Star rating: ****
Wednesday 15th April 2015
Still crazy after all these years? Not quite, at 73 and 63 respectively, but Paul Simon and Sting, ‘On Stage Together’, combined to put on a show that was often exciting and lively in the vocal and musical delivery as the duo breathed fresh life into their much loved old hits.
Unbelievably and somewhat ironically, considering I predominantly write comedy reviews, the first song of the night was ‘Brand New Day’ which contains the oft repeated line “stand up”. I wasn’t that familiar with this song, but enjoyed it and it got proceedings of to a good start. No jokes mind, just good music that got the huge crowd of 20,000 going.
Paul Simon and Sting then combined on one of the big Police hits, ‘So Lonely’ alternating lines between one another. This is a great song and really got the audience involved. I was at first bemused when half-way through a musician started playing a gigantic tuba. It looked like it was being done for comedy effect (a comedy link had to come in somewhere), but you soon realise he was a seriously good musician who brought a refreshing twist to a wonderful old crowd favourite. It’s amazing how such a sad song can manage to sound so cheerily upbeat and feel good. That is something of a speciality of Sting, most memorably pulled off in ‘Every Breath You Take’, which many assumed was a love song, but is really anything but.
The alternating of lines didn’t work so well for me as I find Sting to be such a powerful, sonorous singer and one is naturally so much more used to hearing him sing this song. The delivery from Paul is comparatively rapid as opposed to vocally stretching the lyrics out to showcase his voice, hence it didn’t quite work as effectively as it could have.
It was great to hear Englishman in New York. This was the first song to really get the crowd go, dare we say so, ‘crazy after all these years.’ To be fair that takes some doing, as the audience profile ranged from teenagers to men and women in their 50’s and 60’s. The predominant age group was probably 40-50+. I for one reflected on this during the show, realising I’d been watching Sting for a good 35 years since first seeing The Police back in 1980 at Bingley Hall, Stafford.
Paul Simon’s fans are understandably of an even older vintage than your typical Police/Sting fan as he’s 73 and co-incidentally shares the same birthday as our late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (13th October). Both performers have October birthdays in fact, something they joked about on stage.
After 40+ years of performing both of these artists could be forgiven for coming across as a bit jaded re the whole event, but I didn’t get that sense at all. Both seemed genuinely enthusiastic to entertain and appeared to be greatly enjoying themselves. I think for both this was their first time playing the O2 and I guess playing at the world’s most popular concert venue must have been a thrill even for these two guys who’ve been there, done that, having played at arenas all over the world.
Sting’s voice sounded simply fantastic throughout the show. It is a powerful, loud, instrument all on its own. To hear him live is something else and in a huge arena like the O2 you really have to just listen and appreciate the brilliance of what you are hearing.
The musicians were absolutely first class. They were a joy to hear adding musical talent to match that of the two world famous singer-song writers performing in front of them. The violinist on ‘Driven to tears’ was superb and the violin effect was another great variation on a well known Police song which kept things interesting for fans, and doubtless these performers too, well used to reciting the familiar versions of their songs.
The stage was a bit too busy for my liking. Both acts had their own bands so to say the stage was jam packed would be a massive understatement. Some collaboration on that area could have fixed that, but perhaps that was just not wanted or was too complicated to arrange.
One of the big Police number one’s ‘Walking on the Moon’ sounded majestic and easily acquired full audience participation too. Sting doesn’t even have to ask the audience to join in. Such is the familiarity and love for the song, the audience just knows when to join in.
Paul Simon’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ was very well received. People just got into it at once and were happily clapping along to the song. From here on, Sting left the stage to Paul Simon as he went through various well know hits such as ‘Graceland’ and ’50 ways to leave your lover’ – loved the gorgeous sound of this, with the metronic drum beat percussing away in the background.
‘Still crazy after all these years’ wasn’t so good, sounding far too quiet. There were a few too many quiet numbers, particularly in the final hour (it was a 3 hour show – no interval) that resulted in pace getting too slow and too relaxed for my liking and that I think of many in the audience. Perhaps an interval mid-way through would have been useful to break up proceedings. I’ve never been a Paul Simon fan and this showing is not going to persuade me otherwise, though speaking to some fans after the show, they were happy with his performance. It’s a curious thing having a double billing like this as you’re playing to two different audiences and hoping they will enjoy both artists.
Paul’s ‘Diamonds on the sole of my feet’ was a good foot stomping number that got everyone clapping and stamping away. Fragile, Roxanne and Desert Rose from Sting were also very well received. The Middle Eastern influenced ‘Desert Rose’ was unique in its sound, always one of Sting’s most unusual sounding songs. I think the only thing that could have improved it and made it funny (probably not the intention), would have been to have Omid Djalili come on and belly dance his way through it! Maybe next time!!
© Tiemo Talk of the Town