Sting and Paul Simon
Amway Center / Orlando, FL 3.16.14
It's not often that two iconic singer/songwriters fuse their talents into one incredible performance, but that's exactly what Sting and Paul Simon achieved as they embarked upon the last night of their collaborative tour.
After a 30-minute delayed start, the music legends appeared on stage as Simon offered an apology and an amusing anecdote involving Sting and a razor mishap. Glancing around the 15,000-seat basketball arena, however, it seemed more likely that the show's delay stemmed from the half-vacant seats rather than the bleeding chin scenario. Nevertheless, the venue filled in and the show finally got underway at 8:30 with Sting and Simon together, backed by their respective bands, as they opened the show with the title track from Sting's 1999 Brand New Day. It offered a fun, lively, upbeat vibe to the impatient and restless audience, and as the two segued into Simon's "Boy in the Bubble," the show was off and running. As Sting explained, the tour was really an experiment to blend together two bands that had not worked together before. And work together, they did.
The night was intermingled with solo performances and duets, with no breaks in the 2 ½ hour action. Sting looked and sounded impeccable, backed by stellar musicians including long-time guitarist Dominic Miller and iconic drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, who Sting introduced as "probably the greatest drummer in the world." Sting chose to perform material from only four of his eleven solo albums, and many of them deeper than expected cuts. From 1987's Nothing Like the Sun, the politically-charged "They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo)" paid moving tribute to political prisoners worldwide who "disappear" and leave behind grieving loved ones. Also from the same record and as hauntingly beautiful as ever, Sting enraptured the crowd with "Fragile" while playing lead acoustic guitar and sharing vocals with Simon. "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You" and "Fields of Gold" covered Ten Summoner's Tales from 1993, with Paul Simon joining in on "Fields of Gold." "The Hounds of Winter" from Mercury Falling, Sting's 1996 effort, definitely was an unexpected treat enriched even more by backing vocalist Jo Lawry. Sting also performed "I Hung My Head" from the same album, a country song that he wrote and Johnny Cash recorded. Finally, off 1999's Brand New Day, Sting also belted out a powerful version of "Desert Rose."
Giving equal treatment to The Police days, the crowd delighted in hearing "Roxanne," off 1978's Outlandos d'Amour, "Walking on the Moon" and "Message in a Bottle" from 1979's Reggatta de Blanc, "Driven to Tears" (with a fabulous violin solo courtesy of Peter Tickell) from 1980's Zenyatta Mondatta, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" from 1981's Ghost in the Machine and "Every Breath You Take" off their final 1983 studio album, Synchronicity.
Following Sting's first solo set, Simon rejoined him on stage in a duet of "Mother and Child Reunion," after which Sting exited and Simon performed throughout the evening such perennial faves as "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Graceland," "Still Crazy After All These Years," "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "Hearts and Bones," "You Can Call Me Al," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," and a countrified version of "The Boxer" with Sting. Ever the storyteller, Sting described arriving in the United States when he was in his twenties and seeing an alligator for the first time in Florida. He described how Simon's "America" captured the wonder and awe of things to come, and proceeded to croon out a chilling version of the timeless classic accompanied by Lawry. The other real show-stopper was "Bridge Over Troubled Water," with Sting on most of the lead vocals and he absolutely slayed it. The show wrapped up at 11pm with the two singing "Every Breath You Take" and "Late in the Evening," rounded out by The Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved," no doubt in homage to the late Phil Everly.
As a diehard Police and Sting fan who has seen Sting perform many, many times, I truly can say that he is at the top of his game, and he has never sounded better. While Simon may no longer have the vocal chops he once possessed, it still was something special to see these two legends share a stage and to hear them perform their material together.