Review: Peter Gabriel, Sting are Sledgehammers!

Tahoe Onstage
Sting and Peter Gabriel had a “congenial battle of the bands” at Lake Tahoe on July 15.
Photos by Jim Grant / Harveys Lake Tahoe

Nostalgia reigns at Lake Tahoe, the romantic resort destination on the California-Nevada border. Sometimes the entertainment here can be more about great memories and less an ethereal experience of witnessing something superb, unique and contemporary. There was the fat Elvis in 1976 and a raspy Bob Dylan in 2009. However, Peter Gabriel and Sting performed together in Stateline on Friday night in a show that left an everlasting impression on all 7,000 who attended. It was a thrill.

“It was worth the $950 I spent tonight,” a man laughed as he walked out with the crowd after the 2-hour, 50-minute show. “Sorry, kids, about that college fund.”

Sting2Gabriel and Sting, who dominated the music scene in the 1980s – the cool part of it – teamed up for a rock and roll roshambo tour for a month-long run that started June 21.

“This (tour) is Rock Paper Scissors but it’s also karaoke night in Lake Tahoe,” a playful Gabriel said. “We have the red and blue corners and you are welcome to keep score.”

Sting added, “This is a genial battle of the bands.”

And while each of the headliners had his own fantastic band, the musicians often stayed on stage together, celebrating in unison their brilliant library of tunes. The band leaders of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame groups Genesis (Gabriel) and The Police (Sting) each had even greater success after they went solo in the ‘80s. Sting and Gabriel took turns with the 25 songs during the sold-out concert at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys.

Just as the house music began at 7 p.m. to introduce the show, a sun ray through a wispy cloud in the Tahoe blue sky cast rainbow colors, and the sound system’s percussion resonated as deep as any show at the venue since Crazy Horse played in 2012. This was to be an extraordinary evening.

Gabriel opened with his powerful song “The Rhythm of the Heat” and Sting countered with “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” getting a roar from his line that he had “lost faith in politicians, they all seem like game show hosts to me.” Throughout their careers, Sting and Gabriel both have been outspoken about world views.

After the second song, Sting and Gabriel embraced and it seemed a bit awkward.

“He has very large appendages,” Gabriel explained.

“I can’t control it,” Sting responded.

Sting wore a short-sleeve shirt and at 64 is still muscularly lean. Gabriel joked about standing next to him.

“I said it was time for me to get back on the yoga mat, and I was there for the longest time,” Gabriel said. “After a few minutes, (Sting) whispered in my ear, ‘You have to move around a bit.’ After three lessons, nobody can tell us apart. Backstage they call us the Tantric twins.”

What he lacked in physicality, Gabriel made up for it with energy and stage presence. Holding a tambourine, he twirled like Thelonious Monk and sprinted back and forth across the stage like Mick Jagger, all the while looking like a bald, white Fred Sanford.

The frontmen were complemented by outstanding musicians. Jennie Abrahamson captured the audience’s attention during the show’s fourth song, “Invisible Sun,” which Gabriel and Sting played together. Guitarist Dominic Miller worked the pedal to a rocked out version of “Driven To Tears,” which included a fantastic violin solo by Peter Tickell. After a press roll by Vinnie Colaiuta, who Sting called the best drummer in the world, the band played “The Hounds of Winter,” and Sting and singer Jo Lawry’s howls must have startled every coyote in the neighborhood.

As Gabriel had said, the concert did have a karaoke element. The crowd cheered when it recognized each tune, singing along, perhaps the most enthusiastically to “Shock The Monkey.” During another Gabriel song, “Red Rain,” a man in plaid shorts — with a red bandana hanging out of a pocket — sang and bounced down an aisle, spilling his $13 beer each time his foot landed on the blacktop.

PeterGabrielThe highlight may have been Gabriel’s “Games.” As he paced across the stage, Sting whistled and marched behind him with the precision of a military man or an ace bellboy in a modern hotel.

Sting took a more serious stance after “Driven To Tears.”

“Any reasonable person would be driven to tears by what has just happened in France, and Dallas, Minnesota, Baton Rouge and before that Orlando,” he said. “The only proper answer to that is solidarity.”

Later, he said, “in the 31 days since we left our homeland (Britain), we voted ourselves into a constitutional fucking nightmare. These next two songs might seem appropriate or even prescient.” Then Sting sang a phrase from a Genesis song, “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight,” about selling England by the pound, before going into “Message in a Bottle” and getting the karaoke singers riled up again.

Gabriel followed with a duet with Abrahamson on “Don’t Give Up,” hitting a high note like it was 1986.

Answering Sting’s nod to Genesis, Gabriel sang a soulful gospel version of Sting’s “If You Love Someone.”

Gabriel and Sting traded vocals on Sting’s “Englishman in New York.” The 14 video panels behind the stage, representing the 14 band members, displayed a gothic cityscape, while Tahoe shined in the setting sun. The crowd sang along, “Be yourself, no matter what they say” as Gabriel skipped across the stage. Old guys rock.

Related story: Widespread Panic soothes Lake Tahoe. LINK

  • Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys
    July 15, 2016
    Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes
    Attendance: 7,000
    1. “The Rhythm of the Heat” (Peter Gabriel)
    2. “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” (Sting)
    3. “No Self Control” (Gabriel and Sting)
    4. “Invisible Sun” (Gabriel and Sting)
    5. “Games Without Frontiers” (Gabriel and Sting)
    6. “Shock the Monkey” (Gabriel and Sting)
    7. “Secret World” (Gabriel)
    8. “Driven to Tears” (Sting)
    9. “Fragile” (Gabriel and Sting)
    10. “Red Rain” (Gabriel)
    11. “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight” (brief refrain, Sting)
    12. “Message in a Bottle” (Gabriel and Sting)
    13. “Don’t Give Up” (Gabriel)
    14. “Hounds of Winter (Sting)
    15. “Big Time” (Gabriel)
    16. “ Englishman in New York” (Gabriel and Sting)
    17.  “Solsbury Hill” (Gabriel)
    18. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” (Sting)
    19. “If You Love Someone” (Gabriel)
    20. “Roxanne” (Sting)
    21. “Love Can Heal” (Gabriel)
    22. “Desert Rose” (Sting)
    23. “In Your Eyes” (Gabriel)
    Encore
    24. “Every Breath You Take” (Gabriel and Sting)
    25. “Sledgehammer” (Gabriel and Sting)
  • Band members
    Peter Gabriel – vocals, keyboard, tambourine
    David Rhodes – guitar
    Tony Levin – bass
    Ged Lynch – drums
    Angie Pollock – keyboards/vocals
    Linnea Olsson – vocals/cello
    Jennie Abrahamson – vocals/flute
    Sting – vocals, bass  
    Dominic Miller – guitar
    Vinnie Colaiuta – drums
    David Sancious – keyboards
    Rhani Krija – percussion
    Jo Lawry – vocals
    Peter Tickell — electric fiddle
Sting and his 1957 Fender Precision bass guitar. Photos by Jim Grant / Harveys Lake Tahoe
Sting and his 1957 Fender Precision bass guitar.
Photos by Jim Grant / Harveys Lake Tahoe

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

LEAVE A REPLY

4 Responses

  1. Great show, great review! Sting was, of course, Ace Face, the hotel bellboy in Quadrophenia!

  2. great show! loved every moment of it, in fact best show of my life. The set list above is missing one song though “Solsbury Hill” which was amazing played live.

  3. I’m a longtime Genesis and Police fan. I seek out live progressive shows (King Crimson, UK, Steve Hackett etc…) My expectations were not high for this event in Tahoe. Boy was I blow’n away! Sting and Pete sounded fantastic. The band was insane! Tony Levin and Vinnie Coiaiuta are virtuoso’s. First time at this venue and the sound and setting were fantastic. Not sure if these two will ever team up again, but if they do…………….I’ll be first in line for tickets.

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