Saratoga Springs

Music review: Fit, age-defying Sting delivers crowd favorites at SPAC

Sting performs on stage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center Wednesday night.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Sting performs on stage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center Wednesday night.

SARATOGA SPRINGS “This is the eighth time we’ve been on this stage. It kind of feels like home,” announced Sting during his headlining show at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night, in one of the last concert events of the SPAC season.

It’s hard to keep track of all the English musician’s Saratoga appearances, but he usually manages to do something different when he comes around every few years. In 2010, Sting led the Royal Philharmonic through orchestral arrangements of his rock songs. In 2008, he brought his reunited band The Police for a nostalgia-fueled return to the British rock trio’s new wave heyday.

This year, Sting visited Saratoga for his “My Songs” tour, which launched with a residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in late 2021. As during his 2017 SPAC performance, Sting never failed to impress with how well he, his voice and his songs stand the test of time.

The 70-year-old Sting continues to defy aging in a way that almost generates disbelief. Looking like a yoga guru, the supremely fit singer wore snug jeans and a tight gray t-shirt that showed off his lithe chest and arms. How much yoga can one person do, in between a diet of organic vegetables? I don’t know, but if Sting had a health and fitness guide, there would be many buyers.

Sting’s setlist followed a similar structure to the 2017 show: an opening salvo of older hits, a return to crowd favorites at the end, and a middle section with lesser-known songs and new material — this time from his 2021 release “The Bridge,” written during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once again, the bill was a family affair, with an opening set by Sting’s son, singer-songwriter Joe Sumner, who writes earnest tunes about love and loss that don’t quite ignite with electricity. But he looks and sounds remarkably like his father.

Sting was joined by a five-piece band including Dominic Miller (guitar), Josh Freese (drums), Rufus Miller (guitar), Kevon Webster (keyboards) and Shane Sager (harmonica), as well as backing vocalists Melissa Musique and Gene Noble.

The band sounded organic and loose on Police classics “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” as well as Sting’s solo hit “Englishman in New York,” which started the show. Sting’s edges have been smoothed some, but he still hits some extended high notes, although he clearly knows his limitations and conserves his voice at times.

“In the lockdown, I wrote a lot of love songs,” Sting said during a mini set of newer songs, including “If It’s Love” and “For Her Love,” which he played while seated on a stool.

The mid part of the set got bogged down in slower tempo songs from his 1993 album “Ten Summoner’s Tales,” including “Seven Days,” “Shape of My Heart” and “Heavy Cloud No Rain.”

But then he returned to more energetic form on Police classics “Walking on the Moon” and “So Lonely,” the latter that included a snippet of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” Sting’s son Joe came back onstage to add vocals to “King of Pain,” the biggest barn burner of the night, a bit ironic as it also features the most depressed lyrics.

Other highlights included “Every Breath You Take” and the first encore “Roxanne,” which got the crowd going in a rousing call and response. “It has not escaped my attention that this song has become a college drinking game,” Sting said of apparent attempts to drink shots of alcohol for every mention of the word “Roxanne” in the song. He finished the night with the delicate “Fragile.”

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