Sting's list of endearing anecdotes is almost as long as his lineup of inexplicably bizarre ones -- which, in turn, is almost as big as his ego. The former Police frontman and pouty-lipped crooner remains fearless in the face of a staid solo career (heavy on Police jams), belly dancing (he does it -- on stage), a thirty-year marriage ("She could completely destroy me") and a self worth valued higher than anyone legally named Gordon probably has a right to. Dude is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a babe, a rock star, a pretty dedicated lover (so we hear) and, let's face it, a musical Renaissance man.
Sting is not, however, an everyman. His monumental three-encore performance last night at the Wells Fargo Theatre revolved around a structure similar to that of VH1 Storytellers: Sting grasps for a little while, Sting tells you an anecdote about a song's creation, you cheer, Sting cranks out said song, you cheer again, wash, rinse, repeat. Perhaps the best -- if least approachable -- tiny tale of the night came out of the admission that Mr. Police owns a house near Stonehenge, but "it's more of a castle, really," he says.
There's nothing quite like a humble brag to kick off a night of full-on, no-holds-barred nostalgia that is reworked, sped up and inlaid with the trappings of blues. But in the exactly two hours he spent on stage, it became consistently clear that Sting's personality is equally as valuable as his craftsmanship. Although the man doesn't need to rely on Police hits anymore, he continues to do so, wisely relegating most of them to the encore(s) so that they function as both a tease and a cock-block of sorts immediately after "Desert Rose." Really freakin' pumped for "Message in a Bottle"? Oh, you'll hear it: last, solo and acoustic.
Accompanied by a five-man cast of painfully talented accompaniment -- electric guitar, acoustic guitar (the first two are father and son), backing vocals, violin and drums -- the sixty-year-old rock star moved quickly and carefully through a set devoted to devout Sting followers. The Police singles acted as buffers between Sting's small talk and big sound, and casual fans were at no point excluded, but the true focus remained on the ringleader's back catalogue. Careful to point out which song Johnny Cash covered ("I Hung My Head") and which one is about continuity, the seasons, life and death and basically everything ("Fields of Gold"), Sting takes himself as seriously as a one-name act deserves and as lightly as a man who shakes his hips like Shakira while yodeling ("Desert Rose").
The greatest credit to Sting's performance, however, is the obvious realization that he is enjoying himself just as much as the audience is enjoying him -- while dancing much, much better. As firm Sting fans, much of the Wells Fargo Theater's crowd probably listened to Synchronicity on vinyl, a truth that translates live to some of the best and worst dancing ever to result from always bluesy, occasionally fancy British baby-makin' croons. The man rhymes "complicashon" with "situashon" (and later "reacshon") and still has the time and tenacity to offer his arms out, like the Messiah, to a crowd totally okay with shaking its collective and incongruous ass to songs like "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying."
Sting has carved a niche for himself -- that of post-punk Renaissance man -- for which the only way out is reinvention, and his dedication to the role is impressive. The same goes for his stories, talk of Bonanza, fox hunting and a psychic car thief, broken up only by the variety of showmanship that is comfortable supporting both the rock-and-roll elder statesman and one of the largest reunion tours in the world.
Not all is perfect -- gone are the high notes, the brooding melodrama and a great deal of the chemistry that sustains these songs -- but not all of that matters. If you attempted to judge Sting's performance level by his coolness level, you'd need look no further than the pair of lacy black bikini underwear he discovered, picked up and discussed on stage. "They're Boundaries brand," he told the crowd as their former owner was escorted away from her primo front-and-center spot. "Which reminds me: My two favorite subjects are sex and religion. They're not so separate." Always a smooth operator, that Sting.
Click through for Critic's Notebook and Setlist.
Personal Bias: I once dated someone whose ring tone when I called was "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." That farce faded quickly, but my love for the song's creators has yet to. By the Way: Sting's stage banter verged occasionally on the epic and prophetic, particularly in the moments when he offered advice to his fans: After a mildly terrifying interlude in which he admitted that Trudie, his wife of thirty years, could "completely destroy me if she wanted to," he offered this: "Nothing in life is worth doing that is devoid of risk. This next song is about all of that. It's called 'Inside,' and you're going to like it." Random Detail: Everyone always talks about mom jeans, but dad jeans are also definitely a thing. The style statement made its presence known last night in droves of dark, shapeless and belted contraptions that shook loosely when their owners jammed to "Desert Rose." The fewer pockets, the better.
Sting 11/20/11 - Wells Fargo Theatre Denver, CO
01. "All This Time" 02. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" 03. "Seven Days" 04. "Demolition Man" 05. "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" 06. "I Hung My Head" 07. "Stolen Car" 08. "Driven To Tears" 09. "Fortress Around Your Heart" 10. "Fields of Gold" 11. "Sacred Love" 12. "Ghost Story" 13. "Heavy Cloud No Rain" 14. "Inside" 15. "Love Is Stronger Than Justice" 16. "The Hounds of Winter" 17. "The End of the Game" 18. "Never Coming Home"
19. "Desert Rose" 20. "Every Breath You Take"
21. "Next To You"
22. "Message in a Bottle" (solo acoustic)
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