‘This is a song called hope,’ says the opening act, one Joe Sumner, Sting’s son. As the heavens have just unleashed a mighty downpour of moisture, and I sit in my shorts feeling slightly grumpy, I’m cynical.
By Miles Salter
Sting’s lad (now a few years off 50) isn’t half bad, belting out songs and ‘warming up’ the crowd. Next on are a Norwegian pop act Dagny who provide a pleasant if not revolutionary set before we get to the main act. By this time, the idea of hope seems (hooray!) not so daft after all. The rain holds off, and the crowd cheer when the sun breaks through the clouds.
Sting, now aged 71, wears a tight fitting T-shirt (something a lot of blokes his age wouldn’t dare to do on stage), with a body honed by exercise. He looks amazing – a picture of health and vitality, and fronts a band of six musicians including long-time guitarist Dominic Miller. Opening with Message In A Bottle, the still brilliant Police number from their fantastic second album Regatta De Blanc (an influence on Radiohead, no less), they then roll into Englishman In New York, followed by Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. None of these songs are younger than 37 years old, but they’re perfect for the Yorkshire audience, many of whom are in their late 50s or older.
The whole set is comprised of hit songs. Sting could have included more – there are several Police numbers he doesn’t touch (including the brilliant Can’t Stand Losing You), but the set is so strong that it doesn’t matter too much. We get, of course, Fields Of Gold, which Sting dedicates to his wife Trudi Styler. This is one of his best songs, but the vulnerability inherent here exposed his voice as sounding, unfortunately, rather worn and thin. Shane Sager plays a mean harmonica (aping Stevie Wonder superbly on Brand New Day) and backing singer Melissa Musique gets her moment in the sun during Heavy Cloud No Rain after Sting teases the crowd about the weather.
They close the 100 minute set with more Police classics, including the creepy Every Breath You Take (why do couples choose that for their weddings?) and crowd singalongs during Roxanne, the penultimate track. The red lighting mirrors the lyrics of the song; the stage looks amazing. The set is closed with the reflective Fragile. A brilliant gig from a man who knows how to put a gig together. Three cheers to Scarborough Open Air Theatre, surely one of the best venues in Yorkshire these days, with a stellar line-up each summer. Nearly 8000 punters go home damp but happy after a fantastic gig. That’s the way to do it.