Concert Reviews

Sting Brought the Hits to Celebrate the Echo Lounge & Music Hall's Grand Opening

Retired The Police man Sting playing at Kaaboo in 2019.
Retired The Police man Sting playing at Kaaboo in 2019. Andrew Sherman
Sting, as the kids say, understood the assignment. The multi-platinum pop superstar was on hand Tuesday night for the official “grand opening” of the new Echo Lounge & Music Hall, the venue opened in partnership between Mark Cuban (in attendance Tuesday) and Live Nation that’s been up and running for about five weeks.

All Sting needed to do was look good, play well and not distract the at-capacity crowd from ogling the shiny new venue, tucked off to the side of Interstate 35.

The room, with its vaguely Art Deco decoration and acres of finished concrete, evokes an amalgam of other spaces in town — the hybrid general admission-seated upper tier found at House of Blues or the Factory in Deep Ellum; the plethora of bars situated around the perimeter, à la South Side Ballroom; reasonably decent sound, on par with Trees; an abysmal lack of parking, like … well, just about everywhere in Deep Ellum — and seemed to fare well on its big night.

One thoughtful flourish you don’t see terribly often at Dallas venues: The enormous flat screen TVs mounted near most of the bars upstairs and down were broadcasting the performance as it happened, which helped ameliorate the lack of clear sightlines in much of the venue. If you don’t arrive early and stake out a spot (or happen to snag one of the handful of seats upstairs), you might find yourself hearing more than you see. (That said, this may have just been a “grand opening” fluke, and not standard practice.)

For roughly 95 minutes, the multiple Grammy winner, backed by a crack, seven-piece band, indulged the 1,000 attendees lucky enough to snap up tickets — the concert sold out in an hour — in what had to be his coziest local gig since … probably, when the Super Bowl was in town a decade ago?

Speaking of the Super Bowl, Sting’s last appearance in North Texas came two years ago at the ill-fated Kaaboo spectacle in AT&T Stadium. This performance, like the one before it, is strictly a paycheck gig — who can begrudge a bajillionaire a few more dollars? — but one attended to with verve, good humor, and enough familiar material to send the ceaselessly gabby crowd into ecstatic cheers and awkward dancing more than once.

Theoretically, Sting is touring behind his latest album, My Songs, a collection of what he describes as
click to enlarge At 70 years old, Sting could do this kind of gig in his sleep. - PRESTON JONES
At 70 years old, Sting could do this kind of gig in his sleep.
Preston Jones
 “reconstructed” versions of past hits — whatever adjustments he’s made weren’t always readily apparent Tuesday — as well as The Bridge, which he just released in mid-November. He pulled two songs from that album Tuesday (“Rushing Water” and “If It’s Love”), neither of which lingered beyond the final notes fading out.
Sting himself seemed downright chatty throughout, reminiscing about his past trips to Dallas (“I’ve been coming here since 1979; I’ve probably played here 25 times,” he remarked at one point) or pondering what constitutes a hit (an anecdote about lying in bed in a London hotel room in the late ‘70s, only to hear a window cleaner outside, “Whistling my fucking song — that’s a hit!”).

Kicking off with “Message in a Bottle,” Sting reeled off most of the expected back catalog, with one classic tumbling into another (“Walking on the Moon” still bangs). While the setlist was stacked with beloved songs, the 70-year-old singer-songwriter did as most artists of his stature tend to do once they’ve reached a certain phase in their careers, serving it up with slight flourishes or with unexpected, contemporary tweaks.

While the melodies were mostly rendered faithfully, Sting would occasionally slow them slightly (as during “Fields of Gold,” an already stately ballad), or add interpolations (a snippet of Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams” made a cameo during “Shape of My Heart,” closing the loop that began with the late rapper sampling the ‘90s hit).

Still, the moments of genuine surprise and delight were few, which is precisely what The Echo Lounge & Music Hall wanted. A high-gloss evening of familiar songs, delivered to a crowd often more fascinated with documenting the night than experiencing it, performed by an artist who could — and let’s face it, there’s likely a chance he has — do this sort of exclusive gig in his sleep.
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Preston Jones is a Dallas-based writer who spent a decade as the pop music critic for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors honored his work three times, including a 2017 first place award for comment and criticism (Class AAAA). His writing has also appeared in the New York Observer, The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, Central Track, Oklahoma Today and Slant Magazine.
Contact: Preston Jones