A thing for Sting - the man, his music, and an absolute masterclass in Christchurch...

March 01, 2023

My earliest proper memories of Sting probably come from my car seat in the back of my parent’s pastel-yellow Toyota Corolla 79DX.

Both mum and dad are big music lovers and there wasn’t a road trip or even a short drive where we weren’t surrounded and infused with their combined and ever-evolving soundtrack, their singing along, their cranking up of their favourites.

Sting - and The Police - were frequent amid the eclectic and lively mix of monster songs by the likes of Bowie, Elton, Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Cash, Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straights and Queen. And the list went on, and on.

The music of Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner continued to feature in my life beyond that, punctuating my formative years - a remixed Every Breath You Take when I was in my teens, Roxanne used as a drinking game (“Roxanne” 27 and “red light” 26 - if you know, you know) at university, a cover of Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic in the weekly tear jerk that was Grey’s Anatomy.

Though initially enforced, my time with Sting is now very much by choice.

So, naturally, being in front of the 17-time Grammy winner as he belted through his most beloved songs was a no-brainer.

I must also admit here that Bic Runga - another major player on the Sony Discman that never left my side during my teenage years - being added as Sting’s special guest earlier this year was a delight. Absolute SWOON!

The My Songs tour - with Sting’s own son Joe Sumner as the opening act - has had rave reviews and when the iconic rocker took to the stage at Christchurch Arena last night he didn’t just live up to expectations, he exceeded them.

While his hair may not have quite the same zazzle and (likely, highly flammable) pizazz of the 80s the playlist was certainly not lacking in either.

From the opening bars of Message in a Bottle it was obvious that Sting’s current solo show was going to be outstanding.

You don’t sit lamenting the absence of the Police - in fact, you don’t sit much at all. From the outset, the crowd was on its feet and for the rest of the night, much of the arena seating was redundant.

Sting may be 71 but he owns that stage like someone with half the number of years notched up; he is vibrant, sharp and captivating from the moment he starts to perform.

He is funny, he engages the crowd with chat about his time in Christchurch - revealing he’d spent the morning pre-concert swimming at the aptly named Sumner Beach and Taylors Mistake, chat about his home - a castle three miles south of Stonehenge where we’re apparently all welcome to knock on the door if we’re in the neighbourhood.

“We’ll give you a cuppa tea - well, Trudi will, I’ll be touring,” he says of his wife with a mischievous grin.

My childhood best friend (40 years and counting now) who has the same wickedly multifarious taste in music as me, were delighted by the setlist - from the opening song Sting moved brilliantly and perfectly through massive hits Englishman in New York, and Every Little Thing.

Then onto the newer - If It’s Love, Rushing Water, Loving You.

And then the tracks kept coming - Fields of Gold, Wrapped Around Your Finger. Walking on the Moon. So Lonely. King of Pain. Brand New Day.

The show was nonstop. The promoters promised “exuberant” but there’s no way to put into words the level of energy, vibrancy and fun the toned yoga lover injects into his live performance

His voice was perhaps the most stunning part. There’s no fading from decades of performing, no quieting things down - just the unmistakable and unmatched sound of Sting.

The Sting from my 80s, the Sting from my 90s, the voice I’d grown up with and sung along with for most of my life.

I loved it. Everyone loved it.

The older, the younger, pensioners, boomers, the guy who must have been all of 20 sitting in front of us on his own who smiled broadly for the whole set and didn’t take his eyes off his idol; the kids in the furry onesies there with mum and dad; the 6-month-old at its first gig; the super fans in their merch, the local celebs slipping into their seats trying to go unnoticed then dancing the night away when the lights went down.

It was special and it was amazing and then - it got even better.

After Sting’s son joined him on stage for an epic performance of King of Pain, a little cheesy on the surface but musically very cool, he launched into the almost pièce de résistance - Every Breath You Take.

I say “almost” because while it was a huge highlight of the night and sounded as fresh as it did when it was released in 1983 - it wasn’t the one particular song I was desperate to hear live.

Everyone has one when they go to a concert, especially with an artist they’ve loved across the decades.

At Fleetwood Mac it was Gypsy. At Elton John - Tiny Dancer. At Bon Jovi - I’ll Be There For You. At Alanis Morrissette - Hand In My Pocket.

You get what I mean.

Last night, there was no going home until we’d heard the belter, heard him sing that one quintessential and iconic Sting lyric (y’all know it and it’ll be in your head for hours now, you’re welcome) - Rooooooooxaaaannnnne.

It was everything we wanted it to be, and much more.

I was back in the family car singing along, hearing in the background of my teenage years, my uni days and on virtually every party, gym, road trip and other playlist I’ve ever compiled since.

When the UK papers said My Songs was a “masterclass” and “a rare treat” by a “near peerless” musician with “sublime pop alchemy” - they were absolutely dead right in their descriptions.

In terms of vocals - this is one of the best concerts I have been to in my life. As a whole it was bloody awesome.

Last night Sting’s beloved songs were our songs and we loved every minute of them.

Sting was due to perform My Songs at Mission Estate Winery in Napier on March 4 but confirmed last month that the will no longer proceed.

His promoter said the concert was cancelled “out of respect to those affected by the devastating impact of Cyclone Gabrielle and in the interest of focusing critical attention and resources on relief efforts”.

“A donation will be made by Sting and Live Nation to the Hawke’s Bay Foundation’s Cyclone Relief Fund,” the promoter said.

All ticket holders will receive an automatic refund.

(c) The New Zealand Herald by Anna Leask


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