MANILA, Philippines – Life is fleeting, and humans are but a speck in the vastness of time and space.
This reality again struck Filipinos when floods caused by typhoon “Pablo” swept away precious lives merely a few days before the Manila leg of Sting’s “Back to Bass” tour.
Thus Sting’s last song was a fitting way to pay tribute to the victims.
|Sting performs at the Araneta Coliseum, during the Manila leg of his "Back to Bass" tour
"Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away, but something in our minds will always stay," Sting sang, compelling the Araneta Coliseum to at least subdued excitement out of respect for the dead.
The solemn lyrics of “Fragile,” which speak of mortality, violence and war, capped a memorable concert punctuated by the performances of musical greats such as drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, who Sting candidly referred to as “possibly the greatest drummer in the world,” Sting’s longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, violinist Peter Tickell (who also played the mandolin), vocalist Jo Lawry, and keyboardist David Sancious.
Despite the controversy behind the concert’s change in venue, the Big Dome was packed to the rafters on Sunday night. There were almost no vacant seats to be seen, and the audience was varied across ages and socio-economic status, though the steep ticket prices ensured that many who watched could afford to spare no less than P1,000 and as much as almost P16,000.
|(L-R) Vinnie Colaiuta and Sting
The set list of Sting, born Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, spanned the 25 years of his solo career, and while he played bass throughout the concert, true to his roots in The Police, he switched with Miller to play guitar on “Fragile,” lending a more personal touch to the quietly guitar-driven song chosen to honor the victims of Pablo.
His songs reflected his journey as an artist, and showed his influences and musical range from rock to jazz, and country to eastern music.
The audience, many of who probably grew up listening to Sting’s songs courtesy of their parents or countless remakes of his songs by other artists, went wild over his biggest hits. The set list included 21 songs.
Aside from “Fragile,” Sting performed “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” “Seven Days,” “Fields of Gold,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Roxanne,” “King of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take.”
He also performed other hits such as “Englishman in New York,” “Demolition Man,” “I Hung My Head,” “End of the Game,” “Driven To Tears,” “Heavy Cloud No Rain,” “Shape of My Heart,” “The Hounds of Winter,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” “Desert Rose” and “Next To You.”
The songs were punctuated by instrumental intervals showcasing the talents of those onstage, the antics of a bear mascot towards the end of the concert, Sting’s stories about his songs, and his expressions of admiration for the “great” Philippine audience, which Tickell later described on social media as “the best audience on the whole tour.”
He also said “the thrilla is in Manila,” referring to the boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975, also held in Araneta Coliseum. The audience certainly tried to prove him right, enthusiastically clapping, singing, and dancing to his songs.
The set design was minimal, merely a black cloth serving as a backdrop, with the stage lights providing atmosphere as needed to immerse the audience in the songs. The stage served well enough to focus attention on the performers themselves, who needed few effects to highlight their performance.
Sting’s powerful vocals were highlighted by Lawry’s haunting voice, and Miller’s guitar playing complemented his bass lines. Tickell’s violin also took on the roles of other instruments absent from the stage, and Sancious’ keyboard more than just filled out the band’s sound.
Overall, the concert was a reminder that like the best wines, great music can only get better with time.
Sting’s “Back to Bass” concert in Manila was opened by Aiza Seguerra, accompanied by Mike Villegas on guitar and Angelo Villegas on bass.