September 2, 2004
Philips Arena - Atlanta

What an intriguing pairing of ‘80s icons! Both artists retain a barrier-pushing edge even as they slide through the usually art-killing middle age doldrums and their solo careers have both been spotty since they left their seminal bands. Sting and Annie Lennox are the perfect musical match.


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 Annie started off a bit uneven. Songs like “Have Mercy” and “No Turning Back” came across as half-hearted attempts at blue-eyed soul. Not even the hit “No More I Love You’s” could spark that much interest in the crowd. That all changed after a palate-cleaning gospel version of Eurythmics’ “Here Comes The Rain Again.” Lennox sat a piano for the sparse solo performance. After that, the show took on a more relaxed and dynamic feel. The audience joined in on “Walking On Broken Glass,” adding their hand claps to the percussive sway of the tune. Then it happened: that defining, transitional moment that turns an okay show into a great one. Over a wailing electric guitar, Annie began emoting. Back into gospel mode, but this time firmly entrenched in the gospel that was eventually bastardized into rock and roll, she led her band through a razor sharp take on “Missionary Man” that left no doubts as to whether she still had the power of yore. To underscore it, this monster segued into an equally stunning “I Need A Man.” The double shot found the crowd finally on its feet. A vastly reworked and muscular “Sweet Dreams” followed. The airy synth lines were replaced with distortion and swagger but all the pulsing groove remained. As a final statement, she chose “Why.” This time, she fully transformed into the diva that she hinted at early in the evening. The passion and frustration of human connection and disconnection was all wrapped up in the soaring but subtle voice and soul of Annie Lennox. Following a plea to the audience to give to a children’s charity, she was gone.



Sting had a hard act to follow. He seemed to understand and top-loaded his show with up-tempo, fun material. Although the disco-era Manilow meets Seal sound of “Send Your Love” left much to be desired as an opener, it wasn’t long before Sting strapped on his bass and knocked “Synchronicity II” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” out over the heads of his fans. The high point of the show came on “We’ll Be Together” as Annie Lennox returned to rapturous applause. Her presence took one of Sting’s most mediocre hits and made it shine like the brightest smile. Unfortunately, there was nowhere left to go but down. Sure, “Englishman In New York” was a bouncing pleasure and yes; “Fields Of Gold” and “Fragile” were both poignant. But they were no matches for a glut of mid-set energy drainers. For example, “Whenever I Say Your Name” is a sappy ballad that may be perfectly suitable for the next Disney soundtrack but other than that, it should never be aired outside of the confines of Phil Collins’ demo closet. The fact that Sting is responsible is hard to fathom. On top of this, “Roxanne” was rendered a listless, plodding 10-minute failed experiment. At first, the half-tempo was an interesting change. It soon became a bore that went on nearly endlessly. A reference to “King Of Pain” threatened to liven it up before it collapsed back into tedium.


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Not until the closing did any real energy return. “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” single handedly redeemed the latter part of the show. While symbols of Islam, Judaism and Peace alternated, Sting pointedly sang, “I never so no military solutions that didn’t always end up as something worse.” Written around the time of the first Bush-Gulf war, it couldn’t have been more appropriate now. “Every Breath You Take” was the logical and almost pre-determined ender. Feeling more jubilant than tense these days, the song woke up anyone who had nodded off during the extended indulgence of the last Police song. The lone encore was a lethargic, if hopelessly romantic “A Thousand Years.” It was a brave choice. There were many more hits that could’ve been used for maximum final impact. Sting chose to go with mood. Actually, that’s the curse of being a Sting fan. He pushes the edges, doesn’t rely on a safety net and therefore never completely satisfies. Truth be told, that’s also the blessing because when the mood is right and the experiments work, he can’t be touched. All of that was proven this night in Atlanta.

(Chris McKay /