lovethisconcept’s Summer Concert Reviews:

Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville

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So, I have been away for several weeks. First, a couple of weeks of insane work obligations. Then a couple of weeks of family fun and travel. Reconnecting with some, intensifying connections with others.

Hiking, sightseeing, eating (probably too much), drinking (definitely too much), attending baseball games and, of course, concerts.

I thought that I would review a couple of those concerts. I don’t have even a tiny fraction of the musical knowledge and experience of many of our community here, so these are strictly random things that I noticed as a fan.

I’ll start today with Sting, at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, Tennessee.

Wonderful summer weather, not too hot. Sting had two opening acts.

The first one was… Not. Good.

One of the worst that I have ever seen. I attended this concert with a very dear friend of mine who is much kinder and more generous than me, but she wholeheartedly agreed with this assessment. We might have wondered how someone like Sting, with such impeccable musical instincts, would choose such a lousy opener. Well, his name was Joe Sumner… and that gave us a clue. 

Joe’s voice had some similarity to his famous dad, but it somehow managed to completely miss being tuneful. He apparently writes his own songs. We know this because he told us about every single one of them before he sang, as in “This is a song about being in love.” It got to be funny how similar the intros were. He really didn’t need to tell us anything because the lyrics were along the lines of “I’m in love, I’m in love, I’m in love,” except for the last song which was, unaccountably, about jelly beans.

Maybe he had an off night and is really very good. Maybe not. I am not going to delve very deeply into trying to find out.

My friend and I began to debate Sting’s motives in having Joe on the tour. Does he love his son so much that he believes he is actually good? Does he know how bad he is and realizes that he has no chance of ever being on a major tour unless it is with his dad? Is Sting getting revenge for youthful indiscretions on Joe’s part? We could picture him backstage saying, “Go on, go for the big note. The audience will love it” and chuckling quietly to himself, “That serves you right for staying out all night without calling.”

The second opening act was completely new to me. They were The Last Bandoleros, a Tex-Flex (their term) band, originally from Texas and now headquartered in Nashville. Their sound was very smooth and dreamy, perfect for a summer evening.

And then came Sting. I had seen him before, but not for many years. He looked great. He sounded great. My friend described the concert as the most balanced that she had ever seen. Just the right balance of conversation and music. Just the right balance of old and new music. Just the right balance of hits and deeper cuts. Just the right balance of rockers and more contemplative songs. She was right. 

Another random observation: It seemed very unusual to me, but Sting and his entire band played the same instruments all night. I am accustomed to seeing guitars, etc. changed several times during a show, and it was somewhat odd to see the same instruments all night. I would suspect that I had missed some changes if it weren’t for the fact that a couple of the guitars had really distinctive worn places and markings on them.

Sting has a reputation for being very difficult to work with, but when he introduced the band, he noted that his lead guitarist has been with him for over 30 years.

A later addition to the band is that lead guitarist’s son, so there must be advantages to playing with him. On another note entirely, the drummer, Zach Jones, looks so eerily like Stewart Copeland that Sting introduced him as the “rumored son” of Stewart. 

As is often the case, we got a little bit extra because of Nashville connections. Sting talked about his love of country music and played a couple of songs that had been covered by country artists, most notably “I Hung My Head,” which had been covered by Johnny Cash.

This is one of my favorites, and I never dreamed that I would hear him play it live. He also got authenticity points by mentioning that he had hung out the night before in Robert’s Western World, one of the few remaining authentic dive bars on lower Broad, the club and live music center of Nashville.

All in all, the Sting show was a welcome return of a beloved artist and a wonderful night on the river. Wonderful start to the summer concert season.

What summer shows are you planning to see?

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cstolliver
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cstolliver
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June 29, 2022 6:38 am

I could imagine how difficult it would be to be an opening act for your father the superstar, especially if you recognize your talent is (at least at this time) a fraction of his. We’ll have to see whether Joe Sumner joins the likes of Natalie Cole and Julian Lennon or whether his musical fate is closer to Lisa Marie Presley’s or Alexa Ray Joel’s (each of whom made at least one song I liked).

Edith G
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Edith G
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June 29, 2022 8:25 am

Great review, I never saw Sting in concert, but I think his concerts must be good.

On the other side, in my country we have to see the same phenomenon: artists throwing us their not so talented or talentless at all kids, with a lot of media support, and the sad part is that most of those juniors have zero charisma.

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 29, 2022 9:29 am

I like how you built the intrigue as to who the opening act was, not giving the name straight away and working to a reveal at the end of the paragraph just as I was wondering if I’d have to Google to find out the culprit. It can’t be easy being the progeny of a big star and going into the same line of work. I can’t work out whether supporting your parent is a positive or negative. On the one hand the audience may have more goodwill and be more likely to go easy on you so as not to annoy the headliner you’re actually there to see. I’m actually intrigued to go listen to a couple of Joe’s songs to see what he’s like.

Sounds like a great show and kudos to Sting for buying into the locale as well. He’s someone for whom my opinion of his work covers all bases from loving to hating but there’s enough on the credit side that I’d jump at the chance to see him live. As long he doesn’t bring out special guests Bryan and Rod for their not too distant #1 offering.

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 29, 2022 12:12 pm

I have now listened to the two Joe Sumner songs on Spotify. I have no need to hear anymore.

Virgindog
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Virgindog
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June 29, 2022 1:44 pm

Good call on Robert’s Western World. Both you and Sting have good taste in honky tonks.

cappiethedog
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June 29, 2022 1:53 pm

Leonard Cohen’s son Adam put out a listenable debut album. “Cry Ophelia” was decent. That’s pressure. He knows that all of his famous father’s fans are listening to what he has to say. Adam wants to be judged on his own merits, but if he underwent a pseudonym, maybe he doesn’t land on a major label. I like Adam Cohen’s music, but the context of being the son of a famous singer-songwriter helps. Maybe his greatest contribution to popular music was helping his ailing father with You Want It Darker.

About Sting, he played here. He turned “Roxanne” into a torch song. I like “Fortress Around Your Heart”. He didn’t play “Fortress Around Your Heart”.

dutchg8r
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June 30, 2022 3:09 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Did Sting’s slowed down Roxanne resemble this?!!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wUk7C88-6rg

cappiethedog
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June 30, 2022 8:54 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

LOL. Without your exposition, I wouldn’t know it was “Roxanne”. Sting’s intro lasted about ninety seconds before the first syllable. My bad, though. I missed The Police twice. Check out Bing and Ruth’s version of “Gigantic”. Truly unrecognizable. It can be any song you want.

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 29, 2022 6:03 pm

I checked out this Sumner fellow on Youtube, and I think he’s enjoyable enough! Maybe it was a bad night?

Then again, I might not be the best judge. The first time I saw Patrick Wolf, there was no announced opener, and most people were content to dance like crazy to the DJ who was playing. At some point, though, the music stopped and a stern-faced woman stepped onto the stage, wearing a fake mustache, no shirt or bra, and a damn pita bread sticking out of her shorts. She then proceeded to play a very odd mix of electro-clash (a la Peaches) and creepy industrial (a la Throbbing Gristle). She played a few songs, then walked off stage, and the DJ resumed his set, like nothing had happened.

Needless to say, the audience was completely gobsmacked. And I was in love.

cappiethedog
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June 30, 2022 12:09 am

Well, I can’t top that. But when Fiona Apple played here in the late-nineties, she had a local band open for her. Guitar, bass, drums, and ukulele. Oh, boy. And then the ukulele guy started to blow me away. Even the goths were impressed. I don’t think I ever used the word “virtuoso” in conjunction with ukulele before. He would later turn up on Late Night w/Conan O’Brien. His name is Jake Shimabukuro. His take on “Bizarre Love Triangle” is the most original New Order cover you’ll ever hear. I sometimes wonder if that’s the reason why New Order randomly played a show here.

dutchg8r
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June 30, 2022 1:18 pm

Ok, this was a TON of fun to read ltc, thank you! Sting has always struck me as being a very entertaining performer; I’d love to see him in concert some day.

Hopefully his son Joe is just happy and willing to do his thing, and he doesn’t feel pressured in any way……

My boss actually asked me last week “you weren’t going to the DC stop of Crue and Def Lep, were you?!” I was like, nope, I’m going to Hershey in a couple of weeks instead. I knew DC would be far too much trouble, something would go wrong and I wouldn’t be able to stay in order to catch the last Metro train, etc… we got slammed that night with horrid storms, and the concert had a 90 minute rain delay, and so on, so on… happy I made the right call! As long as the Hershey show has good weather of course, lol.

I’ve also got the DC Duran Duran show in August lined up. mt has graciously offered his assistance in helping me with creating a particular project for that show. I’ve got front row, and I’m gonna take full advantage of that to try and score Roger Taylor’s drumsticks at the end of the show. I decided against the “I want your Disco Stick, Roger” route. Didn’t feel MrDutch would appreciate that. 😁

dutchg8r
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June 30, 2022 3:18 pm

Wait, hold up, is this Sting’s eldest son who was in Fiction Plane?? They put out a single way back in 2006 or so that I recall was actually pretty good, but can’t remember the title now for the life of me.

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