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Concert Review: Sting’s “Back To Bass” Tour, 12/5/11, At The Paramount Theatre, Seattle WA

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Ever since concluding his big bucks reunion tour with The Police a few years back, it’s been back to business as usual for Sting. Which, on his current tour, means it has also been “Back To Bass.”

Sting is currently touring in support of his 25 Years retrospective boxed set, performing a hits-heavy set mainly in theaters and small venues with a relatively stripped down five piece band. During the first show of a two night stand at Seattle’s Paramount Theater (on a freezing cold Monday night, no less), Sting and his band warmed up the crowd of adoring, mostly older fans with an energetic, well balanced two hour set drawing equally from both his solo work, and his back catalog with the Police.

Of course, this is Sting we are talking about here. Which meant that his “stripped down” band, still included two guitarists and a miniature string section (specifically, violin and fiddle).

The newer live arrangements of vintage Police songs like “Every Breath You Take,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and “Next To You,” while certainly not lacking anything in the energy department, likewise tended more towards an adult-contemporary feel, than his classic eighties period as New Wave’s favorite blond cop.

No matter though. With the help of a band that was nothing short of amazing, Sting and company still managed to turn the heat up enough on Seattle’s wine and cheese crowd to make them forget the cold outside.

Fiddle player Peter Tickell turned in a couple of particularly jaw-dropping solos, and also re-created the soprano sax parts on songs like “Fortress Around Your Heart” perfectly, with help from Jo Lawry on violin (who also displayed her gorgeous five-octave range on backing vocals). The father-son guitar tandem of Dominic and Rufus Miller likewise had some fine moments (including a couple of cool solos from Dominic using a wah-wah pedal). Monster drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, a recent veteran of Jeff Beck’s band, was a dead ringer for Stewart Copeland on the Police songs.

Sting himself often gets a sometimes deserved, but just as often unfair rap for pretentiousness, mostly because of his genre forays into everything from celtic to classical as a solo artist. At the Paramount, Sting was the antithesis of the stuffy performer he is often made out to be, engaging the audience with a humorous sing-along on the ready made for Seattle “Heavy Cloud, No Rain,” and name dropping Toby Keith’s cover of his country themed divorce song “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” while adding a disclaimer about Keith’s politics.

Sting was likewise in fine voice, showing no signs of his age on vocals, and hitting all the right notes on his signature bass. By the end of the night, Sting had the crowd eating from the palm of his hand, sending them warmly singing their “Whoah-oh’s” into the cold Seattle night with an acoustic version of the Police’s “Message In A Bottle.”

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • oenomel

    Hello- read your review and wonder were you actually at this concert- Most of us (okay all of us) in the ‘wine and cheese” group of 12 found his indulgence in the “boys in the garage playing loud riffs” really annoying- likewise the other lesser known songs- Fans go to hear the hits and maybe a few other new ones- But at a 100 plus dollars a ticket many of us were a little PO at the lack of consideration for the fans- barely made up for with his strong vocals and sign off of message in a bottle…many, many, many of us were left very let down-

  • baroness

    We agree with oenomel- bummer of a concert- example of star more concerned with his agenda than making fans happy- more than a bit full of himself- not much there for “Sting” fans- rip off- tickets should have come with a disclaimer “playing for ourselves not you” –

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Didn’t get that sense at all from my vantage point, but I guess I wasn’t sitting in your section. You wouldn’t be that one guy who yelled out for “Roxanne” would you?

    -Glen

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    High ticket prices from superstar and legacy acts are fodder for another conversation entirely. Believe me, I feel your pain…I’m a Neil Young fan.

    -Glen

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    mel and the baroness are the ones who come off full of themselves and sound a bit clueless. Real fans would want the lesser-known songs. If you just wanted the greatest hits, you should have stayed at home with your CDs

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    …not to mention your wine and cheese.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Hey, El Bicho,

    left a comment it sort of concerns you on the other thread.

    Care to respond?

    I’m gonna night night right now, but I’ll make certain to look you up tomorrow. And you, too, sleep tight.

  • Eric from edmonds

    Went to the concert in Seattle, sting was great but loud. Sting is much better listening to a music DVD or a cd not live.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Didn’t notice, but it would explain the fact that one of my ears have been continuosly popping since Monday.

    -Glen

  • AngelaL

    It’s really annoying to have to hear people who call themselves fans of Sting, when all they know and want to hear at his concerts are the heavily played radio songs and THE POLICE songs. This concert was solo Sting music, and if you aren’t familiar with some great songs from his album The Soul Cages or Ten Sumners Tale, then you should reconsider calling yourself a Sting fan. Call yourself a Police fan. My favorites songs of his I was lucky and so elated to hear him sing such as the opening song “all this time”, “seven days”,”heavy cloud no rain”,”love is stonger than justice” and “inside”. Sting is amazing, and I have been waiting to see him live since I was 6. I am 34 and love his solo music even more. I feel sorry for you all that came to the concert and didn’t even know any songs of his minus the hits that were in the 80′s, and you call yourself a fan.

  • Juri Raiska

    oenomel an baroness – you two should have boned up on Sting’s total catalogue of music before going to his show…you are not fans but rather wanna bees to say you saw him. I couldn’t agree more with Angela’s comments. Real fans know all the songs not just the hits!

  • chris spagnuolo

    I went to see Vinnie ! Not sting. Vinnie Colaiuta is my hero

  • Nick from Scotland

    jus saw Sting in Glasgow last night : wow, what a band, what a sound.

    If you wanted a hits back catalogue, as some reviewers seem to have wanted, it maybe wasn’t the best – but this was high quality entertainment for music lovers !

  • Chris

    I saw it last night in Hammersmith – I tend to agree more with the fans than the critics. The set list was as I expected – a mixture of old Police hits and tracks from his 25 year solo career, some better known than others. Yes, some of the musical performance was self indulgent, but you expect that from Sting and the quality of the playing was superb. I think the fact that he can completely change the line up and style from his long flirtation with jazz shows that these are basically good songs. He is brave enough to put a new slant on old material – not just deliver a rehash of the original recorded version as most artists do – tour after tour. His vocals were excellent throughout and he played a long set. 8 out of 10 from me!