A living legend is a title not lightly bestowed upon anyone, but the English solo artist Sting is certainly one man who has earned the mantle. Originally scheduled for March 2022, Sting finally arrived in Finland last week to perform for full houses in Tampere and Helsinki. Besides a family gathering of like-minded people, the evening was a family gathering also in a more literal sense as Sting’s eldest son, Joe Sumner, served as the event’s opening act and later joined his father on stage for a few songs.
I got to my seat at 8 p.m, just as Joe Sumner began his 30-minute set. The set-up was spartan to say the least, as Sumner performed solo with no other instrumentation besides his voice and the guitar he played. Most people had arrived at Nokia arena already at this point, so Sumner got to play to an audience of over 10,000 people. Neither the size of the arena nor the crowd hurt the show’s intimacy, however, as the audience listened attentively and the cheers after each song were genuine if not that raucous. Some of the high notes Sumner hit with his voice were truly impressive, and the gig worked perfectly well with just his vocals and guitar. Sumner’s set of eight songs flew by quickly, and judging from the crowd reactions, he is more than welcome back in Finland anytime.
At 20:45 p.m sharp the evening’s main event stormed the stage to the tune of The Police song “Message in a Bottle“. Perhaps storming isn’t the perfect expression to use of the maneuvers of a finely aged English gentleman, but still. The crowd, who had settled for polite and subdued observing during Joe Sumner’s set, got to exercise their vocal cords on “Englishman in New York“, another timeless classic. The audience were treated to one hit after another as Sting performed “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic“, of which I have admittedly heard better versions by other artists. Sting showcased his good humor by lamenting the awkwardness of playing new songs rather than old favorites before “If Its Love” from his latest album “The Bridge”. The seasoned English rock veteran didn’t try to woo the crowd with overtly fancy tricks or speeches, relying on his charisma and the timeless allure of his tunes instead.
Unlike his son Joe Sumner, Sting performed with a full band consisting of himself on lead vocals and bass, two guitarists, a drummer, a keyboard player as well as a trio of backing vocalists, one of whom also played harmonica. Sting introduced them all at least twice during the evening, and all backup vocalists got their moment in the spotlight. On “Brand New Day” Shane Sager got to show off his talent with the harmonica, Gene Noble got to perform lead vocals on “Shape of My Heart” and Melissa Musique got the same honor during “Heavy Cloud No Rain“. Joe Sumner joined his father on stage during “King of Pain” and stayed on for the remainder of the set. “Every Breath You Take” earned Sting a standing ovation from the crowd, and the band played “Roxanne” and “Fragile” as an encore.
Despite his status as a towering figure of modern rock music, Sting has never belonged to my personal favourites. Despite my lack of personal connection to the artist I found the concert deeply enjoyable, and the dark autumn evening outside the arena seemed that much brighter as I left the premises. On my way home I overheard several people gushing about the show and considering a trip to Helsinki to experience it again, which is just about the best possible seal of approval for any event.
Photos: Outi Puhakka