It’s been a four-year wait. Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Dressed, appropriately for someone with his name, in a bright yellow jacket and black trousers, Sting finally brought his ‘My Songs’ tour to Bonn’s Kunstrasen on Sunday and a full house of around 9000 people was there to sing along, and let the man from Wallsend wrap them around his finger.
Support act Jack Lukeman summed it up nicely. “Enjoy Sting. Has it been four years, or four hundred you’ve been waiting?” It certainly seems like centuries since the first show was cancelled in 2019 due to Sting having throat problems. Then of course came Covid… All forgotten within a minute of the opener, a rocking ‘Message in a Bottle’. There followed 90 minutes of Sting, sailing through hit after hit. No in-between-song chit-chat, not even time for a break via letting his excellent band do their own thing for a bit. Pure Sting, pure magic.
We had two support acts to enjoy: Sting’s son Joe Sumner who has good songs in his set and a voice that made you wonder if Sting himself was singing off-stage somewhere.
Jack Lukeman was really the perfect opener, with a set primed for warming up an audience with lots of participation and a fine Irish sense of humour. It’s difficult not to sing along with ‘You Are My Sunshine’ at the best of times and Lukeman’s own ‘King of Soho’ was equally irresistible, with everyone singing along to the title. ‘Old Man River’ – How low can your voice go? Was there ever a man born to entertain? If so his name is Lukeman. Check him out.
The first ‘person’ on the stage after Jack Lukeman gave us a cowboy-hatted wave of goodbye was Ludwig Van Beethoven himself. Well, a miniature gold-painted Ludwig at least, and he certainly stayed until the end too, although I can’t imagine anyone leaving after the next man came on…
You name it and there’s a good chance he played it. ‘Englishman in New York’, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’, Fields of Gold, ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger”Every Breath You Take’. The sheer breadth of Sting‘s musical catalogue comes home to you at a time like this. Almost hit overload. For those who were ‘pixel-peeping’ where the songs were concerned, I can only think of ‘Moon Over Bourbon Street’ that didn’t get a look in.
You had to feel for poor Shane Sager, as Sting pointed out to the young blues harp player that no less a superstar than Stevie Wonder played the original intro on ‘Brand New Day’. Did Sagar think he was up to it? The answer came in a perfect take of Wonder’s distinctive melodic style, and indeed, Sagar proved throughout the evening he could handle any musical stlye that Sting threw his way. Sting’s challenge was followed by a broad smile, he was obviously having fun and continued in the same spirit when introducing long-time guitarist Rufus Miller… “Rufus has been with me for a long, long time – so I’ve brought his son Dominic into the band too. Just to be safe…!”
The Miller’s weren’t the only father and son act on stage tonight either. Sting’s own son, Joe Sumner, kicked off the evening alone as a solo act but showed true ‘team spirit’ by sharing vocals with his father on ‘King of Pain‘ and bringing plenty of additional energy to the song.
Backing singer Gene Nobel stepped stage front to add an extra smooth texture to the schmalzy ballad ‘Shape of my Heart’. But otherwise it was up to the ex-Policeman to do the singing, and his voice, though maybe a touch deeper, remains strong as ever.
There were a couple of numbers from the new disc, with Sting whistling the intro to ‘If It’s Love’ and quickly asking the audience – “what do you call that in German?”. Maybe 5000 people advised back “Pfeifen!”. Stings smile suggested he probably knew the answer anyway, but was testing if the audience was still with him before he introduced some new songs. The audience was very audibly still with him. ‘Rushing Water’ was also accepted with vigourous applause – but then could The Man do any wrong tonight? When I first heard Mary Black singing ‘Fields of Gold’ at a concert years ago I thought it was a Folk standard from a bygone century – only to find it was written by Sting. The only other songwriter with such genius that springs to mind is Shane MacGowan. A beautiful song for a beautiful evening by the Rhine.
The applause was always a touch louder for the old Police numbers though. Perfect Pop masterpieces with the lightest sprinkle of Ska/Reggae that gave the Band its unique 70’s sound. In 2022 songs like ‘Every Little Thing’, ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ and ‘So Lonely’ have picked up a jazzier feel that prevents them from sounding dated.
With ‘Every Breath You Take’ the regular set came to a close, with time for just two more slices of Sting magic. ‘Roxanne’ is still being told she doesn’t have to put on the red light and sell her body to the night even after forty-four years. She still sounds pretty sprightly for her age too on this evening’s version. Show over, time to go home? Not quite.
The stage lights all disappear, except for a half dozen blue bulbs. They are joined by another primary colour, the yellow of a leather jacket. The space that a moment ago held the sound of 9000 people applauding loudly is suddenly silent.
“On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are how fragile we are”
And the singer is right. How fragile we all are. How lucky too that Gordon Sumner can find the words again and again to describe that fragility. It’s what he’s been doing for a half-century. We’ve all taken giant steps into the unknown with our lives, loves and careers. We’ve all felt that moment that some special person’s every breath is magic, We’ve all faced times feeling physically or mentally that we are the King of Pain. We’ve all needed a song by Sting at some time. Tonight we relived those feelings and those songs that shaped our lives and in many cases made it explainable/survivable. Thank you Englishman in Bonn!