A stinging review – still good, but he doesn’t know | Stinging

Sting opened her set with Russians, a 1985 single about the cold war which she had reworked and reissued to raise funds for Ukrainian relief charities. “I barely played it in years, because I thought it wasn’t relevant anymore,” he sighed. “But, considering the recent events…”

Accompanied only by Ukrainian cellist Yaroslava Trofymchuk, a 70-year-old man dressed in black sang the chorus of the song and the solemn main message: “Russia loves their children too.” He warns us: “Don’t forget, many brave Russians protested this war.”

It can be awkward, but Sting carries it through with its apparent sincerity and, above all, its haunting melody, partially pulled from Prokofiev. It’s a strong start for the veteran star’s six-night London Palladium residency as part of a delayed world tour due to Covid which he dubs My Song.

Sting has always been a divisive figure. Since his faux-punk days in the Police, he has become a consummate musician, cleverly weaving elements of rock, jazz, reggae and global musical styles into punchy pop songs. Problem? It was all too obvious how well she knew him.

The agility that Sting uses to share the heavyweight Police Message in a Bottle and Every Little Thing He Does is Magic early in the set easily falls into arrogance. He tends to distill these sharp-eyed tunes, with hooks to hang your hat, into freeform jazz.

The new songs If It’s Love and Rushing Water, from his lock-in album The Bridge, are beautifully honed exercises in classy adult rock that we all want to take as seriously as they take themselves. Sting occasionally glanced up from between his cheekbones, to make sure we appreciated how smart he was.

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There are so many noodles. The rhythm that emerges from Walking on the Moon to Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up and Sting looks very, very white. Roxanne remains a masterclass in sublime pop alchemy but can’t emerge unscathed from sub-Cleo Laine’s dirty singing bout.

Every Breath You Take’s slender threat still resonates 40 years later and, as a composer of infectious nugget pop, Sting is virtually matchless. But you leave Palladium knowing that if he can eat himself, he will.

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