Sting put in an inspiring performance at the Olimpiisky Sports Center June 4. In fact, I was even able to put aside as possibly prejudicial my habitual antipathy to what I have also considered Sting's relatively bland post-Police middle-of-the-road work but I rather enjoyed myself and, surprisingly, a lot of his later music as well.
Sting (born Gordon Sumner) is one of the few stars who came to fame in the heady days of the late-70s/early-80s British punk rock/New Wave explosion (falling decidedly into the latter camp) and who continue to have a significant public presence in later life. This is due to a large extent, no doubt, to his unquestioned musical ability. He started out playing bass, where he earned his stripes (and moniker, given to him because of the yellow-and-black hooped sweater he used to wear) playing around jazz clubs in his native Wallsend, and he has, in his solo career, consistently tried to incorporate elements of that musical genre into a pop-rock format.
Although he came on almost a half-hour late, the crowd which packed both the floor before the stage and the stands themselves greeted the star enthusiastically and did not seem disappointed. Though Sting's repertoire of Russian words seemed limited to "spasibo" and "Moskva," this didn't prevent the audience from responding emphatically to both the man himself and the songs he played.
These were drawn primarily from his solo career, but an obligatory selection of hits from the "less is more" white-boy reggae of the Police were included in the set as well after all, a crowd of devout Sting concert-goers would be more likely to lynch than applaud him if denied a rendition of their beloved "Roxanne." Another old number played was "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around," which the band jazzified by reworking it around an extended improvised keyboard solo. (I sat around waiting for an additional encore, hoping for "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da," but alas, this classic ode to incomprehensibility was not to be forthcoming.)
Additional highlights of the evening included an elegant version of his Quentin Crisp-inspired "A Gentleman in New York" and Sting's homage to the eroticised vampiric heroes of Ann Rice, "Moon Over Bourbon Street."
All in all, an evening well spent. I may even have been so impressed I'll actually go out and spend some money on some of his newer CDs. No, on second thought, it still sounds watered-down as a recording.