Music Review: Sting – My Songs, Or A Jukebox Of Genius

February 5, 2023




Sting: My Songs / Sun Bet Arena, Time Square, Pretoria


The average legacy act concert is, perhaps understandably, not expected to be the most exciting scenario, with artists – again understandably – quite possibly tired of bringing out the same nuggets they’ve been trading in for four decades are more. Neither nostalgia nor nagging accountants are necessarily great reasons to hit the road…

Happily, Sting, now just a few years short of a half-century of writing and performing chart-topping music, appears to be in the sort of headspace that sees him enjoying not only playing and singing but also revelling in the response of an audience who has been following him for a healthy chunk of that period. Backed by a band headed by long-time sideman Dominic Miller on guitar and introducing the impressive dynamism of drummer Zach Jones to most South Africans, Sting and his trademark ’57 Fender P-Bass have lost none of their formidable groove, though the occasional flexing of the fingers of both his hands between songs offers a tiny concession to the singer-songwriter’s status as a septuagenarian.

Sting’s son Joe Sumner is the support act and shows off both a wonderfully warm stage presence with vocal gymnastics to match his father’s (including during a guest spot during King Of Pain). But it is the elder Sumner who everyone is there to see and his arrival on stage is greeted by a roar that is matched at the end of nearly every song. The setlist is incredibly generous, giving fans a version of exactly what they want (only a version because there is so much sublime material in Sting’s back catalogue that it cannot all be included in a single outing) and often linking huge hits – from both his solo career and his work with The Police – in medleys of four or five back-to-back tunes that ratchet up the energy and delight in the crowd until everyone is either singing wholeheartedly or grinning goofily with sheer joy.

Sting acknowledges how easy it is to connect with songs you know word for word, but gently introduces four newer songs (three together and one later on), all of which make an immediate impact with a receptive audience. If It’s Love, For Her Love and Rushing Water are all from 2021 album The Bridge, and there’s every chance the latter could gain the same sort of popularity as many of the older compositions should Sting keep touring. What Could Have Been is starker and more thoughtful, taken from the soundtrack to Netflix animated series Arcane.

If proof of Sting’s continued contemporary relevance was needed, these songs provide that, as does his dedication of the evergreen Fragile to the people of Ukraine (and Russians wanting no part of the war) and the women of Iran. He remains an artist with much to give, and his Pretoria audience will have felt that they richly received.