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Sting Sends Out a Much Needed SOS to Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

It's hard to believe that many Americans would look back to the waning days of the Carter Administration as the "good times". But, with today's rising inflation coupled with an ever growing slate of trials and tribulations in our land and around the world - that just might be the case. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Sting was only just getting rolling around that time when "Message In A Bottle" was released as the lead single from The Police's second studio album - Reggatta de Blanc in 1979. That track with its urgent message to "save our ship" or "save our souls" was the opening number when the former Police frontman played to a packed house at the Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, Tennessee on May 18, 2022.

Sting played the Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville on May 18, 2022.

Yet, for a few brief hours musician Sting alleviated our concerns with a career-spanning set showcasing a lot of material from his recent two albums including My Songs - a 15 track retrospective that features new renditions of some of his most beloved greatest hits.

Clad in all black, looking fit and trim he came out strong - opening with the aforementioned hit - singing over and over that compelling hook "sending out a SOS". More fan favorites followed with the insightful "Englishman In New York" and "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" then back to The Police with a magical rendering of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic".

Sting took the stage with a favorite and road-worn bass guitar.

Sting was supported by a full band along with backup singers and a keyboard player. Sting made a witty comment as he introduced the newest member of his touring combo - drummer Zack Jones - by joking that he was the son of Stewart Copeland (yes, Zack did look a bit like a younger version of The Police drummer). In reality, the youthful looking stickman was hand-picked from the New Jersey shore area to live his out his dream on the current leg of the run.

With two guitar players in the band - including his longtime right-hand man in the studio and on the stage Dominic Miller - Sting was able to expand many of his best known songs into longer interpretive and expressive jams that were unrestrained from their original radio-friendly format. The effective use of lights and videos also added to his polished performance.

Sting and his longtime guitar player Dominic Miller in Nashville.

Taking a seat the frontman almost apologized that he was going to play a few new songs while stating that who knows maybe one will be a hit someday. He acknowledged that it is harder to quantify "hits" with streaming these days and told a story about hearing a window cleaner whistle the melody to "Roxanne" outside of a hotel window in the 70's adding that's how he knew that particular cut was a hit song.

Sting was fortunate to have enjoyed the days when folks purchased hard copies of music and The Police benefited greatly from high rotation on MTV when the music network started in 1981. Outside of rock and reggae the singer described how Country & Western music was important and influential to him as he grew up and that he tried his hand composing in the genre.

But, he admitted they sounded better as country songs when sung by those in the field. A nod to Toby Keith's cover "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" led to a spontaneous un-setlisted audible followed by the dark "I Hung My Head" with Sting saying how proud he was that it was one of the last tracks that Johnny Cash ever recorded.

Sting and his new drummer Zach Jones in Nashville.

While in town Sting played the role of both evangelist and tourist. During the introduction to "Shape of My Heart" he talked about his recent Las Vegas residency and mentioned that the game of Roulette is played on the "Devil's Wheel" because all the numbers on it add up to - "you know, 666". This heavy observation was offset when Sting revealed how he was enjoying all the music this town has to offer mentioning he took in several acts first hand with stops at Robert's Western World earlier in the day and at The Bluebird Caf the night before.

Sting shared that he wrote a lot of songs during the down time admitting that he has broken hearts and has had his broken, too. The new tunes touched upon these topics proving that the artist can still pen potent prose. Classics such as "Brand New Day" plus a reggae version of "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "So Lonely" that featured a snippet of "No Woman, No Cry" followed. The closing set of songs was hits from his Police days including a riveting version of "Roxanne". As is Sting's custom he concluded the show on a soft note with "The Bridge" - another new song and the title track from his most recent solo record.

For many live music is a form of healing - an opportunity to escape the worries of life for a moment or perhaps return to a happier time, either way Sting with his talented team sent out a needed SOS to Nashville and beyond with a world tour scheduled for much of the remaining calendar year.

Sting said he enjoyed his stay in Music City with some visits around town.

As the opening act Joe Sumner took the stage folks may have thought to themselves that this English singer-songwriter resembles Sting visually and vocally. Towards the end of his set Joe said that another Sumner would be taking the stage soon - he was referring to his father Sting - confirming the connection.

Joe was an original member and bassist for the rock band Fiction Plane who opened for The Police on their reunion tour back in 2007. Sumner is also the co-founder of the company Vyclone, which made an app for recording video from multiple angles. At the Ascend Joe armed with just an acoustic guitar ran through a solid set of well-crafted songs that touched upon relatable topics such as lack of forgiveness, loss, love, hope and he concluded with a tune that he sang to his kids the catchy and cute "Jelly Bean". Sumner would be back later to perform "Driven To Tears" with Sting.

The Last Bandoleros from Texas were a first rate act in Nashville.

The Last Bandoleros were also on the bill. They are a Tex-Mex-pop-rock band based out of San Antonio Texas. This power trio smoothly melds musical styles while singing in both English and Spanish as demonstrated on their latest single "California Moon". Other highlights of their set were the witty "Friends Zone", a tribute to their home state - "Somewhere In Texas" and they concluded their engaging show with the energized "Every Time We Dance".

STING SETLIST NASHVILLE: Message in a Bottle | Englishman In New York | If You Love Somebody Set Them Free | Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic | If It's Love | For Her Love | Loving You | Rushing Water | I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying | I Hung My Head | Fields of Gold | Brand New Day | Shape of My Heart | Wrapped Around Your Finger | Walking on the Moon | So Lonely > No Woman, No Cry Snippet | Desert Rose | King of Pain | Every Breath You Take | Roxanne | Driven to Tears | The Bridge

Sting's son Joe Sumner was impressive in the opening slot with a slate of quality songs of his own.

Related Links: For more information on STING and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Sting | Joe Sumner | The Last Bandoleros | Ascend Amphitheater


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