Review: Sting’s Austin ‘My Songs’ Concert Was Perfection

Moody Center, Austin, Texas

Sting came to Austin on his “My Songs” tour supporting his 13th solo studio album and put on an epic show filled with nostalgia and decades worth of solo hits, The Police classics, new songs from the lastest “The Bridge” album, and special covers.

Sting, former Police frontman and Rock Hall of Famer, serenaded the crowd at the Moody Center with an electric performance. His incredibly fit and youthful appearance made it hard to believe that he turned 71 this year. His strong voice ignores his age as his vocals and lungs are as strong as ever. This was immediately evident when he kicked off the set with “Message in a Bottle”, the place went crazy! Then “Englishman in New York” took it up a notch with very relevant lyrics today about being an alien, legal alien (and in Texas, no less). The set rolled right into “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”(The Police) and “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free”.

Sumner immediately had the crowd’s respect with “Everyone looks happy since your team won yesterday”- referring to University of Texas football’s huge win over Wyoming. Reminding us of our local hero Willie Nelson and his guitar Trigger, Sting also plays his beaten and beloved guitars (not sure if he’s named them).

The production itself added to the show without distracting with too many background videos. The lighting was immense and the sound was perfect in the new high-tech Austin venue. The band covered the entire width and depth of the stage with Sting often going to the corners to perform intimately with the audience.

Sting was recently recognized as a fellow of The Ivors Academy, a prestigious music writers’ association in England. Sumner is a master lyricist and cross-genre genius. We’ve always been fascinated by the stories behind the songs. He was quoted recently, “Songwriting is my self-therapy, having to deal with issues that aren’t comfortable — mortality being one of them”…and the paradox of writing “songs that sound happy, but, actually, they’re kind of the opposite.”

On the lovely rendition of “Fields of Gold”, he talked about looking out from his English countryside home near Stonehenge (saying “it’s really more of a castle) at fields of barley/sea of gold. Also casually saying, “If you come knock on my door, I’ll make you a cup of tea”. It made us wonder, ‘do people actually do that’?

He then talked about being a massive country music fan as a kid which surprised many. Hank Williams was an important influence, so he tried writing music in that style for awhile but felt inauthentic Northern England origins. He said he felt vindicated after Johnny Cash covered “I Hung My Head” and Toby Keith recorded “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” (as a duet with Sting).

He’s often self deprecating which endears him even more to the audience. “I’ve written many love songs, this next one is the least interesting as a songwriter “as he introed “If It’s Love”. Because it’s about the positive power of true love between two people; “I love you, you love me is a closed loop, boring. But, I love you and you love somebody else, that’s interesting.”

His songs tap into so many different styles and sounds that each one sounds totally unique. The band is exceptional and easily manages the eclectic mix of genres. The backup singers (Melissa Musique, Gene Noble) got a couple well deserved solos and had us in awe. Long time guitarist Dominic Miller was perfect, with great solos, and youngest bandmate, Shane Sager, on vocals/harmonica was equally impressive with harmonica solos, including the tough Stevie Wonder shoes-to-fill on “Brand New Day”.

On the sublime ballad “Shape of My Heart”, Noble’s solo blew our socks off and got the crowd respect with an ovation. The crowd really got into singing reggae on classic “Everything Gonna Be Alright” with intro about the great Bob Marley and ‘good friends we lost along the way’; it reminded us again about Covid and the losses we’ve endured, as well as hope about the future. The song mashed into “So Lonely” where the upbeat, fast bits had the crowd jumping in Jane Fonda aerobics class fashion.

Although mostly tracks from “My Songs”, Sting did play a couple from his most recent “The Bridge” album- “Rushing Waters” and “If it’s Love”. He also played several Police classics that the crowd was ecstatic about and sang every word, including “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”, “King of Pain”, “Walking on the Moon”, “Every Breath You Take”. Notably absent were some hits (understandable with the depth of his catalog) like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”. If we had to guess, he felt it was overplayed as an anthem during the pandemic. Fans were hoping for an appearance by Shaggy that didn’t materialize.

We’ve always loved his intellect, thoughtful and poignant political and societal messages that are still relevant today. Lyrics on epic love song “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” such as “You could say I lost my belief in the holy church” and our favorite line, “You could say I’d lost my belief in our politicians. They all seemed like game show hosts to me.” are timeless and felt by many.

We knew he couldn’t skip classic “Roxanne”, and he played it first in his 2-song encore. Sting closed out the night with a beautiful ballad, “Fragile” saying he always likes to end a show with a ‘soft one’. We really appreciate that (although it still took us hours to get to sleep).

We’ve covered Sting several times (including the Dallas Kaboo Festival in 2019) but this one was extra special. Though the venue was large (unlike his shows at Austin’s iconic ACL Live), it felt personal.

Don’t worry if you live in Texas and didn’t make the Austin show, there are 2 more Texas stops- Dallas Oct. 14th, Houston, Oct. 15th. Sting’s now off to Red Rocks, near Denver. The tour then heads back to Europe to finish out, and then, perhaps, back to his home in Tuscany for some of his famous wine?

Joe Sumner opened for Sting

From the second he entered the stage, Joe Sumner (son of Gordon Sumner/aka Sting) had a presence that captivated the crowd. Not only does he have an amazing vocal range, huge high notes, and lengthy holds, but also has the same magic and charisma – not always a given when it comes to musical offspring (doesn’t hurt that he looks so much like him). But it’s his energy, passion, and lyrics that resonated so much.

Engaging easily with the packed house throughout, Sumner talked about taking out a stand up paddle on the Colorado river downtown (one of our fave things, too) commenting “I see why people are moving here- you don’t want anymore Californians here, do you?”. Then came laughs and applause (after all, we do have bumper stickers that say “Don’t California my Texas”).

Song highlights include opener “Looking for Me, Looking for You”, the new single “Live Life”, and the sweet, fun, Italian-ish “Jelly Bean” about his kids. Our fave was “Hope” which he closes with- a passionate song with a strong beating of his chest that gets the crowd to join in. It’s a song with nice hooks, chorus, and meaningful lyrics – “I’m afraid of the future, I’m afraid of the past, I’m afraid the life I took too long to love is moving by too fast”. “Hope, won’t you come back to me..and make me a believer and set my heart free.” Although it was written just before Covid, it was so relevant during the pandemic, and a bit emotional today. A remembering of what we all collectively went through and the continued toll for many around isolation, loss, and fear. He mentioned recently that it’s been very noticeable that audiences are ready to rock since the pandemic. So true. Life without live music just isn’t right, or normal. We were happy to see him come back out to sing (and nail it) with his dad on “King of Pain”. His first solo album, “Sunshine in the Night” is set to be released on October 6th.

Check out all our show photos on Austin 101 Magazine.

Sting setlist

Message in a Bottle
Englishman in New York
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (The Police song)
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
If It’s Love
Loving You
Rushing Water
If I Ever Lose My Faith in You
Fields of Gold
Brand New Day
Heavy Cloud No Rain
I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying
Shape of My Heart
Why Should I Cry for You?
All This Time
Mad About You
Walking on the Moon (The Police song)
So Lonely / No Woman No Cry

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (Bob Marley)
Desert Rose
King of Pain (The Police song) (with Joe Sumner)
Every Breath You Take (The Police song)
Roxanne (The Police song)

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