MANHATTAN, NY—Sting’s backup band provided the edgy muscle to the man’s catalog taking on pop, punk, reggae, worldbeat and rock into a two-hour set that focused on his latest album, 57th And 9th, for the final show of his tour. Playing to the faithful who endured the blizzard of 2017, Sting and his band, including members of The Last Bandoleros, delivered the goods like a well-oiled machine as they added some spicy Tex-Mex to the man’s pop overtures.
Looking like a gym rat and sporting a black tee, pants and boots that complemented his minimalistic finger style playing on a well-worn Fender bass, the four-piece backup band kept things simple as the players left a lot of room for the instruments to breathe through.
Opening act The Last Bandoleros, from San Antonio, stuck around and added vocals and some squeezebox to the mix. Sting’s son Joe Sumner, who opened the night, played guitar and sang harmonies while guitarist Dominic Miller’s son Rufus shared leads on some numbers, making the night a family affair.
They added a youthful vibe to a setlist of Police tunes as well as some other gems from Sting’s catalog, but the night belonged to the new album that showcased the Newcastle native’s poppier, more aggressive side. By the time they laced into the first one from 57th And 9th “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” they were in command, grinding out the chunky riffage and melodic hooks of the Police’s heyday.
Opening on acoustic guitar with “Heading South Down The Great North Road” from the new one with son Joe and The Last Bandoleros, Sting retreated backstage as the opening acts took over. On their last number, Sting joined onstage on tambourine and background vocals then exited, declaring he’d be back in 10.
The band openers “Synchronicity II” and “Spirits In The Material World” satisfied the crowd’s bloodthirst for some Police numbers as they pulled at the band’s catalog and stayed true to the originals. The autobiographical “Englishman In New York” took a jazzy walk uptown, then boomed downtown to thunderous beats and on back through the refrain to “Be yourself, no matter what they say,” like a mantra from the King of Pain.
On “50,000” he took on his own mortality with a confessional blend of Neil Young whimsy on the chorus of, “Rock stars don’t ever die they only fade away.” “Fields Of Gold” was inspired by his country residence in a castle near Stonehenge in England. The rocker “One Fine Day” was dedicated to the EPA. On it, Sting took on the state of the environment with a cautionary warning.
“Shape Of My Heart,” about a “philosopher and a gambler,” showcased the father and son duets as the Millers traded guitar leads off each other and the Sumners shared vocal mics. “Roxanne” took a side trip into Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and roared on back to a fiery ending as the guitar, bass and drums syncopated into a tightly driven fusion of reggae rock. On “Next To You,” the song’s crunchy edges were nicely rounded out by the full-bodied harmonies of The Last Bandoleros and Sumner.
“Empty Chairs,” from the movie Jim: The James Foley Story, that Sting played at this year’s Academy Awards, was introduced as an “ode to an American avatar, who gave his life in pursuit of the truth,” and, “we’re now living in an era where the truth is under attack.” The poignant acoustic number settled the crowd down for the snowy walk back home in the quiet city like a bedtime lullaby from 34th and 8th.