Peter Gabriel and Sting Concert Review- Columbus, OH


When I first heard that Peter Gabriel and Sting were touring together, I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical of the billing. In my mind, I viewed Peter Gabriel as more thoughtful and ponderous and Sting as a little more poppy and “mainstream”. I then was made aware that the structure of the shows would not be a split bill, but a co-concert: a shared experience by both artists, where they would sing each others’ songs and perform together. The thought of these two intelligent, thoughtful pop-rockers swapping songs began to excite me.  Columbus was the first stop on their nationwide tour of ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors 2016″, and in promotional videos that were released beforehand, they explained that they had been in Columbus for several weeks prior, preparing the songs, rehearsing constantly and creating an elaborate visual presentation for their songs. As it was the first stop, no one had any idea what to expect from these two veteran front men.

The concert opened with one of Peter’s most intense and primal songs, ‘The Rhythm of the Heat’. The visual display was stunning, with a massive set of panels that had intense, colorful visual displays, and staggered sets of colored and white lights. Both Sting and Peter had stellar back up bands, that both furiously drummed visceral, tribal beats until the end of the song.  After thunderous applause, Sting and Peter stepped forward and introduced their set. Following this strong opening, the concert began with some whimsy, as Peter explained that Sting had been born close to shipyards, and Peter had grown up close to cows, so he had hoped Sting would teach him how to build a ship, and in exchange, he would teach him how to milk a cow. Sting launched into ‘If I Ever Lose My Faith’, one of his more popular songs. I was surprised to notice that Peter didn’t leave the stage. He stood to the side and humbly played backup, providing light vocals and keyboards. As Peter launched into his solo material, Sting provided his solid tenor voice to swells of choruses and his adept bass playing to most of Peter’s numbers.

This was, to me, a powerful gesture. Sting and Peter Gabriel are both wildly successful musicians, but the night seemed free of ego as they  As they performed together, a few things stood out. First of all, a great care and respect for each others’ songs. Sting’s rousing rendition of ‘Shock the Monkey’ sounded too perfect. Peter Gabriel’s understated and powerful performance of ‘If You Love Somebody Set Them Free’ felt right, propelled lightly by his breathy baritone range. It was almost eerie how well some of their swapped songs worked.  Secondly, they performed with such excitement and an almost giddy energy that was a blast to watch. Seeing Sting and Peter playfully posture as they marched and circled around each other with eyes locked during ‘Games Without Frontiers’ was a blast. Sting and Peter, along with their bands, seemed really excited to play the material and the enthusiasm was infectious.

Musicianship at this concert was a major highlight. Both artists brought their bands (Sting had the legendary Vinnie Colaiuta on the drums), but for the most part, both bands played together for every song. This means the ultra-rhythmic ‘The Rhythm of the Heat”s ending was punctuated by 2 drummers and a percussionist, along with almost every other song. Multiple guitarists played off of each others strengths. Dual basses by the legendary Tony Levin and a very capable Sting added a solid but deft low end. Several keyboard rigs, manned by Peter Gabriel and others, created  layers and layers of atmosphere. The back up singers added a sonic depth that made me feel chills several times during the concert. As usual, both Peter and Sting were backed with incredible bands, and that was just compounded by the fact that both bands played together. And to give credit where credit is due: Peter’s voice and energy were as perfect as ever, and Sting’s unmistakable tenor sounded near-perfect as he handled songs from his entire career with ease.

The biggest surprise of the night was when Sting sang a few bars of the Genesis classic, ‘Selling England by the Pound’, backed up by gorgeous violin accompaniment. While most people were there to hear the big hits from both artists, this song selection was met by a few audible gasps from progressive rock fans like me. It took everyone by surprise, and was beautifully rendered as a short segue into ‘Message in a Bottle’. Sting threw another curveball as the classic Police number, ‘Roxanne’, morphed into a soulful rendition of Bill Withers’ classic, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’.

The concert was amazing for a lot of reasons. The major criticism  of the show that I am seeing is that Sting and Peter Gabriel’s wavelengths are too different for a completely enjoyable night. Sting had lots of upbeat, poppy numbers, and while Peter has his fair share of those, he also included songs like ‘Darkness’. ‘Darkness’ in particular had a strong negative effect on the audience, even though I find it to be one of the more interesting tracks on his more experimental album, Up. It seemed like it was chosen for a more select group of fans, and not for the general audience. Lots of folks were there to dance, and were unsure of what to do during the ballads. However, Peter Gabriel debuted a new track called ‘Love Can Heal’, which he dedicated to his dear friend Jo Cox (who had been killed only a short time before the concert). It was a scintillating and deeply touching song, and although it wasn’t one of his dance-able numbers, the audience was visibly moved by its depth and the context in which he wrote it. In a way, there was a sort of yin-yang relationship on stage, as it seemed as though Gabriel brought out Sting’s intelligent, thoughtful side, and Sting pulled out Peter’s fun, lighthearted side. This made for a balanced night for fans of both artists, but maybe a slightly less balanced night for fans of one of the individual artists. My impression was that this was more the case with Sting fans not being crazy about some of Peter’s more obscure or somber numbers. Regardless, I felt like the night was well balanced, and the crowd response was highly enthusiastic. Among my concert experiences (and I’ve seen more than a few), this will likely rank among the top 10.

Sting and Peter Gabriel are still touring the United States. This concert was huge for me, as this was my first Peter Gabriel show, and he didn’t disappoint at all, and Sting’s exceptional performance made for an amazing night of music. Check and see if they are coming your way here.

Setlist (lifted from Gabriel

  1. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  2. Sting
  3. (Sting cover)
  4. Sting & Peter Gabriel
  5. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  6. (The Police cover)
  7. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  8. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  9. Peter Gabriel
  10. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  11. Sting
  12. (The Police cover)
  13. Sting & Peter Gabriel
  14. (Sting cover)
  15. Peter Gabriel
  16. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  17. Sting
  18. (Genesis cover)
  19. Sting & Peter Gabriel
  20. (The Police cover)
  21. Peter Gabriel
  22. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  23. Sting
  24. (The Police cover)
  25. Sting & Peter Gabriel
  26. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  27. Peter Gabriel
  28. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  29. Sting
  30. (Sting cover)
  31. Peter Gabriel & Sting
  32. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  33. (Sting cover)
  34. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  35. Sting
  36. (The Police cover)
  37. Peter Gabriel
  38. (Sting cover)
  39. Sting
  40. (The Police cover)
  41. Peter Gabriel
  42. (Peter Gabriel cover)
  43. Sting
  44. (Sting cover)
  45. Peter Gabriel & Sting
  46. (Peter Gabriel cover)


  47. (The Police cover)
  48. (Peter Gabriel cover)

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