Having gone on the piss the night before, it’s a wonder that Sting was so on-form last week when he tore the, er, tent down at Cork’s Marquee. Expectations and delivery were perfectly aligned for all. This would be a night of continuous rock classics – the sort that we all fondly remember were inflicted on us as children and subconsciously moulded our music tastes.
Women want him, Dads want to be him. He well knows it by now, as he walks on stage with the bravado of a man that could probably take either your wife or daughter with a mere look in their direction. But there’s no time for that – it’s straight into the hits. Old favourites like If I Ever Lose My Faith and Message In a Bottle are immediately given to a craving audience, as Sting makes his way through a setlist of The Police and solo material spanning over his 35 year career. The relentless set is injected with dramatic improv-jams from his astounding backing band, rounded up with his experienced display of guitar control. It’s as invigorating and as comforting as a roadtrip with your Dad behind the wheel, his choice on stereo of course. It’s also as sedate, with most of the crowd choosing to sway and watch rather than relive the wild days.
The staging and lighting is kept pretty casual and stripped back. He’s past the clamour now, it’s shut up and play the hits. Along with this, though, comes a perceived fall in enthusiasm, as he parks himself in front of the mic. He talks us through his discography like we’re watching a documentary of his life, with longtime guitarist Dominic Miller and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta bringing the rock’n’roll with every sense of the words. Whether delicately purring out Fields of Gold to a stagnant crowd or belting Roxanne with bounce, they never let up, like seasoned pros.
The fact that we could overlook the cringe slapping of the bass during De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da confirms that Sumner’s still got it, and we’ve got a sneaky suspicion that he never lost it. We finish up with three encores, including the dramatic Desert Rose which pales against his former live sessions with a whole orchestra. Every Breath You Take and Fragile wrap up proceedings on a drowsy note. Sting may have nothing to prove, but everything about his showmanship glaringly says this.
He doesn’t get better with time, as wine does. He’s clearly slumped a little bit, adding character to songs where he might have lost the ability to faultlessly execute them. No, this is maturation more like a fine whiskey, drank in an evening coat accompanied by a cigar and a roaring fire under a moose mount.