Sting sure can sing...
Sting returned to Ottawa on Wednesday and the years melted away during a concert that was packed with hits, plus a handful of new songs from his latest album, all played with the panache we’ve come to expect from a master singer-songwriter.
In a bright orange T-shirt, the 70-year-old rock legend appeared to be in great physical shape as he wielded his electric bass, but the real revelation was the clarity of his voice. It rang so pure and strong throughout Canadian Tire Centre that I had to keep reminding myself it was the real thing — not a recording. It was truly impressive to hear him hit the high notes so effortlessly.
Accompanied by a top-notch band that included long-time guitarist Dominic Miller, and Miller’s son, Rufus, on the second guitar, plus outstanding talents on harmonica, keyboards, drums and backing vocals, Sting knew the audience was there to hear the hits, and he obliged, beginning the night with a string of familiar melodies, including the old Police nugget, Message in a Bottle, then winding through graceful versions of If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Englishman in New York and Everything She Does is Magic.
Declaring that he was delighted to be back in Ottawa, the artist born Gordon Sumner also teased at the “bad news” that he would be playing songs that aren’t so widely known, drawn from his latest album, The Bridge. Those selections included If It’s Love, For Her Love, Loving You and Rushing Water, tunes that demonstrated his knack for a lilting melody and clever phrasing.
Between songs, he was personable and self-deprecating, telling one story about how he wanted to be a cowboy when he was a boy (despite his lack of “authenticity” as a Brit) and another about the moment he knew that Roxanne was a hit (when he heard a window washer whistling it). There were call-and-response segments that engaged the crowd, not to mention plenty of singing along from a demographic that knew every lyric.
The stage setup was simple and uncluttered, elevated by a lighting design that incorporated video images and sent beams of colour bouncing into the stands, at one point illuminating a big Ukrainian flag someone brought to the show. As for the sound, from my vantage point, it was impeccable.
Highlights of a wonderful concert included the reggae breakdown in So Lonely, the haunting Arabic strains of Desert Rose and a driving version of the Police song, Driven To Tears, that featured an appearance by Joe Sumner, Sting’s son, revealing a supple voice that bore the same sheen as his illustrious father’s. The younger Sumner also played a solo set of love songs to open the evening, setting the stage for a double-header of a date night.
While there were some parts that allowed a bit of stretching out by the musicians, it was clearly a tight and well-rehearsed show, except for one moment: After one of his soulful workouts at the front of the stage, harmonica ace Shane Sager went to take a step backwards and faltered, executing a near-perfect backwards somersault in the blink of an eye. Like the rest of the concert, it was show-biz perfection.
(c) The Ottawa Citizen by Lynn Saxberg