The third time was the charm and Vigo was finally able to enjoy a concert that should have taken place in 2020 and was postponed twice due to the pandemic. The wait was worth it, because Sting’s performance is one that will be remembered forever in the town of Olívica, just like Dire Straits’ performance 30 years ago, Leonard Cohen’s performance in 2009 or that of the Rolling Stones in 1998. Sting’s debt to Vigo (or rather the reverse) was not only due to COVID, but was much older. It was completely abnormal that the British musician had never performed in Galicia’s biggest city. A gap that was filled on Saturday.
What happened last night was also a multigenerational phenomenon as few remember. In the first rows – where this columnist saw the concert after having lined up religiously – teenagers, “baby boomers” and even some septuagenarians crowded.. “How old is Sting?” asked two twenty-somethings from Ribeira. “Seventy,” replied the reporter to his disbelief. It’s true that the Brit keeps a few high notes — it was noted in “If ever I lose my faith in you” —, but his voice and body shape is enviable. And to rule out any suspicion of ageism, two parents coincided on stage, Sting and his right-hand man Dominic Miller, and their two respective sons, Joe Sumner – who played a more than worthy opening role – and Rufus Miller – second guitarist -. In the rest of the group, more young blood, especially that of the almost beardless drummer Zach Jones, who delivered without cherishing the trajectory and the exuberant virtuosity of his illustrious predecessors in power, Josh Freese, Vinnie Colaiuta and Stewart Copeland.
The recital began with an unbeatable triad: “Message in a bottle” (1979), “Englishman in New York” (1987) and “Every little thing she do is magic” (1981), i.e. Sting’s biggest solo hit sandwiched between two The Police anthems. After that insurmountable start, it was time for introductions, during which Sting remarked that it was his first time playing in Vigo.
Sting brags about wanting his musicians to shine, and on this “My Songs” tour, he lets his backing vocalist Gene Noble shine in “Shape of my heart” (1993), that ballad from the film “El profesional (León)”, an action film starring Jean Reno —a French actor who recently filmed in Vigo— and Natalie Portman. Ditto with Melissa Musique, whose impressive voice dazzled in “Heavy cloud, no rain” (1993). “A song about climate change is not funny,” Sting pointed out, as a light drizzle fell, belying the song’s title.
Prior to the start of “Brand New Day” (1999), Sting joked that harmonica player Shane Sager could not match Stevie Wonder’s mastery of the original version of the song. “How old are you?”. “Almost 17”. In reality, Sager is almost 30 years old, and in any case he knew how to perfectly reproduce the harmonica of the genius of Michigan.
Prior to the start of “Brand new day” (1999), Sting joked that harmonica player Shane Sager could not match Stevie Wonder’s mastery in the original version of the song.
Prior to these songs, Sting performed three songs from his fifteenth and most recent album, “The bridge” (2021), in particular the upbeat “If it’s love” (with a whistled melody); the Spanish version of “Pour son amour” —which he had previously only sung in Chiclana, Cadiz— and “Rushing water”. Follows “If ever I lose my faith in you” (1993), a hymn to skepticism about anything other than love: “I lost my faith in our politicians, they all seemed to me to be entertainers game shows,” reads the lyrics. The band carefully linked the ending of this song to another from the same album (“Ten Summer’s tales”), “Fields of gold”, in which, without the bagpipes of the original, Carlos Núñez was fantasized about jumping on stage to play it. — Shane Sager’s harmonica and Rufus Miller’s baritone guitar took center stage. The song “Champs d’Or” was, as a snob would say, one of the “highlights” of the concert, and never better said the “lights”, because the flashlights of cell phones (like the lighters of before ) form a constellation of lights in the flowerbeds and bleacherswhich were overflowing.
The most playful Sting and bluesero of “Heavy cloud no rain” gives way to another old hit from The Police, “Walking on the moon” (1979). By this point, it was already clear that the sound was one of the cleanest that had been heard during a massive concert in Vigo, at the height of Dire Straits in 1992. In the home stretch, “So lonely” (1978), in which Sting introduced a part of “No woman no cry”, by Bob Marley; “Desert rose” (1999), a song influenced by Algerian raï, and “King of pain” (1983), a superb song by The Police in which the sympathetic Joe Sumner once again jumped on stage. At 45, Sting’s burly eldest son, from his first marriage to actress Frances Tomelty, looks like a cross between his father and his friend Bruce Springsteen. And, to finish, of course, “Every breath you take” (1983), the song in capital letters by Sting, with those unmistakable arpeggiated ninth chords that also characterize “Message in a bottle” and “De do do do, de da da da”, something unusual in rock guitar (where fourths, fifths and sevenths dominate ) and which gives these songs a surprising and pleasant tonal sophistication at the same time. We must thank Dominic Miller who, without giving up his personal sound, largely respects the style of guitar that the great Andy Summers forged in the songs of The Police.
Already in the encores, “Roxanne” (1978), The Police’s first big hit, with Kevon Webster’s “reggae” keyboard and an insert of a Duke Ellington classic, “It doesn’t mean anything (If it doesn’t doesn’t have that swing)” (1931). A nod to Sting’s jazz roots and two of his influences, the aforementioned Duke of Jazz and singer Ella Fitzgerald.
The audience left Castrelos as if walking on the moon, almost weightless, after an hour and a half of musical ecstasy
Sting closes his decades-long gigs with “Fragile” (1987), and Vigo was no exception. The musician from Wallsend, the English town where Hadrian’s Wall ended, hence his name, left behind his old Fender Precision bass from 1957 and picked up the nylon string guitar to perform this song which at the time had a version with Spanish lyrics and this live also contains a tribute to Spanish music that goes unnoticed by almost everyone: towards the end of “Fragile”, Sting sketches the arpeggio with which he begins “Asturias (Leyenda)” (1890), by the composer of Girona Isaac Albeniz. It is likely that when he plays it this Monday in Girona, hardly anyone will notice this detail.
It didn’t matter that, with the exception of the three 2021 themes, all the others were literally from the last century. The audience left Castrelos as if walking on the moon, almost weightless, after an hour and a half of musical ecstasy. As his colleague Alberto Leyenda said, someone let me know if a better musician than Sting was playing in Castrelos in the next twenty years.