Before the lights even dimmed, he sauntered out on stage, barely giving the ecstatic audience time to recognize who he was. But his energy and presence couldn’t be mistaken. Sting was about to take us on a musical journey unique to only his talent, charisma, and perpetual youth.
Sting’s playfulness, his ease performing, and his effortless cool, creates an intimate setting for his concert. His passion is unfiltered and spreads across the audience through his sound, revealing just how much he loves what he does. His stage presence is light. He punctuates songs with little dances and silly quips with the audience. He would raise his guitar above his head, and pick at the strings from the bottom of its frame. His age-defying appearance and countenance may stem from his disciplined loyalty to yoga, but it combines with a foundationally youthful spirit. He throws smiles at the audience while singing, playing the guitar and playing with us, singing every song as if he feels the emotions they come with for the first time.
His music has no set listeners, and the audience at Mohegan Sun this past Saturday night was a clear reflection of how his following has no generational boundaries. There were families, as well as young couples who swayed in each other’s arms to his slower songs, and older singles/couples who mouthed every word as the long-time loyal fans they were. Everyone was there for one purpose. To see the music they love performed directly from its source. Nothing is more uniting and lawless than that wish, crossing age gaps and stereotypes without thought. We all felt the same enthusiasm at the first chords of “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”.
When it comes to musical performance, the concert did not fail to amaze, and transport us completely. I happen to believe that the goal of a concert, on the musician’s part, is to bring the audience into the purpose of their music, to control their feelings, to have them understand the attempted emotional message of the music by simply giving them those emotions. Explanations needed or not, to simply relay the feeling through the music. Sting managed this, and more. The Mohegan Sun Arena’s perfect size/shape for intimacy and acoustics didn’t hurt either.
Sting succeeded in portraying his own feeling through his talent, but he shared the stage with several others who deserved the opportunity to transfix the audience as well. He introduced each of them early in the show-Dominic Miller, his long time guitarist, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, David Sancious on keyboard, Jo Lawry on vocals, and Peter Tickell on the fiddle, violin and mandolin. Each musician had his or her time in the spotlight, with Sting stepping side stage to marvel the talent as well. His pride and appreciation for his band was humbling, and showed something special about the artist. His fame and recognition had not at all blinded him from recognizing fellow genius and honoring it. Sting encourages it, and his enthusiasm about sharing the stage made the entire concert infinitely more enjoyable and filled with musical amazement.
He revealed one of his ambitions, winking at the audience, making every member feel like a secret was being shared with them-“I eventually want to write a decent country song…but I’m from England. North England.” He began playing the song that received widespread country genre recognition when covered by the “late, great” Johnny Cash, “I Hung My Head”. The end of the song led to an awe-inspiring jam session by Sting, Miller, and Tickell. The three of them went all out, playing with and off each other the way only three amazing musicians who admire and understand each other could. The outcome, to the ecstasy of the audience, was magic. Sting seemed especially proud to highlight Peter Tickell’s genius, for which he got several standing ovations. The young performer, from Sting’s hometown, is an absolute master with the violin. He went through so many bows throughout the show, destroying them with his passion. The young protégé was stunning to watch.
It was incredible to witness the power Sting held over the arena Saturday night. When he introduced a song: “…about the fields of bolly that surrounded my house in England-looked like a sea of gold,” a wave of nostalgia and tenderness struck all of us sitting in front of him. Every member of the audience sang “Fields of Gold” as if we imagined the view from his cottage window with him. I cried during “Shape of my Heart”, struck as I always am by the incredible lyrics of the song, and emotionally affected by his live performance of them. To prove his astounding musical range, I found myself dancing right after the tears to his red-lit saucy live rendition of “Desert Rose”.
But what was possibly the best part of Sting’s concert was his hesitancy to leave us. Most performers do an encore. Some even give two. But the very rare artist runs back on stage after their thank-yous and goodbyes THREE times. I truly believe the band and Mohegan Sun Arena employees were not in the loop about his desire to run on a third time. Which made me as a fan, and as an audience member, feel that much more appreciated. But the singer needed to just give one last song, leave us with one last emotion and his best wishes. For this he chose the song “Fragile”, one to tug heartstrings one last time before departing. It was his personal gift to us. He said a final goodbye after that, leaving us with “I will see you soon.”