By JAMILA ROBINSON
It’s probably safe to put Sting in the incomparable category. With such a distinctive tenor that manages power, angst and even a bit of audacity, after all these years, he’s always reliable.
So, it speaks to the singer’s remarkable imagination, to reinvent some of his biggest hits, including “Roxanne” and “Englishman in New York,” into breathtaking classical arrangements performed alongside London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, an outfit he “borrowed from the Queen.”
At Monday night’s performance at Chastain Park Amphitheatre, Sting thanked her Highness, for the orchestra conducted by Stephen Mercurio. Fans echoed the sentiment as they were taken through a dazzling set list that had familiarity, (“King of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take.”) and underscored the depth of Sting’s songwriting talent in pop, jazz and country (“1,000 Years, “Hung My Head”).
As Sting himself noted onstage, working with an orchestra has helped him “excavate his work” for songs that might have been “forgotten” on his past albums.
Indeed, the Royal Philharmonic broadened some of Sting’s lesser known songs. On “Russians,” (from “Dream of the Blue Turtles”) the orchestra expanded on a melody Sting had already borrowed from Prokofiev, giving it a luxurious glory one would expect from a Russian march.
But just when you’d expect a big, symphonic arrangement, Sting performed a surprisingly stripped down “Roxanne,” showing the strength in its simplicity.
In a too quiet contrast, “Moon Over Bourbon Street” suffered with its complexity, which was decidedly clumsy. And there were moments where the orchestra overpowered the lone background vocalist. But that’s to be expected when the orchestra, and especially, its soloists on violin, cello, clarinet and trumpet, were the real stars.
On “Desert Rose,” a complicated, song already, Mercurio brought out the virtuosity of the strings. They zipped through the show-offy Middle East-inspired bridge. This loosened the musicians’ staid expressions, who bopped along with their violins and violas, matching the audience on its feet. See photos from show here.
Did you attend the show? If so, what did you think?