Rock Paper Scissors

Edmonton, AB, CA
Rexall Place

Sting and Peter Gabriel take 10,000 through decades of musical magic...


We’re all winners in Sting and Peter Gabriel’s musical version of Rock Paper Scissors. 


It’s the name of their tour, though the two British icons didn’t actually play the game during Sunday’s stop at Rexall Place. They did, however, share the stage for almost three hours - taking turns playing songs from their catalogues, sometimes even covering each other’s tunes - with the help of their respective bands. 


What a fabulous and refreshing way to shake up the usual concert routine. Can more musicians please follow suit? Just think of some of the possibilities, including Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell or Kanye West and Taylor Swift? Ooh. 


We’re getting ahead of ourselves, mind you. 


Gabriel, who is easily the more mysterious (and fatalistic) of the two, opened Sunday’s show with The Rhythm of the Heat, an atmospheric number which culminated in three drummers attacking their kits as smoke billowed around them. Drenched in red lights and clad in a black jacket, pants and trainers, the former Genesis frontman looked a lot like the High Sparrow from Game of Thrones - if he had been an aging punk musician. 


Sting, in tight jeans and a leather jacket, then bounded on stage - the sunshine to Gabriel’s darkness - and played his funky pop hit, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, leading to the first standing ovation of the evening. 


“This is the last night of the Rock Paper Scissors tour, but we intend to make it a really good one,” Gabriel announced, then made a few jokes about his physique and the pressure to measure up to Sting. “After a 15-year absence, I got back on the yoga mat,” said Gabriel. “After only three lessons, no one could tell us apart.”     


To soak in his presence, no matter his weight, was long overdue - Gabriel hasn’t played Edmonton since he opened for David Bowie at Commonwealth Stadium in 1983. We totally missed out on his biggest album - 1986’s So - so it was a thrill to finally hear hits such as Big Time and Sledgehammer reverberate around Edmonton’s ol’ arena. He also nailed Digging in the Dirt, a spine-tingling warning; Games Without Frontiers, a chilling synth-pop number; Don’t Give Up, a tender duet performed with backup singer Jennie Abrahamson; Solsbury Hill, a wistful ditty which had the arena on its feet; and In Your Eyes, a love song which will haunt John Cusack to his dying days. 


Back to Bowie for a moment. Did Gabriel happen to perform his cover of the late, great Starman’s Heroes, which recently appeared in Netflix’s Stranger Things? Unfortunately, no - perhaps the only thing lacking from Sunday’s show. Make it two things: Gabriel didn’t sing the lead on his 1982 hit, Shock The Monkey, he let his tour mate do the honours. 


Sting did a respectable job with the anxious synth-pop tune, but it wasn’t the same. His pipes are warm and raspy while Gabriel’s are sharper and tangier, adding a sense of paranoia to his songs. Both vocalists sounded in top form, by the way. As did their backup singers - Abrahamson and Jo Lawry, who added some eerie wails to The Hounds of Winter. 


Sting’s last visit to Rexall Place came in 2004 with Eurythmics’ queen Annie Lennox as his opening act. She stole the show, mesmerizing the crowd with her powerhouse vocals and incandescent stage presence. He obviously didn’t want to be upstaged by Gabriel. Sting matched his friend’s intensity - performing virtuoso renditions of his own hits and those of his old band, The Police. Standouts included Invisible Sun, a dystopian number; Roxanne, which veered into a jazzy call-and-response and a cover of Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine; Message In a Bottle, appropriately dedicated to a post-Brexit England; and An Englishman in New York. 


“Be yourself, no matter what they say,” he sang, as the crowd of 10,000 fans joined in. Superb. 


(c) Edmonton Journal by Sandra Sperounes

Peter Gabriel and Sting make magic...
This was a match made in heaven – and the result was a religious experience. So it works out.
Two British rock Gods, Sting and Peter Gabriel, have put their own great music above rock star ego to perform together in what will surely go down as the best collaboration of the decade. At their age, rock star ego is a thing of the past, if it ever existed. When you’re the real deal, you don’t need to put on airs.
“It’s like a battle of the bands,” Gabriel told the crowd at Rexall Place Sunday night.
It was a lot more than that. Rock Paper Scissors was no mere “co-headlining” bill (Edmonton was the last stop on the tour) where they play a game of the name of the tour to see who plays last. No, they shared the stage, sang each other’s songs, did duets, helped each other out, tinkered with their arrangements, bantered like old chums, even did some dance moves like the Smothers Brothers – and delivered a spectacular cross-section of songs from each of their careers. It was meshed perfectly with an incredible band. Nothing but the best for these guys. From the mellow opening of Gabriel’s The Rhythm of the Heart, show was a jaw-dropping display of both songwriting and musicianship. The band included legendary drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, a trio of amazing back-up singers, a string section, two keyboardists, guitars – Sting played bass most of the time – the works. The sound was huge and glorious when it needed to be, restrained at other times. Notes were not wasted. It was a little weird hearing Police hits like Message in a Bottle and Roxanne rendered through a rock ‘n’ roll big band when you remember them from a trio, but no more strange than hearing Peter Gabriel do his best Leonard Cohen on a slowed-down version of Sting’s If You Love Somebody Set Them Free – while Sting himself took a break. It was astounding.
It’s amazing how well their songs go together – intelligent rock that breaks the bounds of the genre, rich with heart, depth and social conscience. Great minds think alike.
Peter Gabriel GigCity Edmonton“The Tantric Twins,” as Gabriel thinks they ought to be called, make a good team. Sting is the svelte rocker, Gabriel the soulman. They switched roles several times. Sting toys with jazz, Middle Eastern rumbas and other esoteric things, while Gabriel visits a land all his own. Gabriel’s songs were somehow deeper, more nuanced – Games Without Frontiers and Digging in the Dirt were early moments of bliss in this show – while several of Sting’s best known songs hit you right in the gut. Both of them took a turn on Sting’s An Englishman in New York, ‘cause they’ve both been there. Good advice: “Be yourself no matter what they say.”
Politics crept into the show, not too much. They noted that their homeland voted to leave the European Union – see what happens when you go away? – saying some songs in the set are therefore more “pertinent” – like Genesis’s Dancing With the Moonlit Knight (from 1973), whose opening line is “Can you tell me where my country lies?” Also pertinent was the haunting Don’t Give Up – which turned into a singalong before it broke into a funky gospel jam with an amazing vocal display from back-up singer Jennie Abrahamson.
This gushing review could go on and on. The big hits – Every Breath You Take, Sledgehammer – brought the house down. The mash-ups were inspired. The Gabriel classics had the people on their feet and swaying. It takes a lot to get a baby boomer audience to stand up. They did about 25 songs, not even coming close to covering their respective legacies, two solid hours, without a single weak link. Most concerts you expect a little filler. Not this one. It was an embarrassment of riches. It will probably wind up as the best show of 2016 in Edmonton. Let’s just go ahead and call it right now – everyone cool with that?
© Gig City by Mike Ross


posted by Feildsofgold
Fields of Gold
Please please please play Fields of Gold tonight. It is my favorite song of all time. At the last concert in Edmonton many years ago (with Annie Lennox) I had tickets and had to leave unexpectedly and missed the song. I have waited Soooo many years for you to return to Edmonton so I could hopefully hear my favorite song played live.
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