Paul Simon and Sting sharing a stage is a very intriguing combination even if my instinct on the matter, is the same as let’s say, pizza and pineapple; wonderful as separate foods but together?!
‘They’ got together in 2013, both involved with the Robin Hood Foundation and evidently an affinity between them both artistically and as gentlemen was established, so much so that 2 years later they are still touring Europe together after numerous successful American live shows.
Lasting over two hours forty minutes and comprising 35 songs, it works like this. Joint set, Sting set, joint set, Paul Simon set, joint set, repeated twice over.
Sting is a natural, a born performer whose stance is to get the crowd to partake whilst Paul Simon has a more reserved approach, almost frail and gentle with the crowd and his musicians, the onus is on listening both to his poetic words and sublime arrangements.
Consequently on stage together, not due to one upmanship thoughts or sinister design, Sting simply dominates, even his physical aspect making its presence felt. So the partnership is flawed from the start really I feel, but ultimately saved by the intelligence and generosity of each one’s band members, intermingling skilfully with each other. There are sometimes 16 people on stage playing everything from a viola to a washboard with wonderful piano, violin, saxophone and guitar solos.
Sting’s solo sets are masterful in their execution, it’s all too easy for him to win over this ‘Milanesi’ crowd. PS creates intriguing rhythms, master of world music that he is, a rather lesser known set list, concentrating on letting the music breath and space for his band, compared to Sting’s chorus rallying set.
The big problem together is that on the Simon and Garfunkel songs, Sting is not Art and it just really brought home that Paul Simon, although being the super talented one, needed AG to make those songs magnificent. Sting just can’t do harmony with Simon to give a song like Bridge Over Trouble Water or Mrs Robinson their majestic brilliance and I now understand fully why even Paul Simon as a solo artist rarely played them if not radically altering them somewhat. It does get a bit karaoke consequently in places, sometimes embarrassingly so.
But what charm these guys have and the best moments are truly great. Sting with some really wonderful bass playing on the superb When the World is Running Down, singing America with just his band and no PS and so being able to give it plenty of blood and guts; Paul Simon with a superb rendition of Hearts and Bones, the truly beautiful Still Crazy After All These Years breaking everyone’s heart, the elegance and catchiness of Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes.
On stage together the songs that came off best were probably Fragile sung by Simon giving it a tenderness that originally only belongs to the guitar part, played by Sting on stage, and a heartwarming rendition of Mother and Child Reunion with all band members on stage.
It was an honor to see two artists of such caliber on stage at the end of the day and even if the overall lasting effect was not one of wonder, it was pleasurable and entertaining.
The set list:
Sting & Paul Simon
Brand New Day (from Brand New Day, 1999)
Boy In The Bubble (from Graceland, 1986)
Fields Of Gold (from Ten Summoners Tales, 1992)
Mother and Child Reunion (from Paul Simon, 1972)
So Lonely (from Outlandos D’Amour, 1978)
When The World Is Running Down (from Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
Englishman in New York (from Nothing Like The Sun, 1987)
Shape of My Heart (from Ten Summoners Tales, 1992)
Driven To Tears (from Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980)
Walking On The Moon (from Regatta D’Blanc, 1979)
Paul Simon & Sting
Mrs. Robinson (from Bookends, 1968)
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (from Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975)
Dazzling Blue (from So Beautiful Or So What, 2011)
Late in the Evening (from One Trick Pony, 1980)
Still Crazy After All These Years (from Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975)
Me And Julio Down By The School Yard (from Paul Simon, 1972)
Sting and Paul Simon
Fragile (from Nothing Like The Sun, 1987)
America (from Bookends, 1968)
Message In A Bottle (from Regatta D’Blanc, 1979)
The Hounds Of Winter (from Mercury Falling, 1996)
The End Of The Game (from Brand New Day, 1999)
Roxanne (from Outlandos D’Amour, 1978)
Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers cover)
Desert Rose (from Brand New Day, 1999)
Paul Simon and Sting
The Boxer (from Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)
That Was Your Mother (from Graceland, 1986)
The Obvious Child (from the Rhythm of the Saints, 1990)
Hearts and Bones (from Hearts and Bones, 1983)
Mystery Train/Wheels (Junior Parker/The String A Longs covers)
Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes (from Graceland, 1986)
You Can Call Me Al (from Graceland, 1986)
Encore (Sting and Paul Simon)
Cecilia (from Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)
Every Breath You Take (from Synchronicity, 1983)
Bridge Over Troubled Water (from Bridge Over Troubled Water, 1970)
When Will I Be Loved (Everly Brothers cover)
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