All my life I’ve known both my parents had more-than-mild music-boners for Sting. My dad would swoon every time Sting would hit a specific pitch or note and would repeatedly tell us, as if we had never heard him declare it before, how phenomenal his voice was. And phenomenal it was. And phenomenal it still is, after all these years.
I was lucky enough to snag two press passes through The Sandspur with Kyle McCoy to get to see Paul Simon and Sting perform live together at the Amway Center. Although getting to go to any big concert for free is always an amazing thing, this was exceptionally special for me personally. I grew up listening to Sting – countless car rides were filled listening to the same Police CD over and over again with my parents jamming out in the front seat; back in the comfort of home, my dad would often put his favorite Sting album in the speakers and would dance about while cooking or folding laundry. Other times, my mother would play Simon & Garfunkel while driving us to school or events.
Hearing that voice again, live, after having not heard The Police or Sting for some time, brought me immediately back to my childhood. I was grinning uncontrollably for most of the show and I felt as if my family was with me spiritually for every song. I could just picture my dad’s goofy grin next to mine. Sometimes when I caught myself in the reflection of a window or pair of glasses at the Amway Center, I mistook my own stupid grin for his. It didn’t help that the venue was more or less packed with “moms and dads” that all were sharing the same “mom and dad” grin of youthful nostalgia. It was a weird experience knowing that all of these people who were old enough to be my parents (or grandparents) had also grown up with Sting’s voice in their head. It’s cool how music connects people like that, and with the modern, fragmented, and personalized music scene, it’s not something that happens very often anymore.
I have to be honest – as great as Paul Simon is (and he is great), Sting absolutely blew him out of the water. The two sang about a third of their songs together on stage and then took time off each to let the other perform solo for about an hour. From what I saw and heard, whenever Sting was on stage with Simon, he vastly enhanced and embellished the songs they shared; the same could not be said for Simon in regards to his effect on Sting. The two made a joke about it on stage, with Simon commenting on how much he’d changed and learned over the course of the tour, while when being asked if he had done the same, Sting wryly quipped, “No, not really.”
In fact, the best way I can paint watching the two on stage together would be to say it was like watching an elegant, Elrond-like elf perform alongside a very Bilbo-like hobbit. Whereas Sting was tall, outrageously fit for his age, and sensual, Simon was in full “karaoke dad” mode and just generally having a good time on stage and working the crowd. He had a really fun banter with an adorable eight year old in the front row. The background singers and performances were all incredible, the female background vocalist and saxophonist particularly shining.
My parents seldom go to concerts, and they treated themselves a few months ago and saw the same concert in Seattle when the tour passed through, so when I told them I snagged tickets to the Orlando show they excitedly gave me warning of how incredible it was. Yet, when the music started and Sting first opened his mouth, I was still stunned at how incredible of a voice he’s maintained all these years. It’s equal parts silky and rough, like desert sand, and his guitar playing and dancing fluid like water. Thinking back on the greatest performers in music, such as Freddy Mercury and Michael Jackson, I think it is only fair to say that Sting has earned his place amongst their company, with few other names coming to mind. If I pass you by on campus over the next week and you hear me singing to myself, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” I’m not sorry.