Sting – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre
By Charlotte Oliver, June 2023
As one of the world’s best-selling music artists, Sting’s incredible 45-year career has seen him go from frontman with successful new-wave band The Police to achieving international mega-stardom as a solo artist. He has won a bewildering number of awards for songwriting and, at 71, has probably played more gigs than some of his younger fans have had hot dinners. So, it was with great anticipation that I and around 7999 others packed into Scarborough’s amazing Open Air Theatre to experience first-hand the phenomenon known as Sting.
After solid support from Joe Sumner and the excellent Dagny, the atmosphere, already electric from an earlier thunderstorm, became even more charged. When the band stepped out onto the stage casually followed by the man himself, the theatre promptly erupted.
Dressed in a pair of white jeans and a tight-fitting t-shirt that showed off his impressively sinewy arms, Sting has a physique that would be the envy of most 20-year-olds and is a walking advert for the benefits of yoga, which he famously practises. But thankfully quashing my suspicions, he was not here to strut around the stage like a peacock, and instead launched straight into classic Police song, ‘Message in a Bottle’, the opening bars sending the audience into a frenzy. His distinctive voice sounded as excellent as ever, soaring through the seagull-peppered sky. The audience sang along enthusiastically.
Next up was ‘Englishman in New York’ and again, the crowd named that tune in one, roaring their approval. From here he continued with all the favourites, ‘Every Little Thing She Does is Magic’, ‘If You Love Somebody Set Them Free’, ‘Desert Rose’, ‘Every Breath You Take’, ‘Shape of my Heart’ – his back catalogue is an embarrassment of riches and there was barely a single one of the impressive 22 songs that we didn’t all sing along with, word for word.
The staging was cleverly done, with the lighting bars lowered to create a more intimate atmosphere around the performers. Similarly, the video backdrop was kept shy of filling the whole space, which again avoided shrinking those on stage and added to the audience’s sense of proximity to the action.
The backing band that Sting had assembled for the tour were incredible. The three backing singers with which he shared the stage were remarkably talented – one of them, who doubled on harmonica, gave Stevie Wonder a serious run for his money. The other two singers duetted with Sting on several tracks and he gave them their limelight in a very generous fashion. In fact, the whole gig was characterised by a wonderful warmth and genuine joy. Rather than trying to remember which particular town he was performing to that night, as has happened in the past with some other acts, Sting was delighted to be able to tell us that he used to holiday in Scarborough with his family when he was little, which went down a treat with the crowd. His introduction to ‘Fields of Gold’ was also memorable; he told us about how it was inspired by the barley fields around the cottage that he bought, “Well, more of a castle, really…” which also went down well.
This was one of the best gigs I have ever attended. Sting is still very clearly at the top of his game; his performance was flawless yet still retained passion, and his happiness at being on stage performing his own brilliant songs, filled the entire theatre and every person who was lucky enough to be there. If you get the chance, go!
images: Cuffe and Taylor