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« Rock, Paper, Scissors- Peter Gabriel and Sting, Air Canada Centre, June 29th, 2016 »

I first saw Sting and Peter Gabriel share a Toronto stage in 1988, when they headlined the Amnesty International ‘Human Rights Now!’ show with Bruce Springsteen. Too young to have had the pleasure of watching Gabriel front Genesis live, I did however get many opportunities to see Sting with the Police from 1979 until their last Police Picnic in 1983 (and the reunion a few years ago). In the 80s, Peter Gabriel and Sting both toured as solo artists, and I also have fond memories of seeing them separately as well as together on the Amnesty International stage. I was quite intrigued by the idea of their joining up for this current tour, wondering what the collaboration would look and sound like.

‘Driven to Tears’, which would be the case a few times over the course of a very poignant night.

Stages seem to have opened up in the last few years, and this show was no exception to this trend. From high above in our 300 level seats, we could see everything clearly, including the video side and back drops, and this direct view helped bring me closer to the performance as the night wore on. From the very first notes, the audience was treated to a visual and auditory feast for the senses. Each musician gave us a strong performance that threw in their huge hits as well as some deeper cuts. My favourite moment, which followed a comment about waking up in Washington D.C. after the UK’s EU Referendum vote results and turning on the TV to wonder (and I quote) “what the fuck had happened to our country”, was Sting’s brilliant medley of the Genesis classic ‘Dancing With the Moonlit Knight” and his own ‘Message in a Bottle’. It was one of many poignant reminders of how timeless their music and lyrics are; when Sting dedicated ‘Fragile’ to the victims of the Orlando shooting, it was hard to imagine it had not been written a few weeks ago. Watching the footage of refugees while he sang an emotional ‘Invisible Sun’ really brought home the point that we have not moved forward much since he wrote the song about the Northern Ireland troubles of the 1970s. The locations may have changed, but the pain and suffering continue.

‘Invisible Sun’ in 2016. The conflicts have new locations but the words still hit home.

There were beautiful renditions of some of my favourite songs, including ‘Don’t Give Up’ with Jennie Abrahamsson’s haunting vocal duet, ‘Red Rain’, ‘Solsbury Hill’, and ‘Games Without Frontiers’, and a phenomenal cover of Sting’s ‘Set Them Free’ from Gabriel. Sting too was in top form, giving us great renditions of ‘Desert Rose’ and ‘Roxanne’ among his huge hits. There were also new tracks, including the stunning ‘Love Can Heal’, which was written and performed by Gabriel as a tribute to slain British MP Jo Cox.

Lighting away the dark during Gabriel’s tribute to Jo Cox, ‘Love Can Heal’.

Two things stood out for me; these two are still social justice warriors with a great ear for stellar talent, as we witnessed great musicianship from the band members accompanying them. As well, they are visionaries, with a catalogue that is still as relevant lyrically today as when they wrote their songs all those years ago. I left the venue lifted by their ability to be beacons of light in a world that often seems very dark these days, but also delighted that despite the serious, often sombre themes of many numbers, there was a joyfulness transmitted to the audience that followed me home and remained hours after the show had ended.

Goofing off with old tunes and old friends after the show.

On a more personal note, the concert was also a reunion with a few local friends who were peppered here and there in the crowd and who met up for quick catch-ups before and after the show. This is for me, so far, the Toronto concert of the year, and I feel fortunate that we could witness this reunion of likeminded icons. If they haven’t yet appeared in your city and you have the chance to still catch them on this tour, make the effort to go see them. It will be worth every penny.

All photographs by Anne-Marie Klein, with the exception of the last one, taken by Miroslav Lorh.

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