June 17, 2013. Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
Stars of Sting’s stature don’t normally play Kitchener, as it’s only about an hour and a half from the much bigger, more lucrative market of Toronto. But this Back to Bass tour of his, Wikipedia informs me, has been going on for ages—since 2011! As he’s already hit all the obvious cities (like Toronto), I guess he’s working through another tier. Along with Kitchener, this leg of the tour around includes oddities like Kingston, Ontario; Bangor, Maine; Summerside, PEI; and Arras, France.
I am a Sting fan, but not a major, major one, and I’ve seen him in concert twice already—though that was decades ago. But given the combination of the show being right in town, at a reasonably small venue and price, and having friends who wanted to go, it was basically a no-brainer to attend.
As Sting does not have a new album to plug at the moment, the show was chock-a-block full of hits. Admittedly, a few of the songs I didn’t know—I have lost the thread of his solo career periodically—but mostly, the songs were ones I could sing along to. Possibly my fave, “Englishman in New York”, was third in the line-up, and prompted a rapturous response that the artist seemed to appreciate, saying that made his first visit to Kitchener seem worthwhile.
While I’m not sure this Kitchener setlist is exactly right—I could swear “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic” was the first song, not the second, for example—it is pretty close. The show definitely included Seven Days, Fields of Gold, Message in a Bottle, Roxanne, Wrapped Around Your Finger, Desert Rose, Every Breath You Take, and Fragile. Just eight of many reminders we got all night of how many great songs this man has written.
And he performs them well. I was shocked to realize that he’s 61 years old now, but to me his voice sounds as good as it did in the 1980s. As always, he reinterprets some of the material, giving an interesting new take on the familiar. I was often struck by the sensuality of songs that I had never particularly thought of as sexy before. His six-piece band was also amazing, and given far more profile than I would have expected (for people I’ve never heard of).
The staging was really spare; no wild effects or video montages; not even a big projector screen. The lighting was effective but not flashy. So this was a concert mostly about the music, which we could fortunately appreciate, despite dealing with hockey arena rather than concert hall acoustics.
The crowd was appreciative and participatory, but was rather lazy—at least in my section. Yes, I understand not wanting to stand for the whole show (as a lot of the people on the floor did), especially for this fairly mellow artist, but never standing up? Not even during the fast songs? The encores? I mean, really. It’s not as if those hockey seats are particularly comfortable… Just for your back’s sake, you might want to mosey on up once in a while. (Finally, near the end, I just did, people behind me be damned!)
I do wish I’d smuggled in a small camera, as the phone was quite useless for photos. Ah well. Here’s a photo by Peter Lee of The Record. As you see, except for some balding, Sting still looks pretty good.
“I hope you all get laid tonight, or whatever,” he said in introducing his last song, “Fragile”. Hey, who says he’s not a nice guy on top of all the brains and talent?