Paul Simon and Sting review: Icons delve into back catalogue for a musical masterclass
Sting and Paul Simon, Odyssey Arena, Belfast
On paper this might seem like one of music’s rougher mixes, preening new wave icon Sting meets up with Rhymin’ Simon, the only living boy on the New York folk scene.
But a cursory examination last night revealed not so hidden links as well as differences.
Both stars entered together with Sting’s traditional blond locks swapped for dark troubadour’s beard.
Simon, by contrast, looked like Danny de Vito, albeit one who could easily trump Sting’s opener Brand New Day with a sublime Boy In The Bubble, and cheekily steal Fields of Barley from him with a still sweet voice.
Solo segments followed, Sting beefing up his back catalogue with jazzy inflections and Roxy Music-style gypsy violin, with the neglected Driven To Tears starring. Simon followed up a swampy badass Mrs Robinson with the sophistication of Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover, and while you wouldn’t accuse him of having something as vulgar as a competitive streak, one couldn’t help feeling a songwriting masterclass was being delivered.
What both musicians share is an ability to infect rock’s lumpen structures with liberating exotic rhythms, and arguably Sting’s best moment of the night was the segue from Fragile, via America into Message In A Bottle. And thereby lies one of his summoner’s tales. Every time you see Sting you are reminded of what a great singles band the Police were, while Paul Simon can make you forget about his other erstwhile partner by dipping into any track from Graceland.
Enjoyable enough as this musical coalition was, there was no doubting the senior partner.