57th & 9th

Philadelphia, PA, US
The Fillmore

Sting stung The Fillmore on Saturday...


Sting had a lot riding on his most recent album, 57th & 9th, and its 2017 tour that packed Fishtown’s Fillmore Philadelphia on Saturday night.


First, he had to thaw a freezing audience of grumbling over-40s. Luckily, those same patrons could sample the debut of the Fillmore’s new tony VIP lounge area, complete with plush couch seating and heady cocktails, so that was a start. Secondly, the usually-eclectic-yet-always-Sting-ish Sting had to remove himself, his literary lyrical skills, and his warm jazzy melodic complexity from the taint of a decade’s worth of lute music, morbid boating songs, depressing Christmas holiday albums, and the saddest-ever set of children’s tales this side of Bambi.


While the crunchy rock-outs and baleful ballads of 57th & 9th were a nice start on Sting’s road to recovery, it was through this loose, live revelry that the singer/bassist seemed happily unbound.


Starting and ending with 57th & 9th’s most beatific moments (“Heading South on the Great North Road” with its sliding vocal runs and “The Empty Chair”), Sting & Co. proved to be nimble, limber – even sensual – as if having practiced the boss’ tantric yoga routine. The band was a family affair, not only with father-son guitarists Dominic and Rufus Miller, but Sting’s soundalike son, Joe Sumner, handling background vocals.


After mentioning first Philly gigs in 1979 at Grendel’s Lair (“you weren’t there, we had three people: me, Andy, and Stewart,” referring to his Police mates) and 1980’s Walnut Street Theatre, Sting made swift, spare dispatch of Police hits “Synchronicity II” and “Spirits in the Material World” before jumping into his solo catalog old (a Marley-like “An Englishman in New York,” a rockabilly-ish “She's Too Good for Me”), and new (the rough, blunt pop of  “Down, Down, Down” and “Petrol Head”).


After he and his son ran through a clunky version of the late David Bowie’s spacey “Ashes to Ashes,” Sting tackled 57th & 9th's “50,000,” written in dedication to Bowie, Prince, and Lemmy. "50,000 voices rising every time he sings … Rock stars don't ever die /They only fade away."


Without overarching themes, pretension, or lutes, Sting’s new stuff – like his ancient “Roxanne,” played here with tart brio – reminded you of why you loved him in the first place: He writes delicately nuanced pop songs with intricate working parts and smartly emotional lyrics, plain and simple. In the intimate Fillmore (he dug getting close to the audience as well as “loving the chandeliers”) the intricacies of Sting’s contagion came through loud and clear.


(c) Philadelphia Inquirer by A.D. Amorosi


Harder-edged Sting returns to rock Philly...


There is no senior citizen recording artist who looks as good as Sting. The iconic singer-songwriter, who delivered a two-hour set Saturday at the sold-out Fillmore, could pass for 40.


Sting, 65, flexed his sinewy muscle while sporting a blue T-shirt and black jeans. Maybe Sting is rock’s Dorian Gray due to all the tantric sex and kale he consumes.


But what’s even more significant than Sting’s looks are his songs, which have also aged well over the years.


"I wrote this one 40 years ago,” Sting said when speaking of "Message in a Bottle." “There was just a cat in the room. Oh, Joe was in the room as well.”


Sting was referring to his son Joe Sumner, who opened the show and covers David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” during his father’s set. His middle-aged son is also his backing vocalist and guitarist.


Sting is back as a rocker. His new album, “57th & 9th,” takes a break from the esoteric sounds Sting has immersed himself in during his 30-year run as a solo artist. The new songs, such as the catchy single “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” are as straightforward as Sting’s early cuts from his days with the Police.


Such raveups as “Next To You” and “So Lonely,” which are from the first Police album, "Outlandos d’Amour,” were delivered with verve. The guitar, bass and drum attack worked well. Veteran guitarist Dominic Miller, who has been with Sting for three decades, and his guitarist son Rufus Miller recreated those familiar riffs from “Walking on the Moon” and “Roxanne.”


It was a pleasure experiencing those songs close to their original form. Sting’s jazzy versions are fine, but it’s a blast to witness him rock again. Well respected drummer Josh Freese (Guns N’ Roses, the Replacements) approximated Police percussionist Stewart Copeland’s asymmetrical fills and added his own touches.


There were political touches. Sting dedicated “One Fine Day,” which is about climate change, to the EPA.


While singing “Our So-called Leaders Speak/ With Words They Try to Jail You" from “Spirits in the Material World,” Sting arched his eyebrows. The chorus of Sting’s immigrant song “Englishman in New York” featured an eye roll (“I’m an Alien/I’m a Legal Alien.”)


The show was capped with a version of “The Empty Chair,” which was nominated for an Academy Award in the best original song category. Sting revealed that he initially declined to write the song for the moving documentary “Jim: The James Foley Story.” However, he changed his mind and penned a beautiful, meaningful song.


“This is a time when the media is under attack and this is a time when the truth is under attack,” Sting said.


There are some who have issues with Sting for supposedly being pretentious and arrogant. But the odds are that most would be just that if they were as gifted as the literate, thoughtful and accomplished bard. Sting has had his misses (2003’s “Sacred Love”) but he is an icon, reminiscent of Paul McCartney. Sting is a  taskmaster, a melodic bassist and a tremendous songwriter, who when with the Police gave more than he received.


It also appears that there will be many more Sting albums and tours. It’s hard to believe, but his voice isn’t very different than it was 40 years ago. He can still hit the high notes during “Roxanne.” Sting is also having a good time sharing the stage with his son and his longtime pal Dominic Miller, which is quite a contrast from the icy Police reunion that hit stadiums a decade ago. Sting appears ready to slip into another gear when most are retiring.


(c) Burlington County Times by Ed Condran