I am always amazed by experiencing Sting performing live in concert. Sting has an incredible knack for creating an infinite number of new and compelling variations on his rich 25-year catalog of hit music. He never just rehashes his hits or performs them by wrote, he actively uses the fantastic musicians around him and his own life experience to innovate hip new arrangements that take each song to a whole new, truly new, level of intensity and meaning.
Sting appears on the stage for his Back to Bass Tour casually stripped down, with shaved head, zero body fat and wearing sheer gray T-Shirt and jeans. Sting appears relaxed yet energetic and completely in command of his band and the audience.
Sting has chosen such a small and an interesting group of players for this tour. Sting's right hand man, longtime guitarist, Dominic Miller, is on this tour, as well as Dominic's' 26 year old son, Rufus Miller. Rufus is a very good rhythm guitarist and already displays some of the handsome, pouty, nonchalant stage presence of a more seasoned player like his dad.
Drummer, Vinnie Colaiuta, is dynamite on the sticks, serving up some really great and tricked out yet solid rhythms for these arrangements. On backing vocals Jo Lawry, has a rich, dramatic vocal presence, and also provided fiddle and additional percussion, which is doubly impressive. The show stealer is another young musician, Peter Tickell, who brought our house to a roaring standing ovation with his fiddle solo during “Love is Stronger than Justice”. Tickell really is an amazing player, like a Stevie Ray Vaughn on the violin. I've seen other young people solo with great skill like Peter, but in that boring, cold and speedy, “music school” showing off sort of way. Tickell has the soul and rhythm to really feel out the emotional crescendo of his solo and it's catharsis and is a surprisingly mature, dead on rockin' and passionate player for his age.
I love that the Back to Bass Tour is utilizing smaller more intimate venues this time around. Sting has no difficulty projecting a great performance to a roaring outdoor crowd of 40,000, like with the Police Reunion Tour at Wrigley Field. However, I personally find that enjoying the superior quality of his voice and intricacies of his arrangements is so much more affecting in a smaller indoor venue.
Sting really is a master of transforming- or “trance- forming”- musical performance. The combination of his detailed, lyric story telling, ultra-rhythmic bass lines and intensive Yogic training over the years come together perfectly in a shaman like fashion, drawing the willing listener into a musical “trance” that is both entertaining and healing at the same time. I enjoy walking around after his concerts seeing the relaxed, happy, meditative looks on the faces of his satisfied audience members after the show.
Sting mentioned that he enjoys a great sense of “continuity when playing in Chicago, that it always feels like coming home to perform here.”
I feel a sense of continuity when Sting plays here as well because I have so many great memories of his concerts, meeting him and interviewing his band mates Dominic Miller and Chris Botti over the years.
In a way, Sting and Dominic gave me one of my very first breaks as a journalist when they allowed me to come backstage to do a live interview just 15 minutes before they ran out on stage in front of over 10,000 excited fans during the Sacred Love Tour.
I did not have my own Chicago magazine or PR firm established. Back then, I was writing for a teeny, tiny newspaper in Brookfield Illinois. My cameraman and I drove six hours from Chicago to Grand Rapids but we were a full hour late for the scheduled interview because we forgot about the time change in Michigan, but they still had the ushers lead me back into the dressing area to conduct the interview with only minutes to spare before curtain.
I remember I had undergone a disastrous tanning booth experience the day before hoping to look good for the meeting wherein the entire back of my body ended up with 3rd degree burns from double exposure and my front remained untouched and completely white. Now, I always make a point of giving my celebrity interview guests a big hug when we finish and I remember thinking, I don't care if it hurts- I am hugging Sting and Dominic for doing this interview- no matter what!
Then there was the wonderful, encouraging, 50 minute plus, phone interview that Chris Botti gave me just moments before taking the stage that night at Carnegie Hall. Chris Botti called me for the interview from Stings' condo in Manhattan, which Chris had just purchased from Sting and had barely moved into.
There are many wonderful and synchronistic events that I have experienced seeing Sting but the best has to be when he provided two wonderful seats to a rehearsal concert in Miami for my mother and I. My mother was having major health problems at that moment and I flew to Miami to help her.
For my mom, attending Sting's concert that night turned out to be a miraculous, healing, dream-like, turning point for her and I really am indebted to him on a soul level for reviving her. After that concert, Danny Quatrochi, Sting's personal bass assistant since The Police, hung out with my mom and I in the hotel bar and made her feel like the Belle of the Ball at the age of 73. The entire evening was amazingly generous and sweet.
Well, I could wax rhapsodic about more of my Sting-chronicity's over the years but I am sure with the shape Sting is in, there will be many more great concerts and mysterious dreams come to life in years to come.
I'll leave you with this about the show last night. Sting has a great practice of really allowing his players to shine and temporarily take the spotlight away from him on stage, but just in case you were starting to get distracted by all the bells and whistles of his band, Sting takes his last of three encores alone, with only his voice and an acoustic guitar filling the excited space.
When he does this, the energy in the room stays strong and climbs even higher, proving without a doubt that Sting's voice and compositions alone are the reason we have congregated here and that Sting's magnificent voice and songs really need no adornment whatsoever.
I highly recommend seeing the Sting, Back to Bass Tour. When it comes to your city in 2011.
The performance of Back to Bass that I attended here in Chicago at The Rosemont Theater was sheer concert perfection, a “must see” concert event of this season for any Sting fan.
For Tour dates through December of 2011 visit www.Sting.com.