Review: Sting at the Wells Fargo Theatre, 11/20/11

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Jon Solomon
Sting last night at Wells Fargo Theatre
STING at WELLS FARGO THEATRE | 11/20/11
Sting's list of endearing anecdotes is almost as long as his lineup of inexplicably bizarre ones -- which, in turn, is almost as big as his ego. The former Police frontman and pouty-lipped crooner remains fearless in the face of a staid solo career (heavy on Police jams), belly dancing (he does it -- on stage), a thirty-year marriage ("She could completely destroy me") and a self worth valued higher than anyone legally named Gordon probably has a right to. Dude is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a babe, a rock star, a pretty dedicated lover (so we hear) and, let's face it, a musical Renaissance man.

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Jon Solomon
Sting last night at Wells Fargo Theater in Denver.

Sting is not, however, an everyman. His monumental three-encore performance last night at the Wells Fargo Theatre revolved around a structure similar to that of VH1 Storytellers: Sting grasps for a little while, Sting tells you an anecdote about a song's creation, you cheer, Sting cranks out said song, you cheer again, wash, rinse, repeat. Perhaps the best -- if least approachable -- tiny tale of the night came out of the admission that Mr. Police owns a house near Stonehenge, but "it's more of a castle, really," he says.

There's nothing quite like a humble brag to kick off a night of full-on, no-holds-barred nostalgia that is reworked, sped up and inlaid with the trappings of blues. But in the exactly two hours he spent on stage, it became consistently clear that Sting's personality is equally as valuable as his craftsmanship. Although the man doesn't need to rely on Police hits anymore, he continues to do so, wisely relegating most of them to the encore(s) so that they function as both a tease and a cock-block of sorts immediately after "Desert Rose." Really freakin' pumped for "Message in a Bottle"? Oh, you'll hear it: last, solo and acoustic.

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Jon Solomon
Sting last night at Wells Fargo Theater in Denver.

Accompanied by a five-man cast of painfully talented accompaniment -- electric guitar, acoustic guitar (the first two are father and son), backing vocals, violin and drums -- the sixty-year-old rock star moved quickly and carefully through a set devoted to devout Sting followers. The Police singles acted as buffers between Sting's small talk and big sound, and casual fans were at no point excluded, but the true focus remained on the ringleader's back catalogue. Careful to point out which song Johnny Cash covered ("I Hung My Head") and which one is about continuity, the seasons, life and death and basically everything ("Fields of Gold"), Sting takes himself as seriously as a one-name act deserves and as lightly as a man who shakes his hips like Shakira while yodeling ("Desert Rose").

The greatest credit to Sting's performance, however, is the obvious realization that he is enjoying himself just as much as the audience is enjoying him -- while dancing much, much better. As firm Sting fans, much of the Wells Fargo Theater's crowd probably listened to Synchronicity on vinyl, a truth that translates live to some of the best and worst dancing ever to result from always bluesy, occasionally fancy British baby-makin' croons. The man rhymes "complicashon" with "situashon" (and later "reacshon") and still has the time and tenacity to offer his arms out, like the Messiah, to a crowd totally okay with shaking its collective and incongruous ass to songs like "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying."

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Jon Solomon
Sting last night at Wells Fargo Theater.

Sting has carved a niche for himself -- that of post-punk Renaissance man -- for which the only way out is reinvention, and his dedication to the role is impressive. The same goes for his stories, talk of Bonanza, fox hunting and a psychic car thief, broken up only by the variety of showmanship that is comfortable supporting both the rock-and-roll elder statesman and one of the largest reunion tours in the world.

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Jon Solomon
Sting last night at Wells Fargo Theater.

Not all is perfect -- gone are the high notes, the brooding melodrama and a great deal of the chemistry that sustains these songs -- but not all of that matters. If you attempted to judge Sting's performance level by his coolness level, you'd need look no further than the pair of lacy black bikini underwear he discovered, picked up and discussed on stage. "They're Boundaries brand," he told the crowd as their former owner was escorted away from her primo front-and-center spot. "Which reminds me: My two favorite subjects are sex and religion. They're not so separate." Always a smooth operator, that Sting.

Click through for Critic's Notebook and Setlist.

Location Info

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Bellco Theatre

700 14th St., Denver, CO

Category: General

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3 comments
Brian
Brian

"Gone are the high notes"??? really?? Show me another 60 year old that sings as high as Sting.

david neckels
david neckels

Only drawback was the invisibility of the drummer from a large part of the side seats.  Really lame.Other than that the show rocked and Sting was brilliant, as was Vinnie, the drummer (I could hear him, not see him)!

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