Sting had a lot riding on his most recent album, 57th & 9th, and its 2017 tour that packed Fishtown's Fillmore Philadelphia on Saturday night.
First, he had to thaw a freezing audience of grumbling over-40s. Luckily, they could sample the debut of the Fillmore's tony new VIP lounge area, with plush couch seating and heady cocktails, so that was a start. Second, the usually eclectic Sting had to distance himself, his literary lyrical skills, and his warm jazzy melodic complexity from the taint of a decade's worth of lute music, morbid boating songs, depressing Christmas holiday albums, and the saddest set of children's tales this side of Bambi.
Though the crunchy rock-outs and baleful ballads of 57th & 9th were a nice star on Sting's road to recovery, it was through this loose, live revelry that the singer/bassist seemed happily unbound.
Starting and ending with 57th & 9th's most beatific moments ("Heading South on the Great North Road," with its sliding vocal runs, and "The Empty Chair"), Sting & Co. proved nimble, limber, even sensual, as though they'd practiced the boss' tantric yoga routine. The band was a family affair, with not only father-son guitarists Dominic and Rufus Miller, but also Sting's soundalike son, Joe Sumner, handling background vocals.
After he and his son ran through a clunky version of David Bowie's spacey "Ashes to Ashes," Sting tackled 57th & 9th's "50,000," written in dedication to Bowie, Prince, and Lemmy. "50,000 voices rising every time he sings … Rock stars don't ever die / They only fade away."