The rock star may once have performed for Russian oligarchs, but his duet with a Ukrainian cellist at the Palladium was a stirring sight
If you, like me, find Sting prone to occasional pomposity (the preachy environmentalism of a globe-trotting rock star, the wine range, the Elizabethan lute albums) then you might have approached this intimate show at London’s Palladium theatre with a touch of trepidation. Labelled Sting: My Songs, the concert was the first of a six-show residency that promises fans a “compendium of Sting’s songs with dynamic, visual references to some of his most iconic videos and inspirations”. I half expected an earnest evening of rainforests, madrigals and worthy reinterpretations of his greatest hits.
How wrong I was. The concert was effectively Sting’s glitzy Las Vegas show squeezed into an Edwardian theatre. It was a greatest hits romp – big on pizzazz – that took in everything from The Police’s Roxanne and Walking on the Moon to his solo highpoints Englishman in New York and Fields of Gold.
With production values that were as shiny and tight as Sting’s leather trousers, the show was a rare treat for attendees: the 2,300-seat Palladium is around half the size of Las Vegas’s Colosseum, where his run of shows continues in June (it’s the same venue where Adele is supposed to be performing this year). At the time of writing, there were a small number of back row tickets left. At a cool £94.50, they’re roughly the cost of a case of Sting’s Roxanne red wine. I’d wager this memory will last longer. Fans should grab one.
Before the show proper, there was a poignant moment. Sting walked onto the stage with Ukrainian cellist Yaroslava Trofymchuk. Together they played an acoustic version of Russians, his melancholy 1985 anti-Cold War anthem in which he sings of Europe and America’s “growing feeling of hysteria” about the nuclear threats in the “rhetorical speeches of the Soviets”.
Sting said he thought the song had been “irrelevant” for decades. No longer. “I hope the Russians love their children too,” he sang in the pay-off. It was moving, its impact only slightly lessened by the fact that Sting has been known in the past to play lucrative private gigs for Russian oligarchs, something he has vowed to stop doing due to the horrors of the invasion.
Then the curtain raised and we were off. Flanked by two vast video screens and a seven-piece band, Sting burst through six bangers including Message in a Bottle and Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. Sting is 70, but with his svelte physique, wireless microphone headset and boundless energy, he could have passed for decades younger. In fact, in his black leather-look suit, he could have walked straight off the mid-1980s set of David Lynch’s original Dune as his leather-clad character Feyd-Rautha. Equally remarkable was Sting’s voice: powerfully raspy as ever, and unweathered by age.
A mid-set run of new songs led to an inevitable lull. The jarringly jaunty If It’s Love contained the first example of piped whistling I have ever heard at a concert (Sting pretended it was him – it was nice to have a touch of vaudeville at the Palladium). But by the finale of Every Breath You Take, the crowd were on their feet and the aisles were packed with bopping Baby Boomers. Sting ended the show alone on stage performing an acoustic rendition of Fragile. This was showbiz Sting rather than serious Sting. Vegas has come to Soho.
(c) Daily Telegraph by James Hall