Sunday, July 3, 2022

Concert Review: Sting at Hard Rock Live

Sting, evidently, admires a certain aura about Florida. Looking across the crowd at Sunday night’s performance at Hard Rock Live, he noted that “everybody looks like they just had sex.” Perhaps this is just pre-written banter he trots out at every show to massage our egos, but I can’t see it playing in, say, Iowa and Wyoming with the same authenticity. I’d prefer to think the famously vigorous hit-maker sees something special about audiences in the endless-vacation state, a feeling that was no doubt mutual during his mostly absorbing 100-minute-or-so performance, his first public show in South Florida since 2019.

Following a short opening set by his son, accomplished guitarist Joe Sumner—whose earnest songs of love and loss are cut, though not as infectiously, from his father’s cloth—Sting appeared promptly with five musicians and a pair of backup singer-dancers for a tight and explorative set of more than 40 years’ worth of material. An improbably fit septuagenarian, Sting’s voice hasn’t aged a millisecond, as immediately evident on Police pop nuggets like “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” riveting solo cuts such as “An Englishman in New York,” and the evocative favorite “Fields of Gold.”

A projection screen positioned horizontally above the stage ran video and graphics pertinent to the songs’ atmospheres—typewriter keys and crashing waves for “Message in a Bottle”; dice, chips and cards for the gambling-themed “Shape of My Heart”—while the carefully tailored lighting rig splashed crisscrossing beams, often blue, gold or red (the latter an obvious if potent fixture on “Roxanne”) over the sold-out crowd.

Photos by Yafi Yair

The structure of Sting’s set list was that of an upside-down bell curve, with a flurry of hits at the top, a parade of favorites at the end, and a rather sagging middle comprised of deep cuts and new selections from his 2021 release The Bridge, written during quarantine. “I’m going to play some new songs; I’m sorry,” he said, perhaps tongue-in-cheekily but sort of accurately, as this mostly unfamiliar segment of the show allowed many to refresh their drinks and empty their bladders.

The best tune in this mini-set, “If It’s Love,” featured a whistled intro and inviting, handclap percussion; the weakest, “For Her Love,” seemed to die on the vine. I could have done without “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying,” one of the singer’s ill-fated dalliances with country music, though at least “I Hung My Head,” another western-tinged composition, conjured one of Bob Dylan’s ‘80s-era story-songs.

And then it was off to the races, as Sting and his top-shelf musicians performed a string of hits as formidable as any modern songwriter’s discography, from the swaggering, shimmering “Brand New Day” to a particularly lush rendition of “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” with virtual candle flames flickering on the projection screen.

Having long ascended from new-wave rebel to adult-contemporary institution, Sting has spongily absorbed at least a half-dozen disparate and far-flung genres, all of which came to the fore during the concert’s most thrilling moments: the blue-eyed soul of “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” the North African mantra “Desert Rain,” the jaunty reggae of “Walking on the Moon,” the stomping blues of “She’s Too Good For Me.”

In one of the show’s most communal sing-alongs, “So Lonely” included a snippet of the Jamaican classic “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” while “King of Pain” sent us off with an anthemic, Springsteen-esque rock outro. “Roxanne” even featured a gospel call-and-response and a swing-music nod to Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

Sting left us with an unorthodox pseudo-encore—not a typical roof-raiser but the singer’s two-and-a-half-minute acoustic ballad “The Bridge,” performed solo to the glow of many a cell phone camera. It was a chance to exhale and decompress, heading to our cars or, if we were feeling lucky, to the tables and slots, in a state of zen.

SET LIST


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John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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