Concert Review: Sting at the Hollywood Bowl

June 16, 2010


Let me cut to the chase. I went to the Hollywood Bowl last Tuesday night, my first visit ever to the magical venue, and saw my first concert ever with Sting, backed not by his Police mates, but by the Royal bloody Philharmonic Orchestra out of London.

26 songs, including 4 encores. Nearly two-and-half-hours in length. Special appearance by jazz trumpeter Chris Botti. A sold-out Bowl crowd. You tell me–How good do you think this concert was?

In a word, Incredible. Some have been skeptical of this musical melding of pop and symphony, but it sure worked for me. From the opening “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” through a generous mix of Police and Sting hits, the evening brought out the best in a singer who freely admits he was bored on the recent Police reunion tour. Too much nostalgia, he told the press.

But Tuesday night was different. Sting held the stage front and center and he seemed energized to be sharing the stage with a full orchestra on a tour aptly named “Symphonicity,” reworking some of his personal favorites and giving them the full-scale treatment.

To me, the concept worked. The 47-member orchestra, under the direction of Stephen Mercurio, seemed to breathe new life into Sting classics like “Russians” and “Moon Over Bourbon Street.” And I never thought I would describe “Roxanne” as haunting, but that’s the feeling I had when hearing the full orchestra interpretation.

Voice and sound were in fine form. Sting admitted that the Bowl was one of his favorite venues in the world to perform and that added an extra umphh to his performance. Mindful of the NBA championship game unfolding nearby, he kept the audience apprised of the score.

Charming and graceful throughout, Sting regaled the audience with stories. How he got the inspiration for “Russians” by watching children on Russian television pirated off the satellite. How there are two types of love songs. Sting doesn’t like those “I love you. You Love Me.” He prefers, illustrated by the piercing “When We Dance,” the “I love you. But you love someone else” approach.

There were a few nods to The Police, but not many–“Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” appeared early in the show. “Every Breath You Take” ended the second set. This was about Sting. About his music.  Some songs were expected: “Fields of Gold,” “Why Should I Cry for You?,” “Shape of My Heart,” and “Englishman in New York” all made the first set.

However, after the short Intermission, Sting wandered in different directions. He and backup singer Jo Lawry performed his song for the movie Cold Mountain, called “You Will Be My Ain True Love,” followed by a ode to fox hunting “The End of the Game.”  At this stage in a concert, most  musicians would be cranking out their hits, stoking the audience. Not Sting. This was his show. Sting would play the music he wanted.

But he gave in towards the end with a couple Police hits to round things out before hitting four encores. “Desert Rose” brought everyone to their feet. “Fragile” was a poignant exit note. Finally, when it seemed like there could be no more, Sting returned for one final song, an a cappella version of “I was Brought to My Senses.”

Here’s the complete set list:

If I Ever Lose My Faith in You
Englishman in New York
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Straight to My Heart
When We Dance
I Hung My Head
Shape of My Heart
Why Should I Cry For You?
Whenever I Say Your Name
Fields of Gold
Next to You
(20 minute intermission)
A Thousand Years
Tomorrow We’ll See
Moon Over Bourbon Street
The End of the Game
You Will Be My Ain True Love
All Would Envy
Mad About You
King of Pain
Every Breath You Take

First encore:
Desert Rose
She’s Too Good For Me

Second encore:

Third encore:
I Was Brought to My Senses (a cappella)

Watch for the concert CD/download to appear later this summer. Sting also mentioned one of the concerts being shown on cable television at some point. Check it out. It was an evening I won’t soon forget.