Sting refuses to rest on laurels
House of Blues, Boston, March 9, 2017
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Sting could easily have rested on his laurels, but that would have sold him extremely short. With a history that includes being one-third of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band The Police, a and a longstanding solo career behind him, Sting released "57th and 9th" back in November.
A lot of artists in Sting's position would have played a small handful of songs almost as an obligation. Not Sting.
Like an artist that remained hungry and invested, String made it clear from the start that he was not withered into some golden moldy. He came out at the outset to sing the slower paced "Heading South on the Great North Road" from the new disc with help from his son, Joe Sumner. The ballad was on the deliberate side in what would prove to be a diverse night of music.
Sting quickly ceded the stage to Joe, who has logged time with Fiction Plane. Joe sounded uncannily like his father in performing a small handful of songs with confidence.
And then it was four songs from The Last Bandoleros, a quartet mixing country, rock and Mexican sounds (half of the band are the songs of the late singer Emilio, who once upon a time had a few country albums himself). The group acquitted itself quite well displaying good songs, chops and attitude.
Sting employed both Joe and The Last Bandoleros to help him out with both handling backing vocals.
Sting charged out of the box of the 110-minute show with The Police songs "Synchronicity," "Spirits in the Material World" and his own "Englishman in New York." It almost made you wonder how much Sting would have left in the tank.
The answer, of course, was plenty, ranging from vocal power to songs including "Can't Stop Thinking About You," "50,000" and the most interesting "Pretty Young Soldier" (in an extensive intro, Sting said the song was about a soldier who went off to war in the 1700s, while his fiancé did so as well posing as a man. Only her superior had a love interested in the fiancé) all from "57th and 9th."
Joe returned to the front for a welcome tribute to David Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes."
And then String was back at it mainly with songs from his former band, including "So Lonely" and "Rosanne" with Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" woven into its framework closing out the regular set, "Next to You" and "Every Breath You Take" for the first encore. The songs didn't feel like tried retreads.
At 66, Sting has lost none of his vocal prowess. Nor was he going through the motions. While Sting anchored the rhythm section with drummer Josh Freeze, the father-and-son guitar tandem of three-decades and counting Sting guitarist Dominic and his son Rufus Miller supplying the firepower. Sting often elongated the songs, letting his band breathe life into the proceedings.
Fact of the matter is that the new material stacked up well against his hits. Some were on the more commercial side, some rocked, others were on the quiet side. In effect, Sting showed off the different sides of his deep musical palette.
He closed out the evening with "The Empty Chair," his heart-felt, sad Oscar nominated song from the documentary film "Jim: The James Foley Story" about the New Hampshire journalist who was gruesomely murdered by ISIS in 2014. Before his solo acoustic version, Sting engaged the crowd with how he did not think he would be able to write a song that fit the movie. Obviously, he overcame that in an evening that underscored that Sting still has much to contribute and say.