Concert Review: Sting & Peter Gabriel, Hollywood Bowl, 07/18/16

It was such a treat to see musicians so filled with joy playing together.
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In the same vein as his 2014 co-headlining tour with Paul Simon, Sting teamed up with his former Amnesty International touring mate Peter Gabriel for “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” which found them playing concerts across North America in June and July. They combined their talented bands and in addition to Gabriel on keys and Sting on bass, the blended ensemble was comprised of two guitarists, another bassist, two more keyboardists, two drummers, three back-ups singers, an electric fiddle player, and a percussionist.

The night began with Gabriel coming out first and performing “Rhythm of the Heat” with powerful percussion highlighting the arrangement. Sting then took the stage for “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You.” When he sang the lyrics about losing faith in politicians, the crowd cheered in agreement, not a surprise this election year considering the two major candidates vying for the presidency.

Gabriel and Sting took center stage to greet the crowd. It was clear from their banter that they are good pals and are enjoying working together. They traded verses on “Games Without Frontiers” as they marched around the stage, and their voices blended well together. Some of the best moments were when they played each other's songs as was evident when Sting sang “Shock the Monkey” on his own. Fiddle player Peter Thikell was impressive during his moments on “Driven to Tears.”

After lamenting Brexit, Sting sang a snippet from Genesis' old yet timely “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” before seguing into “Message in the Bottle.” As Gabriel began “Don't Give Up,” I was anticipating Sting trying Kate Bush's parts, but Peter's back-up singer Jennie Abrahamson did the honors admirably. Sting followed with “The Hounds of Winter” and his back-up singer Jo Lawry delivered some amazing vocal runs.

The two Englishman duetted on “Englishman in New York” and “Solisbury Hill.” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” saw Gabriel and some of his players step to side, dancing synchronized moves and clearly having a great deal of fun. Gabriel came to the forefront with a slow, sultry take on Sting's “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” with an arrangement featuring keyboards reminiscent of the opening of Beck's “Where It's At.”

Sting got the whole crowd on their feet during “Roxanne” which included a portion of Bill Withers' “Ain't No Sunshine.” Gabriel sang “Love Can Heal” in tribute to his friend, recently slain British MP Joe Cox. The main set came to a close with two love songs: Sting's “Desert Rose and then he joined the back-up singers as Gabriel led the crowd on “In Your Eyes.” The encore began with “Every Breath You Take,” which people loved, but had too slow of a tempo considering its placement in the set. The crowd was sent out on a high with their energetic duet of “Sledgehammer.”

The show was roughly two and a half hours, and I was certainly left wanting more, and not solely because they each have vast catalogs to choose from. It was such a treat to see musicians so filled with joy playing together. They arguably had the most fun of anyone in attendance and their attitude was infectious. Hopefully, a live recording will soon be available for those lucky enough to see it and for those who weren't.

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