Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Stage

Sting rocks the house with old and new hits in Florida Orchestra gala

ST. PETERSBURG — In some ways, the Florida Orchestra’s gala with Sting looked like other concerts of a mega-star. Most of the fans who packed the Mahaffey Theater bought their tickets the day they went on sale. They cheered and sang along at the opening strains of the singer-songwriter’s instantly recognizable hits.

A couple of times they stood for the duration of a song. The gala, the orchestra’s only major fund-raising event of the year, raised a record $1.5 million, money that will be used for securing soloists and expanding community work in such areas as schools and hospitals.

But the concert stood out most for its contrasts with most megastar events. Though a surprisingly high percentage of younger faces blended in between graying or bald heads, this was still an older crowd that tended to express enthusiasm through rapt silence. It started on time, Sting strolling onstage in a slim-cut tux alongside music director Michael Francis, a fellow Brit and longtime fan. He joked about the day’s chilly, drizzly weather reminiscent of London.

He then launched into Englishman in New York, accompanied by Natalie Hoe, the orchestra’s principal clarinet who had also entered with him. The jazzy song set a tone for the evening as Hoe’s silky clarinet captured an elegance not apparent in the original version. At just 23 and in her first professional position, Hoe has started quickly, succeeding Brian Moorhead, who retired last year.

Most of the concert’s songs had been arranged by Rob Mathes, who has a long track record of turning out orchestral adaptations for superstars. (Mathes also played keyboards in the concert, one of four musicians Sting brought with him.)

Sting has been cranking out hits since the late 1970s, when he co-founded the Police with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. He branched out as a solo act to jazz, folk and classical stylings and even penned a Broadway musical. That versatility might have left some wondering how often he would dip into the Police’s greatest hits.

If there was any doubt about that, Sting erased it with the second song, Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, which had the black-tie crowd immediately chiming in on the Eee-Ohhh-Ohh refrain and clapping their hands. He slowed down that vibe with a touching anecdote about coming home from an international tour to see his new home, a weatherbeaten estate near Stonehenge that had seen better days. Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, had consulted him on the purchase while he was overseas, but a stroll through barley fields told him she had made the right choice.

Sting recalled what he told his wife — "Darling, I want to live here; but more important, I want to die here" — before launching into Fields of Gold.

He followed that up with another nod to the Police days, a mellower version of Roxanne. Francis took the orchestra through a lush arrangement heavy on the strings, including a solo by principal cello James Connors.

The program diverged into other parts of his life story, which for Sting become intertwined with his music. The native of Newcastle, England, confessed to a long fascination with country music.

"But for me there’s a problem with authenticity," he said, although he gained some when Johnny Cash covered I Hung My Head. Sting played harmonica for the song, which contains Western references to a shooting death and gallows and ends on a single lonely note.

Another pair of songs linked his childhood near a shipyard with his recent past, the title song of his musical, The Last Ship, and the jaunty and slightly melancholy What Say You Meg?, about a sailor’s marriage proposal. If those songs mellowed the mood, all it took to change that was King of Pain, which brought in the full orchestra and with it the crowd. Then like a scientist who over years of experimentation has worked out the kinks in his formula, he circled back to one of his greatest hits, Every Breath You Take.

Sting bowed and waved to the crowd. He walked offstage, but you knew it wasn’t going to end there. He and the orchestra played two encores, the Middle Eastern-themed Desert Rose and the tender antiwar song, Fragile. That was part of the denouement following a peak moment of what had been scripted as his closing number. It got the audience on their feet, years shedding off them like snake scales as they swayed and sang along.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

OPENING: DANCING AT LUGHNASAIrish playwright Brian Friel, who died in 2015 at 86, won’t be traveling anymore. But I’ll bet he packed a tidy suitcase. Dancing at Lughnasa, Jobsite Theater’s season closer, manages to address a lot of issues: race, reli...
Published: 06/13/18
Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall rolls out a new lineup of musicals for its 2018-19 season, a mix of comedy, favorite musicals and romance."For the last 35 years, Broadway has always been a staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall," chief executive officer Zev Buffman said in a p...
Published: 06/12/18
A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

Dr. Jeffrey Grove sat three-quarters of the way back from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, waiting for his moment. The Largo physician made the trip with family to New York for Sunday’s Tony Awards, where he hoped to see his investment in O...
Published: 06/11/18
Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

SIKESTON, Mo. — Neal Boyd, an opera singer who won America’s Got Talent and dabbled in Missouri politics, has died. Scott County Coroner Scott Amick says Boyd died around 6 p.m. Sunday at his mother’s house in Sikeston. He was 42. Amick says Boyd had...
Published: 06/11/18
Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s drama team stole the show at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards Sunday night.The performance brought the crowd— many of whom were wiping tears from their eyes— to its collective feet at the Radio City Music ...
Published: 06/11/18
How a Largo doctor became a Tony-nominated Broadway producer

How a Largo doctor became a Tony-nominated Broadway producer

LARGO — Dr. Jeffrey Grove stitches up cuts, sets broken bones and treats infections, all of the things family doctors do every day. His father and grandfather did the same. Their diplomas in osteopathic medicine hang in his office near the antique ex...
Published: 06/08/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Tampa Repertory gives proper respect to Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’

Tampa Repertory gives proper respect to Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From the Bridge’

TAMPA — Arthur Miller’s 13th play, A View From the Bridge, may be set more than a half-century ago but couldn’t be more relevant today. It tackles America’s struggles around immigrant discrimination and gender identity with se...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/07/18