Rock Paper Scissors

New York City, NY, US
Madison Square Garden

Sting and Peter Gabriel: The ‘Tantric Twins’ Stretch Out in New York...


“I thought, ‘S—. After fourteen years, maybe its time to get back on the yoga mat.'”


Peter Gabriel was talking to the packed house at Madison Square Garden last night (June 27), explaining his reaction after he was presented with the idea of going on a co-headlining tour with Sting. But after a few yoga classes, he joked, “No one backstage can tell us apart. We’re known as ‘The Tantric Twins.'”


The truth is, no one would actually mix up the singers; their respective bodies of work are as distinct as their iconic faces, which have glared at us from album covers, music videos and magazines for decades now. But the two do have quite a bit in common: they both left Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bands when it would have been easier to stay; they both consistently push the boundaries of popular music, and they both have immediately identifiable voices, and catalogs that could easily fill a three hour set. They both generally avoid nostalgia (although Sting did reunite with the Police a few years ago, and Gabriel did a tour where he revisited his classic 1986 album, So, in its entirety). They both care deeply about human rights and environmental causes, and toured together in 1988 on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour. (They also both employ keyboardist David Sancious.) Putting the two together for a tour was a slam-dunk of an idea, and it would have been easy, and predictable, for each to do a truncated version of their usual set, and perhaps sing together for a song or two.


To their credit, Sting and Gabriel took a much more difficult route; they put together a show that combines both of their formidable bands doing one long set together, switching between both catalogs. At times, all the members of both bands, along wth Gabriel and Sting, were on the stage.  But they never seemed to force the point: there never seemed to be more musicians than needed; at some points, it was just Sting and his band, or Gabriel and his, sometimes with one or two expats from the other group.


Sometimes, the show worked best that way: Peter Gabriel’s group didn’t need any extra help on “Secret World”; Sting’s band, meanwhile, is almost too big to play the Police’s “Driven To Tears,” and no extra musicians were required. It was fun to see the frontmen trade songs: Sting sang Gabriel’s Genesis classic “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” before “Message in a Bottle” (the lyrics “Can you tell me where my country lies?” and “Selling England by the pound” are somewhat haunting following the country’s Brexit vote). Gabriel, meanwhile, did an eerie take on “If You Love Someone, Set Them Free.” Those moments had a bit of a novelty quality to them.


Where the show really transcended though, was the collaborations. “No Self Control,” “Invisible Sun,” “Games Without Frontiers” and “Shock the Monkey” (sung entirely by Sting) were early highlights. Even on songs that weren’t duets, saw both singers sharing the stage: Sting played second bass (cough) during “Big Time,” along with Gabriel’s long time bassist, the mighty Tony Levin. Other times, he stood with the backing singers, singing along and even joining in their dance moves (like on “In Your Eyes). Gabriel, meanwhile, was seen on keyboards and backing vocals during Sting’s segments.


Both men addressed recent events during the show, Sting mentioning that “Since the tour started, we’ve been wondering what the f— happened to our country,” a reference to Brexit. He also spoke about the Orlando shooting, calling for “empathy and solidarity.” Fittingly, he then played “Fragile” with the timeless lyric “Nothing comes from violence, nothing ever could.”


Gabriel, meanwhile, mourned the murder of British politician Jo Cox before playing a brand new song, “Love Can Heal.”


Sting and Gabriel have seemed ambivalent, at times, about being arena performers. But neither of them wanted to be shown up by the other, and so they saved the biggest crowd pleasers for last: “Desert Rose,” “In Your Eyes,” “Every Breath You Take” and “Sledgehammer”; they split the lead vocals again on the latter.


Throughout the show, the mutual respect and admiration from both singers, and their bands, was apparent (Gabriel’s bassist Levin was seen sitting on stage singing and clapping along during  a number of Sting songs). It had the air of something special, more than just a packaging of two icons with (perhaps) similar audiences. This was two icons, both with nothing to prove, stretching out (insert obligatory yoga joke here) and trying something new. That’s something you don’t often see or hear, and hopefully it won’t be the only time Sting and Gabriel hit the road together.


(c) by Brian Ives


Concert review: Sting and Peter Gabriel...


It’s not unusual for two established rock acts to team up for a summer tour. Over the next month, for instance, tours featuring Steely Dan with Steve Winwood, Journey with The Doobie Brothers and Pat Benatar with Melissa Etheridge will come to New Jersey.


I don’t think anyone ever has done a double bill tour quite like Sting and Peter Gabriel are now doing it, though. Their Rock Paper Scissors Tour, which stopped at Madison Square Garden on Monday and also comes to the Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk on Sunday, features one long set, with both performers onstage for most of the evening. Gabriel, 66, and Sting, 64 – British rock icons whose paths crossed on Amnesty International benefit tours in 1986 and 1988, among other places — have merged their bands, so that up to 14 performers are onstage at any given time. And they often back each other (Gabriel on keyboards, Sting on bass), or duet, or sing each other’s songs.


At the Garden, Sting, for instance, sang some of “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” (originally recorded by Gabriel with Genesis) as an introduction to “Message in a Bottle” (which Sting initially recorded with The Police), and Gabriel came up with a new, swampy blues-rock arrangement for Sting’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and sang it in a menacing growl. They also duetted on songs such as Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” and “Solsbury Hill,” and Sting’s “Englishman in New York.”


Gabriel dubbed the evening “karaoke night at The Garden,” though he was obviously joking. There was nothing casual or amateurish about it. Gabriel and Sting aren’t taking the easy way out, like most artists in their position would. Separate sets, with one or two songs together, would have been perfectly satisfying for most fans. A show like this one took a lot more work.


It also was more satisfying than a more conventional concert would have been. All of the performers seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, and the expanded rhythm section added an extra layer of propulsion to songs such as Sting’s “Invisible Sun” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” (sung by Sting). Gabriel in particular added a lot to the show with minimalistic theatricality, spinning in circles during “Secret World,” for instance, skipping in a carefree manner during “Solsbury Hill,” marching like a soldier in “Games Without Frontiers” and repeatedly making a graceful reaching-out-to-the-audience gesture during “In Your Eyes.”


The band constituted a veritable all-star group of studio pros, featuring masters such as bassist Tony Levin (a mainstay of Gabriel’s bands) and original E Street Band keyboardist David Sancious (who has toured and recorded with both Gabriel and Sting in the past). Dynamic backing vocalists Jennie Abrahamson and Jo Lawry made the most of their showcases on Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” and Sting’s “The Hounds of Winter,” respectively.


Surprises included Sting’s cover of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Gabriel’s performance of a somber new song, “Love Can Heal,” dedicated to the recently assassinated British politician Jo Cox (whom he knew personally). Sting had a gentle, soulful moment, too, with his ballad “Fragile,” preceded by a brief talk about the recent mass shooting in Orlando. Gabriel explored nightmarish visions in “Darkness.”


But it was, overall, a feel-good show. “Roxanne,” “Driven to Tears,” “Big Time,” “Red Rain” … the hits came fast and furiously, and unpredictably. The main set ended with two show-stoppers, “In Your Eyes” and “Desert Rose,” followed by megahits “Sledgehammer” and “Every Breath You Take” as the encores.


For decades, classic-rock artists who find themselves on the road every summer, playing for the same people, have wondered how to keep things fresh and interesting. This tour represents a good way to do it. I hope word gets around, and that next year, more musicians try to do something similar. The possibilities are endless.


(c) North by Jay Lustig


Sting and Peter Gabriel's 'Rock Paper Scissors' Tour Showcases Friendship and Music...


When Peter Gabriel joked that he and Sting were doing the same yoga routine on the tour, he also mentioned their bandmates couldn’t tell them apart - they were the “tantric twins”. And though they are not actually twins, their longstanding friendship allowed for them to perform a show that was more than a greatest hits presentation, it was a collaborative effort between the musicians and their respective bands. Each artist looked happy when sharing the stage or when playing the other’s songs even though Gabriel insisted the crowd decide which of the two was superior - Gabriel’s band were designated team red and Sting’s were team blue.


As noted, “They both care deeply about human rights and environmental causes, and toured together in 1988 on the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour.” So it was no surprise that the two mentioned current events. Regarding the Brexit situation back home, Gabriel specifically dedicated a new song, “Love Can Heal” for Jo Cox, the British politician who was killed. Sting introduced “Fragile” with a note about “empathy” for the victims of the shooting in Orlando.


Of course there were some moments that didn’t quite fit into a “collaborative” type set, including the “Love Can Heal” song, but those were quickly forgiven given the tremendous enthusiasm sustained throughout the night. I knew somewhat less of Gabriel’s catalog than I did of Sting’s (and he fortunately included material from The Police) so I was a bit less enthused for the former overall. However, there were many hits scattered throughout the set, including “Red Rain”, the trippy “Big Time” and “Message in a Bottle”, that built up to the slam dunk finish of “Desert Rose” (the newest composition in the set save for “Love Can Heal”), “In Your Eyes”, “Every Breath You Take” and “Sledgehammer”.


If you are a fan of either artist, this is a must see tour (a few west coast dates remain as of now). Watching the visual production, witnessing the camaraderie between the bands and, most importantly, hearing the outstanding music made this an incredible show.


(c) Pop Matters by Sachyn Mital