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Monday, April 22, 2024

STING SETS SUN ARENA ON FIRE

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Sting, finally reached the South African shores after more than a decade of absence, for his "My Songs" tour. He spent two nights in the beautiful Cape and two nights in the capital city.

Following a short opening set by his son, accomplished guitarist Joe Sumner—whose earnest songs of love and loss are cut, though not as infectiously, from his father’s cloth—Sting appeared promptly with five musicians and a pair of backup singer-dancers for a tight and explorative set of more than 40 years’ worth of material. An improbably fit septuagenarian, Sting’s voice hasn’t aged a millisecond, as immediately evident on Police pop nuggets like “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” riveting solo cuts such as “An Englishman in New York,” and the evocative favorite “Fields of Gold.”

A projection screen positioned horizontally above the stage ran video and graphics pertinent to the songs’ atmospheres—typewriter keys and crashing waves for “Message in a Bottle”; dice, chips and cards for the gambling-themed “Shape of My Heart”—while the carefully tailored lighting rig splashed crisscrossing beams, often blue, gold or red over the sold-out crowd.

The structure of Sting’s set list was that of an upside-down bell curve, with a flurry of hits at the top, a parade of favorites at the end, and a rather sagging middle comprised of deep cuts and new selections from his 2021 release The Bridge, written during quarantine. “I’m going to play some new songs; I’m sorry,” he said, perhaps tongue-in-cheekily but sort of accurately, as this mostly unfamiliar segment of the show allowed many to refresh their drinks and empty their bladders.

The best tune in this mini-set, “If It’s Love,” featured a whistled intro and inviting, handclap percussion; the weakest, “For Her Love,” seemed to die on the vine. I could have done without “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” one of the singer’s ill-fated dalliances with country music, though at least “I Hung My Head,” another western-tinged composition, conjured one of Bob Dylan’s ‘80s-era story-songs.

And then it was off to the races, as Sting and his top-shelf musicians performed a string of hits as formidable as any modern songwriter’s discography, from the swaggering, shimmering “Brand New Day” to a particularly lush rendition of “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” with virtual candle flames flickering on the projection screen.

Having long ascended from new-wave rebel to adult-contemporary institution, Sting has spongily absorbed at least a half-dozen disparate and far-flung genres, all of which came to the fore during the concert’s most thrilling moments: the blue-eyed soul of “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” the North African mantra “Desert Rain,” the jaunty reggae of “Walking on the Moon,” the simplicity of " Every breathe you take".

In one of the show’s most communal sing-alongs, “So Lonely” included a snippet of the Jamaican classic “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” while “King of Pain” sent us off with an anthemic, Springsteen-esque rock outro. “Roxanne” even featured a gospel call-and-response and a swing-music nod to Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

Sting left us with "Fragile" which was dedicated to Ukraine, The Russians standing up against teh war and the woman of Iran. It was a chance to exhale and decompress, heading to our cars or, if we were feeling lucky, to the tables and slots, in a state of zen. We hope he doesnt stay away for another 11 years.

[Submitted by Kevin Rademeyer]

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Kevin Rademeyer
     

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