A postcard perfect San Diego evening under the stars was the setting for legendary songwriter Sting to deliver a wonderfully entertaining and intimate performance showcasing many of his biggest hits with both The Police and his solo career. The 71-year-old artist has previously taken his My Songs tour all over the world, most recently a string of European dates this summer. Finally making it to San Diego, Sting was warmly greeted by an excited sell-out crowd at Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theater.
Opening the show was Sting’s son, Joe Sumner. Playing acoustic guitar accompanied by only a drummer and violinist, Sumner delivered a stripped down set – enthusiastic, upbeat and light-hearted. The 46 year old is certainly a chip off the old block in both resemblance and voice to his dad, displaying an impressive vocal range. Sumner just released a new album October 6th, which I’d describe as upbeat soft rock. A perfect opening set to help get the fans ready for dad!
With the 4,500+ fans warmed up, Sting was ready to take the audience on a musical journey celebrating his songwriting craftsmanship over the last 45 years. Sting strolled out, waving to the crowd as his band kicked off into “Message in a Bottle,” the crowd cheering in approval. Using a headset microphone, Sting freely strolled back and forth onstage, playing bass and displaying that amazing unique voice that was impressive as ever.
As the large video backdrop changed to the New York City skyline, Sting seamlessly transitioned into “Englishman in New York,” then picked up the tempo with “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” and “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.” The backing band was quite talented; two outstanding backing singers, a backing vocalist / harmonic player, keyboardist, drummer, and guitar.
My favorite aspect of the show was Sting often explaining the next song’s meaning or inspiration behind it. For example, prior to “Loving You,” Sting noted that the least interesting love songs are, I love you and you love me. “Very nice but boring,” he explained. “There is no way inside that as a songwriter. Whereas ‘I love you, but you love somebody else,’ now that’s interesting. It’s painful, but interesting.” We also learned that “Fields of Gold” was inspired by the rolling hills of barley fields that surround Sting’s home in the English countryside. “At harvest time I’m surrounded by a sea of gold waving in the wind. One day I thought, there’s a song here.” Sting shared that “Shape of My Heart” was about a professional gambler who was, “also something of a philosopher, of course, all gamblers become philosophers… eventually.”
There were dozens of fun moments throughout the evening. During “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” there is a line, “You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians,” followed by Sting smirking, eliciting cheers of agreement from the audience. Prior to “Brand New Day,” Sting explained one of his favorite parts of this song when recording was the great Steve Wonder playing harmonica. Sting walked up to his harmonica player Shane Sager and playfully asked, “It’s Steve Wonder; are you absolutely sure you’re up to this?” Sager responds with a coy yet confident, “Yes.” Sure enough, Sager killed it with skillful, impressive playing throughout the song.
My premonition that it would be cool to see Sting’s son join his dad onstage soon came true. During the second verse of “King of Pain,” Joe emerged to join dad for an entertaining duet of the 1983 smash hit on The Police’s final studio album. Next was a rousing version of the iconic classic “Every Breath You Take,” followed by fan favorite, “Roxanne.”
Sting ended the show sitting on a stool with just an acoustic guitar and performed “Fragile” from his album “Nothing Like the Sun.” As I walked out of the theater, I noticed dozens of resourceful people without tickets had brought lawn chairs and sat outside the venue to enjoy the audio aspect of the show.
What a testament on the popularity and impact Sting continues to have on generations of music fans.