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« Sting and Peter Gabriel: Rock, Paper, Scissors Tour— Air Canada Centre, Toronto, June 29, 2016 »

I first saw Sting and Peter Gabriel share a Toronto stage in 1989, 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 then as a solo artist. I have fond memories of the Amnesty Show and of the duets the top artists shared, and so I was quite intrigued by the reunion of Sting and Gabriel for this current tour.

Stages seem to have opened up in the last few years, and this show was no exception. Front high up 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 least 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 after the UK vote on the EU Referendum 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 ‘Message in a Bottle’. There were 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. Likewise, when Peter Gabriel gave us ‘Love Can Heal’ as a tribute to slain UK MP Jo Cox. Watching the footage of refugees while Sting sang an emotional ‘Invisible Sun’ really brought the point home 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 continues.

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 ‘Set Them Free’ from Gabriel. Sting too was in top form, giving us great renditions of ‘Desert Rose’ and ‘Roxanne’ among his huge hits.

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 around 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 themes of many numbers, there was a joyfulness transmitted to the audience that followed me home and remained hours after the show had ended.

On a more personal note, the concert was also a reunion with 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, make the effort to go see them. It will be worth every penny.

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