. The overflowing (and at-capacity) crowd squeezed into every nook, cranny, and aisle for the unique event.
Fans were treated to not one, but two Sumners as Sting’s son Joe joined him on this tour. After a quick number and introduction from Sting, Joe stepped up with his guitar, taking a break from his regular stint with Fiction Plane and playing just a handful of songs. Although he generally played solo (and later with the Last Bandoleros), his presence was an immense one thanks to a booming voice that sounded like it was powered by a thousand jet engines.
The Last Bandoleros, out of Texas, filled the Uptown with a high-energy Southwest sound, although it was their accordion player who stole the show. We hadn’t seen the Uptown get that worked up over a squeezebox since Weird Al played there a couple of years ago. Maintaining a steady presence from start to finish, Sting once again appeared onstage and joined them for a final number before taking a 15-minute break leading into his set.
Sting was a crowd-pleaser from the start, immediately diving into a couple of numbers from his popular 80’s band, The Police (“Synchronicity II” and “Spirits in the Material World”). Although most of the songs on his set were off his latest album, 57th and 9th, he also indulged in songs from his early solo career and his time with The Police. Even with a career spanning four decades in music, he kept it diverse. It’s important not to overlook Sting’s worldliness. In this one set alone, he treated the audience to his reggae flair that was present in many of his early songs (including a reggae rendition of “I’m So Happy That I Can’t Stop Crying”), Spanish guitar (“Shape of My Heart”), and a heavy Arabic influence. When he sang “Desert Rose,” he did the first verse in Arabic (take THAT, Donald Trump!) and then thanked the audience in Arabic at the end. One of the tracks on his new album, “Inshallah,” translates to “Allah’s Will” in Arabic and features Middle Eastern themes in the music.
One of the highlights of the night was when Sting’s son, who served as one of the backup singers during the set, took the lead once again halfway through the set. Bowie and Prince covers have become a staple with touring acts over the last year and tend to result in an emotional response from the audience. This night was no different, as Joe played “Ashes to Ashes” while Sting played bass and watched from the side. The song seamlessly transitioned to “50,000,” another track off of 57th and 9th before finishing out with more tracks by The Police, including “Next to You” and the ever-famous “Every Breath You Take.”
Halfway through his set, Sting addressed the audience and noted “It’s my job to sing songs I may have written 40 years ago.” This got a chuckle from the audience, but what’s impressive is how his lyrics are still relevant decades on. With The Police, on “Spirits in the Material World,” he sings “Our so-called leaders speak with words they try to jail you”– while on his latest album, he keeps political themes high by addressing the refugee crisis on “Inshallah.” This confirms what we suspected all along, Sting is timeless and makes sure his music maintains a broader view of the world outside his own.