By Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer
Photos by Fred Kuhlman
When I took my seat at Arizona Financial Theatre on Monday Oct. 9 to see Sting, I kept thinking back to Sept. 8, 1983. I had just turned 13 a week before, and my cousin and I are seeing The Police for the first time on the Synchronicity tour at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
For those Arizonans who were there, you may recall the two opening acts as well, Madness and Thompson Twins— for better or worse. But that’s another topic for another day.
Anyway, there were two bands that arguably ruled rock radio and the touring circuit that year: The Police and Journey. Simply put, it was a great time to be a young music fan. In retrospect, there really was something for everyone during that decade.
Fast forward to the summer of 1985, and Sting delivers his solo debut album The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Little did I know then that this would be the start of a four-decade long career for Sting that could rightly be judged on its own merits— to his credit I might add.
Frankly, it isn’t too often that you see any musician split from a very successful band (like The Police) at its absolute height only to go solo and achieve (maybe?) even greater success on their own. Sting is one of a small handful of artists who have achieved this kind of milestone, if you will.
Full disclosure my friends: although I prefer Sting’s work with The Police a lot more, make no mistake: there are plenty of fans who do prefer Sting on his own. A few of them that I spoke with before the show made that very clear to me. To that point, I say… fair enough.
Kicking off a 2-hour, 24-song set with The Police classic Message In A Bottle (from 1979’s Regatta De Blanc), Sting immediately got the crowd on its feet. Looking healthy, happy, and ready to rock, he then goes into his first solo song of the night, Englishman In New York (from arguably his best solo album overall, …Nothing Like The Sun).
Next up, it’s Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (from The Police’s finest hour, 1981’s Ghost In The Machine). There’s only one thing I can say about this: it’s still one of the greatest pop singles of the 1980s— period.
Interestingly, the only song Sting performed from the aforementioned Blue Turtles album was its first single, If You Love Somebody Set Them Free. Needless to say, it went down a storm with the Phoenix audience.
Before I go on, I’d like to give a thumbs-up to Sting’s exceptional band that featured guitarist Dominic Miller (who had a cool Deep Purple t-shirt on I might add), keyboardist Kevon Webster, backing vocalists Melissa Musique and Gene Noble, Shane Sager on harmonica, and drummer Zach Jones.
I can understand why Sting had such a great time onstage, given the talent he’s surrounded himself with on this tour.
When I think about, if nothing else, Sting is definitely prolific. The next three songs in the set were from his latest studio album The Bridge (from 2021). If It’s Love, Loving You, and Rushing Water receive polite applause. Still, it’s nice to see that Sting continues to write new material consistently. Perhaps we’ll hear more new music from him in the not-too-distant future?
Back to more familiar territory, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You and Fields of Gold (from 1993’s Ten Summoner’s Tales) still resonate with fans thirty years later. No less than four songs were performed from this album, more than any other Sting album on this particular night.
Of course, there’s always some dry-humored banter during a Sting show, and this show was no exception. He spoke briefly about his love for country music, specifically naming the legendary Buck Owens and the Buckaroos as a prime example.
Unfortunately, that led him into the embarrassing I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying (from 1996’s Mercury Falling), a song that Sting eventually re-recorded as a duet with Toby Keith the following year. I’ll just say I won’t go any further on that.
I also won’t mince words. I think it’s a shame that, given the immense talent of vocalist Melissa Musique, it’s a travesty that We’ll Be Together wasn’t in the set. In short order, she would’ve nailed that song, and the audience would’ve gone into a frenzy—mark my words.
While I’m at it, I also think it’s a no-brainer for Sting to add Fortress Around Your Heart and Be Still My Beating Heart to the set. The latter in particular is essential Sting, if not quintessential. But I digress.
Another song that was noticeably absent was one of Sting’s most criminally underrated singles of his career, Send Your Love. I know, given the sizable catalog of music that Sting has, it’s impossible to please everyone. More importantly, I respect the fact that he plays a fair amount of hits and obscure songs for hardcore fans.
I was a little surprised that the set included no less than eight songs from The Police. The timely and poignant Invisible Sun, followed by Walking On The Moon and So Lonely got the crowd on its feet once again.
Of course, Sting knows he can’t leave the stage until he plays Every Breath You Take (from 1983’s Synchronicity) which ends the main set. 40 years later, it remains a timeless classic.
On this one, Sting proudly duets with his opening act Joe Sumner. Yes, that’s Sting’s son I’m referring to. He also joined dad for King of Pain before that.
The night concluded with a two-song encore of Roxanne and Fragile, an intensely moving song about grief and loss from …Nothing Like The Sun. It was a somber, yet somehow fitting, end to a satisfying night of music for most of the younger Boomer/older Gen X audience.
The final verdict? 3.5 out of five stars. A good time overall.
Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved
Photos by Fred Kuhlman 2023, All Rights Reserved