Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Sting at Irving Plaza

Gordon Sumner was born in Wallsend, England, the eldest of four children born to a hairdresser and a milkman and engineer. As a youth, he was inspired by Queen Elizabeth II waving at him from a Rolls-Royce to seek a more glamorous life than working in the nearby shipyard. By age 10, he was "obsessed" with an old Spanish guitar left by an emigrating friend of his father. As a young man, Sumner worked by day as a bus conductor, building laborer, tax officer, and school teacher, but in the evenings, weekends and during breaks from college and teaching, Sumner became a jazz musician nicknamed Sting. Moving to London, he sang and played bass in the Police from 1977 until 1984, by which time the group was one of the biggest pop-rock bands in the world. In 2003, Sting received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II for services to music, and was made a Kennedy Center Honoree at the White House in 2014. Sting's 12th solo album, 57th & 9th, will be released November 11, 2016.

On short advance notice, Sting headlined two intimate shows tonight at the 1000-capacity Irving Plaza, An early show was billed as album release party and the later show was billed as an exclusive show for Sting fan club members, although tickets were on sale to the general public at show time. At both performances, Sting and band opened with the Police's "Message in a Bottle" and then launched into eight of the 10 songs from his new album, then closing with more familiar tunes. Early in the set, Sting acknowledged yesterday's presidential elections and asked the audience to repeat several times a British adage, "keep calm and carry on." Then he rocked a set that sounded closer to the Police than anything he has done in decades, highlighting songs which were written with no lutes or flutes or other medieval instruments in mind. As he often does, Sting revealed the inspirations for the new songs. For instance, "One Fine Day" was about climate change; "50,000" was inspired by the recent deaths of David Bowie and Prince; "Pretty Young Soldier" was about a 19th century woman who cross-dressed in order to join the military. The set concluded with "Englishman in New York" and "Desert Rose" from earlier solo albums and the Police's "Next to You" and "Every Breath You Take." For the late show, he encored with "The Empty Chair," an acoustic song form the new album. In all, the band was tight, Sting was in excellent voice and spirit, the lyrics were captivating and the songs were refreshingly Sting as he is best remembered.

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