Sting and Shaggy's Reggae Party Broke the ATL
He may like his toast done on one side, but Sting’s new tour with Shaggy is crispy all the way around. At Atlanta’s Tabernacle Monday night, the unlikely pair fused four decades of hits into a reggae rock dance party that never let up for 137 minutes. Beginning with the lively “Englishman in New York” and finishing (two hours –– and encores––later) with the somber “Fragile” (both from Sting’s 1987 album, Nothing like the Sun) the duo covered Police favorites, grooved on Shaggy’s 2001 number one smashes “It Wasn’t Me” and “Angel,” and also brought to life newer material from their 2018 album, 44/876.
An eight-piece ensemble featuring Sting on bass, Shaggy on swagger, guitarist Dominic Miller, and two stellar backup singers performed in front of the Tabernacle’s massive pipe organ under a bare-bones lighting rig that put the spotlight on facial expressions and goofy antics like flirting with ladies in the VIP section. Breaking with performance incarnations of the past (including his 1989 stint in Broadway’s Threepenny Opera, a 2010 Symphonicity tour with a full orchestra, or 2016’s Rock, Paper, Scissors outing with Peter Gabriel), 66-year-old Sting has temporarily ditched drama and politics in favor of dancehall sweat, and it suits him (and us) well. From “Walking on the Moon” and “Message in a Bottle” to “Fields of Gold” and “Shape of My Heart,” Sting fans got what they came for, and multiple tracks from 44/876 blended seamlessly into the mix, including standouts “Don’t Make Me Wait” and “To Love and Be Loved.”
Sometimes Jamaican Shaggy, 49, stole the spotlight from his older British bruv by thrusting his hips into the front row as the beat steadied into his 1993 track “Oh Carolina” and also making sure every foot in the standing-room-only venue pogoed during the Police’s 1978 single, “So Lonely.” But the most surprising thing about the show was how soulfully and naturally it vibed; onstage, Sting and Shaggy are a match made in Jah heaven.
The 2000+ audience rooted for a third encore at the end of the night, but Sting and Shaggy had already peace-d out. Surely Sting is the same exacting musician and magniloquent bard who penned odes to fox hunting, Nabokov’s temptress, and Oppenheimer’s deadly toys all those years ago, but in front of this sweltering Southern crowd he wasn’t a man dressed like Picasso in a yoga pose dictating “Every Breath You Take.” He was a rock star who sang for his supper––and earned it.
© 2018 Kristi York Wooten