Listen, there’s a reason Sting gets the call for these high-profile one-off gigs.
He brings with him an ineffable sense of cool — derisive snorts from the cool kids notwithstanding — and a catalog piled high with hits.
Such an artist is catnip for organizers, who want nothing more, in these situations, than an arena full of people blissed out on their favorite songs, arms bedecked with blinking LED bracelets, clutching their Chik-fil-A coupons and singing along to 30-year-old singles.
Such was the likely desire of those responsible for the final night of the two-night AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! concert series at American Airlines Center, and Sting didn’t fail to deliver: an 80-minute set, full of digressive, spontaneous rewirings of familiar tracks, and a sense of confident professionalism bordering on pure muscle memory.
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Sunday night’s spectacle more closely resembled a typical concert in the space, with a single opening act and, more pointedly, a considerable increase in the number of people in attendance. It was still sparse for Echosmith’s unremarkable opening set, but as Sting and his bandmates took the stage, the room was comfortably full. Of the three events this past weekend, Sunday’s was far and away the most well-attended.
Echosmith was just in DFW last month for an uninspired slot on the KISS-FM Jingle Ball line-up at Verizon Theatre.
Everything I thought about the band then was reaffirmed Sunday, despite a halfhearted stab at Talking Heads’ This Must Be the Place, the bulk of their 45-minute performance was one colorless alt-pop tune after another. The coup de grace was lead singer Sydney Sierota asking if the band could count on seeing everyone again during their upcoming US tour, and that the band would be back soon. (Spoiler: Echosmith has Austin and Houston dates on its two-month cross-country tour, but nothing in DFW.)
After a mystifying introduction from Aloe Blacc — a ubiquitous and frankly baffling presence throughout this College Football Playoff weekend — Sting, sporting a scruffy beard (thanks to his ongoing role in the soon-to-close Broadway musical The Last Ship) arrived with a scaled down quartet.
Crisp, polished and professional, Sting ran through all the favorites — from the opener, Englishman in New York, through to Fields of Gold, Message in a Bottle and King of Pain — and indulged his improvisatory impulses with a rendition of Roxanne that seemed to stretch on for eternity.
“I must’ve sang that song a million times, but every night I find some incremental change that keeps it interesting for me,” he explained as the band kept the tune percolating behind him.
Wherever the College Football Playoff National Championship game winds up next year, hopefully those responsible for overseeing these ancillary events take away something valuable from this smoothly run, if woefully underattended first year.
College fans, it seems, are far less interested in what’s surrounding the game, than the game itself (as opposed to those attending the Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game). So, instead of trying to spread everything out over a weekend, maybe a single, blockbuster event with all of the resources marshaled to get names that guarantee packed venues? That way, if nothing else, organizers’ exposure is limited to that one concert, rather than multiple attempts to rouse interest.
After all, Sting can only keep doing his thing for so long.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713