Entertainment :: Music

Paul Simon & Sting: On Stage Together

by Louise Adams
Thursday Feb 20, 2014
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Paul Simon and Sting team up to make music
Paul Simon and Sting team up to make music  (Source:billboard.com)

Aging white boomers were out in force, in pleather pants, for the somewhat odd but overall effective mash-up of "Paul Simon & Sting: On Stage Together," held Feb. 18 at San José’s SAP Center, a "reunion tour although we never played together before," as characterized by Sting.

Following the success of other retro pairings such as Elton John and Billy Joel (musicians who actually write thoughtful lyrics, skillfully play instruments and don’t need Auto-Tune), this tour showcases the individual and combined strengths of the longtime New York City neighbors. However, their coming-of-musical-age on opposite sides of the pond led each to disparate styles in a time when commercial music actually sounded different.

Although both deeply influenced by African-American rhythms, the former Police front man tends towards reggae’s syncopation while Art Garfunkel’s more multi-disciplinary partner borrows more from his "Graceland" collaborators Ladysmith Black Mambazo and southern American roots rhythms.

Sting is aging well. At 62, his long-sleeved, skin-tight black shirt and skinny jeans revealed his still-muscular body and could barely contain his tantric energy as he energetically interacted with the audience while switching electric basses.

A decade older, shorter Simon is a bit paunchy, gray where Sting is sexy bald, but still showed his impressive acoustic chops as he connected with the large supporting band, which included guitars (lead, bass, slide), horns (trumpet, French), all kinds of saxes, strings (violin, cello), two drum kits, bongos, a penny whistle, accordion and washboard for "Zydeco," various synths and a Hammond B3.

Sting called the pairing "a reunion tour although we never played together before."

The show started with Simon and Sting together, singing "Brand New Day," "Boy in the Bubble" and "Fields of Gold." Then Sting soloed on "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," "An Englishman in New York," "I Hung My Head" (by Sting but recorded by Johnny Cash), and "Driven to Tears."

The pair performed "Walking on the Moon" and "Mother and Child Reunion." Their combined timbres didn’t quite mix, but worked. Sting remains raspy but still hits the high notes. Simon modulated lower, but maintained resonant interpretations.

Simon and his crew then played "50 Ways," "Dazzling Blue" (with appropriate-colored lighting), "Graceland," "Still Crazy" (he was), and "Me and Julio." Sting rejoined for "Fragile," then sang Simon’s "Look for America" by himself, saying it reminded him of his first tours of this massive country, before launching into "Message in a Bottle," "Hounds of Winter," "They Dance Alone," "Roxanne" (with appropriate-colored lighting), and "Desert Rose."

The duo delivered "The Boxer" together, then Simon offered "Hearts and Bones," "Obvious Child," "Diamonds" and "Call Me Al." The final combo songs were "Every Breath You Take" and "Late in the Evening." To end the night, Sting and Simon sang a haunting acoustic version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Their encore "When Will I Be Loved?" was dedicated to Phil Everly, who died in January. The piped-in, post-show piece was Sinatra’s version of "Mrs. Robinson." Coo coo ca-choo.

Sting released his album "The Last Ship" in September, and will soon preview the stage musical version in Chicago, followed by a Broadway run. Simon released his 12th studio album "So Beautiful or So What" in 2011. Both remain consummate craftsmen who scratch different itches.

"Paul Simon & Sting: On Stage Together" performed on Feb. 18 at the SAP Center, 525 W. Santa Clara Street, San José, CA. For information and tickets for upcoming tour dates -- including Feb. 25 in Chicago, March 3 in Boston, March 4 and 6 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, March 7 in Philly, March 13 in DC, and concluding on March 16 in Orlando -- visit http://www.simonandstingtour.com/

Louise Adams is a writer, actor, educator, yogini and nom de guerre. @MzzzAnthrope

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