Sting and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Xcel, 6/21/10
|Photos by Stacy Schwartz|
He also talked about a friend of his in New York in the '80s who was able to steal the satellite feed of Russian television stations, so the two of them would get drunk and watch Russian children's programs late into the evening. When Sting saw how much care went into those programs, he realized that Russians love their kids as well, despite what the Cold War had taught him. So that experience obviously inspired him to write "Russians," which was given an eerie, Hitchcockian intro by the orchestra, and was clearly one of the night's standouts. He also told a touching story about his father, who encouraged Sting "when you finish school, go to sea," which he took to mean go live a life filled with adventure. He joked that he really let his dad down by becoming a musician, but after he died, Sting wrote "Why Should I Cry For You?" for his father, which is poignantly filled with touching imagery of the sea as well as his dad. It is a song already bursting at the seams with deep feeling, and the RPCO only added to its emotional weight during this stunning performance.
The 13-song first set closed triumphantly with a rollicking version of "Next To You," before Sting announced they would be taking a 20-minute break. That break unfortunately killed a bit of the momentum built up during the first set. Sting took the opportunity to dig deeper into his catalog during the second set, playing more obscure and less recognizable numbers, even donning a vampiric, Victorian frock coat to sing the haunting "Moon Over Bourbon Street." And while the orchestra continually kept things vibrant, much of the mood and splendor of the earlier part of the show was lost during the plodding start of the second set.
|Photos by Stacy Schwartz|
The second set snapped out of its doldrums with a spirited version of "Mad About You," which really kick-started the stellar close to the show. The aforementioned "King Of Pain," featuring electric guitar work from Dominic Miller, kept things in high gear, flowing smoothly into main set closer "Every Breath You Take," which found Sting in great voice, as he was throughout the evening. The band came back out for two separate encores, delivering impassioned versions of "Desert Rose," "She's Too Good For Me," and "Fragile," before which Sting came out with an iPod trying to sing along to "Free Bird," which some idiot twice called out for. (Note to everyone not already aware: that "joke" is now so old that it just makes you look stupid when you say it, especially with the distinguished RPCO in the building. Please stop. No exceptions.)
The crowd kept roaring, so Sting came back out and sang a brief a cappella version of "I Was Brought To My Senses" that finished the night serenely. Sting's music, no matter how familiar with it you were going into the show, was given a fresh, sophisticated restyling by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, and their involvement subsequently gave new life to Sting, who was clearly pleased to discover these songs anew along with his adoring audience.
For more photos, see our complete slideshow.