4 Mar 2017: Hammerstein Ballroom New York
Although many fans expressed displeasure that the Sting show wasn’t postponed and winter road conditions made travel to the NYC difficult, sometimes the show must go on. Sting concluded the North American leg of his 57th & 9th tour at the Hammerstein Ballroom on the winteriest of nights in New York City. Snowfall resulted in the closure of many public transit options and roads into NYC were made difficult to traverse. Tickets must have swapped hands though as the venue didn’t seem to have an extra nook or cranny of space to spare.
And for those who made it, Sting put on a superb performance that mixed both old and new solo material as well as classic hits from The Police into a two-hour set. Though the show was not nearly as intimate as his album release shows at Irving Plaza, it was far smaller a venue than Sting had performed in last summer on his co-headlining tour with Peter Gabriel. Being a warm retreat from the get go, the show also had a family vibe—the elder Sumner introduced his son Joe, also a musician, early in the night. (Another of Sting’s children, Eliot, is a musician as well and it is uncanny how similar all their voices sound.), Joe performed a couple of tunes before The Last Bandoleros performed a short set of their own.
Sting, having already performed with the opening artists, began his proper set with two Police songs before kicking into 57th‘s lead single “Can’t Stop Thinking About You”—a song he had previously mentioned he wrote in a self-imposed writing prison, locked out on his balcony on a cold night (but probably warmer than this one).
StingHe performed several other new tracks and introduced many of them, including the environmental themed “One Fine Day”, “Pretty Young Soldier” a rather provincial tune about a lady cross-dressing to join the army and then facing advances from a superior, and “50,000”, his tribute to the music giants who had passed on in 2016. To avoid overlooking the meaning of the latter, “50,000” had a lead in from Joe Sumner singing a particularly resonant cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes”.
Joe Sumner was gained the spotlight again at the end of “Message in the Bottle”. Before Sting began the classic Police song, he noted “I wrote that song almost 40 years ago in a little flat in London, with no one there but a cat who wasn’t interested in what I was doing. And to think 40 years later I’m here, with you, and you seem to know all the words - it means a lot to me.” After the song, Sting continued expressing his heart by admitting he lied, before confessing there was a tiny baby in the room too—Joe.
After many more great hits like “Desert Rose” (which had some random person on stage belly dancing), “Roxanne” and “Every Breath You Take”, Sting finished the night with the reflective “The Empty Chair”, a song featured in the documentary Jim: The James Foley Story, about a journalist killed by ISIS in 2014, and later reworked for 57th & 9th. Sting had been devastated after watching an early version of the film and was asked to write a song. With just his acoustic guitar, he performed “The Empty Chair” and left the audience in a more introspective state. It was a potent moment, and a fitting come down from his phenomenal set.
Spirits in a Material World
Englishman in New York
Can’t Stop Thinking About You
One Fine Day
She’s Too Good
Hung My Head
Fields of Gold
Down Down Down
Shape of My Heart
Pretty Young Soldier
Message in a Bottle
Joe Sumner - Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Walking on the Moon
Next to You
Every Breath You Take
The Empty Chair