Sting & Shaggy at O2 Academy, Newcastle, UK – 22nd May 2019

Posted by Bianca on Wednesday May 22, 2019 Under Reggae, Rock

Review + Photos by John Hayhurst

The most bizarre musical combination is a triumph live as Sting and Shaggy rock the Geordie’s hometown of Newcastle.

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They go together like cats and motorways as Alexei Sayle would say, and yet this strange reggae/rock combo works live better than anyone could have imagined. Let’s face it, Sting is a little dry in the humour stakes, Shaggy is the yin to his yang in that nothing is actually serious for him. Shaggy plays the role of warm up man, frequently getting the crowd hyped up, clapping, singing and screaming, while Sting is being Sting, wearing a tight black T shirt showing off a trim muscled bod for a 67-year-old but rarely speaking or smiling too much (unless Shaggy is thrusting his groin forward towards him – in which case he makes a run for it).

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It takes one booming “EEEYEEEAAHYO” to let you know that Sting’s voice is in equally great shape, although we have to get through a couple of tracks from their debut collab album of last year – title track ‘44/876’ (named after the phone codes of their respective countries) and ‘Morning is Coming’. They served only to warm up the crowd, and the thought of having an hour of that album, which was a little bland in parts (to say the least) doesn’t bear thinking about. We are really here tonight for their respective solo hits and if Sting fancies playing a few Police tunes then we won’t complain.

Tonight, the setlist was peppered with Police classics like ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ and Walking on the Moon’, played to the full and sounding like the original band in their heyday. Spare a thought for Sting’s drummer who had to replicate Stuart Copeland’s outstanding fills and cymbal off beat tapping for these classic tunes, he did a great job under the circumstances.

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‘Englishman/Jamaican in New York’ was the first track that made sense why they are together on stage. The Police were always criticised for their “white man reggae music” in the early days and Shaggy is actually Jamaican and lives in New York. So, to hear these tunes given a proper reggae going over was a bit of a dream. Shaggy matched a couple of fans down the front by producing a Jamaican flag out of his back pocket and waved it about like he’d just broken the 100m world record. Always the entertainer, even managing to get Sting to play bass on his new song, and NOT to sing – seeing as he brought a younger better-looking Canadian singer (Alex Stewart) for a version of ‘You’. Shaggy also managed to humorously splice ‘Mr Boombastic’ on to ‘Roxanne’ and get Sting to play the Rayvon vocal part on ‘Angel’. It wasn’t all going the homeboy’s way – even in such an intimate atmosphere!

The weirdest part of the night was a sketch sing of a courtroom scene where Sting put on a stripy white and black shirt (Not a Newcastle top like we originally thought) and Shaggy played the judge condemning him. They then brought on a local choir to back up ‘If You Love Somebody Set Them Free’ which was a definite high.

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Cleverly mixing ‘Oh Carolina’ with ‘We’ll Be Together’ and ‘So Lonely’ with ‘Strength of a Woman’, it started to feel like a natural pairing, only when ‘Walking on the Moon’ started and all Shaggy could really do was pretend he was walking on the moon adding a few grunts here and there, there isn’t much more to be enhanced.

Plenty of trademarked Sting call and response shenanigans for the rest of the night, and after ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ and a perfect rendition of ‘Desert Rose’ we thought that might have been it. However, there was still Shaggy’s biggest hit ‘It Wasn’t Me’ and Sting again provided the RikRok vocals this time whilst avoiding Shaggy’s aforementioned thrust moves. The finale was a superb ‘Every Breath You Take’ reminding everyone just how many great songs Sting has produced. Tonight, was an unexpected surprise, to see that these 2 could produce such great fun entertainment together, ignore their album – go see a show, that’s where the magic happens and hopefully it won’t be the last time they decide to play on the same stage again. They would be perfect for a festival near you sometime in 2020.

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SETLIST: 44/876, Morning is Coming, Englishman in New York, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Oh Carolina/We’ll Be Together, If You Can’t find Love, Love Is the Seventh Wave, To Love and Be Loved, Message in a Bottle, you, Brand New Day, Waiting for the Break of Day, Gotta Get Back My Baby, If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Don’t Make Me Wait, Angel, Dreaming in the USA, Crooked Tree, Shape of my Heart, Walking on the Moon, So Lonely/Strength of a Woman, Hey Sexy Lady, Roxanne/Boombastic Encore: Can’t Stand Losing You, Desert Rose, It Wasn’t Me, Every Breath You Take, Next To You.

LISTENING: 44/876 – album released April 2018. Although you would be better listening to The Police Greatest Hits!

Sting and Shaggy

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