Review: Sting and Paul Simon serenade Vancouver
Paul Simon and Sting teamed up for an unforgettable concert at Rogers Arena Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (Anil Sharma/CTV)
Published Friday, February 21, 2014 2:06PM PST
Last Updated Friday, February 21, 2014 2:15PM PST
You’ve seen The Godfather Part II, right?
So you’re aware that the Robert De Niro half of the movie, documenting the rise to power of Vito Corleone, is clearly superior than the Al Pacino half showing the moral collapse of his son Michael. It’s not that Pacino does a bad job. Just that Vito’s story is intrinsically more dramatic and interesting.
Such is life for Sting on his current tour, co-headlining a double bill with Paul Simon, which stopped at a full Rogers Arena in Vancouver last night.
Appearing on stage side by side at the show’s opening, the initial offerings of Sting’s “Brand New Day,” Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble” and Sting’s sombre “Fields of Barley” suggested that the evening would drift into a musical backslapping session, a worry heightened by Simon’s explanation that the tour was an experiment in merging bands and repertoires.
“By the end of this tour I’ll look like an Adonis and be able to have sex for days on end,” he suggested, gazing upwards in awe of Sting’s robust physical condition and reputation as bedroom gymnast.
During those opening numbers Sting was taking the lead, his practiced stage manner willing the crowd to its feet, contrasting with Simon’s clipped versions of his own melodies and visible agitation when a cry of “We love you Paul” from the crowd interrupted his train of thought.
In the company of a musical giant, Sting had brought his A-game, taking centre stage with his band and wheeling out hits like “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Englishman in New York” and a jazzy “Walking On The Moon.”
Simon returned and upped the ante with classics like “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” “Graceland” and a version of “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” that didn’t quite skip along but still had the hooks to get the entire arena up and dancing.
Enjoying the opportunity to dig into each other’s songbooks, Simon chose energy vortex “How Fragile We Are” while Sting returned the favour with a minimal acoustic “America.”
Things continued looking rosy after a feisty “Message In A Bottle,” but took a turn for the tepid as Sting fell into his soft rock comfort zone, lulling the crowd back into their seats with leaden tracks like “They Dance Alone,” a “Roxanne” that plodded when it should have fizzed, and a lengthy “Desert Rose” that was instantly overshadowed when Paul Simon strolled back into the spotlight finger picking the introduction to “The Boxer.”
“I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises,” sang Simon, 46 years after writing them, popping the crowd into his pocket purely through the power of his craft.
The hits kept coming, with a generous portion of them from the masterful “Graceland” album, including dance floor fillers “Diamonds on the Soles or her Shoes” and “You Can Call Me Al,” the latter punctuated by a perfect bass run that warranted a hug of thanks from the diminutive star. Smart enough to know the notes to avoid and sounding terrific for it, Simon was soaking up the adulation from the crowd, who were basking in the presence of some truly majestic songs.
“How much love can one man take?” he beamed.
To Sting’s credit, he never tried to steal the thunder back, and he filled his Garfunkeling role to perfection with a fine rendition of the opening verse of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” before strapping his bass back on for a theatrical version of The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.”
With the stage emptied of the enormous band, the two stars returned one final time armed only with acoustic guitars for a tribute to Simon’s “musical idol,” Phil Everly, “When Will I Be Loved” that saw Sting deliver his best harmonies of the entire night. Short, raw and honest, not every note from Paul Simon was perfect, but they all came straight from the heart.
The Godfather Part II is a solid movie from beginning to end. It’s just that one of its two stars shines brighter. That’s what happens when you share the spotlight with one of the all-time greats.