Want to see how real musicians age gracefully? Take Sting, 64, and Peter Gabriel, 66. Their “Rock Paper Scissors” tour– which launched this week in Columbus, Ohio– hit Jones Beach on Long Island with storm force last night. The two singer songwriter rockers, the heavier thinkers who were once on the Amnesty International tours together–held the stage for three hours literally without missing a beat.
They introduced themselves as “Peter and Gordon”– and then went on to mop the stage with alternating hits. Many times they sang or played on each others’ songs, or took secondary roles while the other lead. The fact that their song catalogs are incredibly deep didn’t hurt. Truly, they could play three more hours without trouble.
Sting and Gabriel are an interesting mix. They each come from groups– respectively the Police and Genesis– and then brilliant solo careers. Their songs are sophisticated, well constructed and beloved. That was certainly borne out by the sold out crowd at Jones Beach that knew all the words to everything they sang.
Highlights of the show– which moves to Madison square Garden on Monday and Coney Island later in the week– were many: Gabriel delivered a smoldering version of Sting’s “If You Love Somebody (Set them Free).” Sting turned “Roxanne” into an electronic jazz rave, then mixed in a smoking version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Gabriel dedicated one song to murdered member of Parliament Jo Cox, as there were a few tossed off references to the Brexit debacle in the UK.
In this new teaming, Sting is the leading man of the movie, his butterscotch voice in better shape than ever. He can quiet a stadium down to a whisper as he sings “Fragile” and rev it up again with “Desert Rose.” Gabriel is sort of a cross between a mad monk and Dr. Evil, but he also moves with disarming agility. “Solsbury Hill,” “Shock the Monkey,” and “Sledgehammer” are still killers. Gabriel also sang Sting’s “Englishman in New York” with authority. Sting sang on “Solsbury Hill” with a big grin you could see on the video screens. He’s clearly having fun.
What makes these two guys unique in 2016 is that it’s all real, it’s as spontaneous as it can be, the honesty of the musicianship is stirring in an era when everything is prepackaged. They wrote these songs, no one else did– there are no production teams. Imagine if a current pop star had a point of view, or a story to tell, and risked that vulnerability with the audience.
Great videos and production values, too, not overdone, and excellent sound. The two bands — dubbed red (Gabriel) and blue (Sting) combine nicely. Dominic Miller is still a guitar virtuoso and Jo Lawry is one of the great singers of our time. She’s matched well with Gabriel’s house singer, Jennie Abramson.
Great night too– famed concert promoter Ron Delsener was there– he turns 80 on July 15th, and of course Trudie Styler, aka Mrs. Sting. I loved that Gabriel kept calling his counterpart “Mr. Sting” all night. If you can get into MSG on Monday night, it’s worth every penny. You’ll come out humming, of not outright singing and banging anything that sounds like a drum.