The incomparable Sting spent a few days rehearsing in Vancouver, perfecting his set list to kick off the 57th & 9th world tour at the iconic Commodore Ballroom. The crowd chatted and became quick friends, all seemingly in disbelief that they would take in an intimate experience with Sting, who had no issue previously packing Rogers Arena or even GM Place with the reformed Police a decade ago.
For the sold out show, the man welcomed the eager crowd himself and introduced the evening line-up because, well, when you’re Sting you both open and kick off your own damn tour and show.
“So here we are,” grinned the 16 time Grammy Award winner.
He confessed to his lifelong fans that he chose to kick off the tour in Vancouver because every good story starts at the top left hand corner of the page. Recalling a few of his vivid memories of playing intimate clubs verses arenas, he said Vancouver would be getting the grittier, dirtier, and less polished version of the tour. The crowd happily obliged.
Sting stripped it down for a quick acoustic taste of his new tune “The Great North Road” from his first album in thirteen years, 57th & 9th, before stepping aside. The opening band from Texas, The Last Bandoleros, jumped around with southern rock ‘n roll drawl for a few tunes; Sting joined in for their song “Where Do You Go”. Two cute acoustic songs followed by Sting’s own son, Joe Sumner, one “Jellybean” that had the crowd cooing as he dedicated it to his kids.
Both Joe and The Last Bandoleros backed Sting for his entire two-hour set. They were joined by Sting’s “right-hand man for 30 years” Dominic Miller, drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle, Guns N’ Roses), and Dominic’s son Rufus Miller, who Sting cried “lowered the median age of the band”, which is always important.
The set pulsated though the overwhelming database of new songs, solo material, and classic Police hits, yet wasn’t without Sting breaking up the show to express his feelings on the current state of the world and climate change. During “One Fine Day” he admitted that he would love to live in a world where climate change is a hoax and on “Material World” you couldn’t help but taste the moment he crooned “our so-called leaders speak” as Sting’s smirk was palpable.
Some of the new songs–“Down Down Down” and “Pretty Young Solider”–fell flat and seemed to lose the connection, but won the crowd back during “She’s Too Good For Me” with a good opportunity for a rip on the accordion. The Commodore floor bounced along to the overly horn dog anthem “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You.”
Throughout the snug show, Sting sipped and gargled on a single shot of apple cider vinegar. Although he’s 65 years old, he didn’t seem to break a sweat and still had the mojo rippling through the night, nailing most, if not all of his vocals. The second half of the night featured a few of the classics: the comforting wail of “Walking On The Moon” and “So Lonely,” and a serious crowd chant-along (“be yourself no matter what they say!”) during “Englishman In New York.” Sting told the crowd “you are good Vancouver” to which he received the night’s biggest roar.
The familiar rubbery bass line of “Message In A Bottle” was a nice counterpart to his reggae version of “I’m So Happy That I Can’t Stop Crying”. a number two hit written for country singer Toby Keith. The first encore (yes, there were about four but we began to lose track), was a beautiful medley of the crowd echoing every word of “Roxanne”, to Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”, and “Roxanne” yet again. He threw in the night cap of some of his best–“Every Breath You Take” and “Next To You”–and finished the evening with his new Academy Award Nominated tune “The Empty Chair” based on “Jim: The James Foley Story”, a documentary about an American journalist captured and beheaded by ISIS.
Sting is a universal story teller, built from the stuff of what they say legends are made of. He seemed understandably confident yet he actually looked like he was having fun on stage, albeit at times carrying the energy for the rest of the musicians. It was a real treat for Vancouver to witness Sting in a 1000 person venue; no one in the crowd would have missed a chance to stand so close.