Live Review: Sting (2004)

Originally published in the Columbus Alive (February 25, 2004)

As an elder rock statesman, Sting really doesn’t owe anything to the fans that have been supporting him for well over 25 years. With the Police and as a solo artist, Sting has delivered album after album of solid pop goodness, touring all the while not because he needs to pad his bank account but because he enjoys performing in front of receptive audiences.

It would be easy for him to stop making new music and, instead, hire a band of young session musicians to run through his greatest hits every night, city after city. Fans would still line up to hear the old stuff, but Sting doesn’t want to disappoint, he wants to forge ahead, continue to be relevant in today’s music world while remembering the songs (and the fans) that put him in the position he’s in today.

On Tuesday night, February 24, Sting and his entourage pulled into the Ohio Theater which, when compared to larger venues like Nationwide Arena and the Schottenstein Center, was an intimate setting. The majestic, historic theater was the ideal location for Sting to perform his warm and sensual jazz-laced songs, in addition to his instantly recognizable chart-topping pop numbers.

Surprisingly, Sting didn’t start the evening with one of those well-known songs, but with a low-key, stripped-down version of “Walking on the Moon,” from the Police’s 1979 album, Reggatta De Blanc. The song, though it had some spacious grooves that the leadman carved out on an upright bass, failed to ignite the crowd.

All was forgiven as Sting and his seven-piece backing band launched into “Send Your Love,” from 2003’s Sacred Love, causing the sold-out crowd to rise to its feet and break into an standing ovation. During this song, the 52-year-old, extremely agile musician/actor/author displayed some nifty Ricky Martin-style dance moves, shaking his chest with his arms raised and snapping his fingers.

Throughout the evening, Sting bounced around his past and present, revisiting the Police songbook again with “Synchronicity II” and “Roxanne” (featuring a call-and-response with the audience) and playing songs from solo records like Ten Summoner’s Tales (“Fields of Gold”) and …Nothing Like the Sun (a particularly jazzy “Englishman in New York”) and fairly representing the songs of Sacred Love.

It was the Grammy-winning “Whenever I Say Your Name” that really stood out among the already memorable songs. On the studio version of the song, Mary J. Blige performs the duet with Sting, while on tour the lovely and talented Joy Rose handles Blige’s part. To say she captured Blige’s spirit is an understatement, and it was obvious that even Sting was enamored with her talent—he missed a cue, by a few seconds, to grab a bass from one of the roadies because he was too busy admiring Rose as she let loose with her gospel choir-like vocals.

Not surprisingly the artist saved his best-known songs for the very end. “Desert Rose” was followed by “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” and both received wild applause from an audience that hadn’t been treated to a Sting performance in Columbus since 2000. But the reaction those songs received paled in comparison to the final song of the first encore, “Every Breath You Take,” Sting’s classic stalker ode. The band took a short break and then returned for the final song of the evening, “A Thousand Years.”

The passion still appears to be burning through Sting’s veins, his love for performing evident in his smiling face. When the day comes that he loses that passion, let’s hope he calls up Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland and reunites the Police to reignite it.

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