Review + Photos + Setlist: Sting and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra Power Through the Heat, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, St. Louis, June 23, 2010

Jun 24, 2010 at 3:42 am

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click to enlarge Review + Photos + Setlist: Sting and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra Power Through the Heat, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, St. Louis, June 23, 2010
Annie Zaleski

At 58, Sting looked and sounded far younger than his age - from his tanned skin and tufts of spiky hair to his pristine voice. The latter is partially a function of song selection: While some of the earliest Police stuff does have prohibitively high notes, Sting's solo work in the last decade conforms to how his voice has aged. But most of the vocal prowess had to do with pure talent. Most singers of his age have started to lose range. Last night, though, he leapt to high notes and dabbled in vibrato, and never sounded hoarse or weak, even as the set progressed. He also appeared to be completely enjoying himself and seemed relaxed and comfortable with the orchestra; he was chatty and told stories between nearly every song.

This charm helped during the second set, when Sting made the audience earn "King of Pain" and "Every Breath You Take." Before playing the Police hits, he ran through several deep album cuts. "Moon Over Bourbon Street," from 1985's The Dream of the Blue Turtles, was a highlight. As footage of a full moon lazily moved across the stage screens, Sting put on a knee-length coat and disappeared into the song's main character, a vampire. He drew on his acting experience for evocative facial expressions, played the theremin like a deranged mad scientist and even howled like a werewolf at the song's end.

"You Will Be My Ain True Love," from the movie Cold Mountain, was also a standout; Sting vocal partner Lawry clicked on the lovely duet. Still, the pacing of this portion of the set dragged; the crowd seemed restless due to the lack of "hits," especially since the second act came after a nearly half-hour intermission.

click to enlarge Dominic Miller, left, Sting's guitarist - Annie Zaleski
Annie Zaleski
Dominic Miller, left, Sting's guitarist

But starting with a strong, rollicking version of "King of Pain" - which bizarrely fomented lots of frenzied, jubilant dancing, an incongruous response to the song's dour content - the night soared to its end. During "Every Breath You Take," several couples slow-danced in the aisle. Fans (mostly women) actually started crowding around the stage right before the encore, which provoked more spice than usual during an energetic "Desert Rose." Sting approached the horde of people, took a bouquet of flowers and playfully shimmied like a flamenco dancer around the stage -- much to the delight of the ladies in sight. The string flourishes swirling around the stage simply added to the dramatic sense of seduction.

Sting's commitment to reinvention is admirable. While it's not always successful - see elements of the Police reunion tour - he's not afraid to challenge himself. That's obviously keeping him creatively fulfilled and energized, which no doubt explains why Symphonicity was so close to nirvana.