Paul Simon and Sting concert review

Sting and Paul Simon during their concert at Belfast's Odyssey Arena
Sting and Paul Simon during their concert at Belfast's Odyssey Arena

The joint rock concert by the famous duo at the Odyssey Arena on Thursday is reviewed here by BEN LOWRY

Ahead of this summer’s Belfast Van Morrison concerts, I checked online how he is rated on a global scale.

Sting at his concert with Paul Simon at Belfast's Odyssey Arena

Sting at his concert with Paul Simon at Belfast's Odyssey Arena

I once saw the Northern Irish singer in the top 10 of a list of critics’ favourites, but I could no longer find that rating.

A Rolling Stone list of the 100 most influential rock and roll artists places Van at number 42.

That is not as low as it sounds, because the list is a mega one, including names such as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, both old enough to be the fathers of the oldest of the Beatles-Rolling Stones generation (some of whom such as Mick Jagger are themselves now great grandparents).

The list is headed by massive names: Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

Sting and Paul Simon at Belfast's Odyssey Arena

Sting and Paul Simon at Belfast's Odyssey Arena

Simon and Garfunkel are number 40.

My quibble is with the placing of the band I know most about, the Police, who languish at number 70.

At the heart of the Police’s success was Sting’s extravagant gifts as a tunesmith. That man deserves higher than 70th.

I saw him at the King’s Hall nearly 30 years ago, in 1986 at the age of 14, and I was keen to see him again at the Odyssey.

My interest in contemporary music began to decline around the time of that 1986 gig, precisely because so few acts have his consistency.

I began to tire of listening through three average tracks to reach a good one, as you had to do in the days of LPs even with some big names.

Not so Sting, who in the Police and alone has composed a library of good music.

You only need to know Simon and Garfunkel’s hits to accept they had similar gifts, but they are a generation before me (and the generations are finely sliced when it comes to pop music).

I was coming to the Odyssey from the youngest end of the Police fan spectrum – many Police fans are 10 years older than me, and Simon and Garfunkel fans a decade above that.

It was an upper-end-of-middle-aged crowd on Thursday (my wearing of a Police t-shirt seemed outlandish).

The concert began with the air of cricket match. Almost everyone was in their seat on a summer’s evening for the 7.30pm start, and events got under way within 10 minutes.

I wondered if the man on stage with a long, dark beard (that would win approval among traditionalists in Kabul) was a support act, before realising it was Sting himself.

He, and the more recognisable Simon (in hat), began to belt out the good tunes.

Both men were on stage together for the opening songs, as they jointly performed their solo tracks such as Simon’s Boy In A Bubble and Sting’s Fields Of Gold.

Soon, the pair took turns in a long break off-stage.

Fair enough. Simon is a few years past his three-score-and-ten and Sting is heading towards it.

Overall, they did not scrimp. The concert of about 40 songs lasted almost three hours.

The Sting playlist was original – in one early solo spell he interspersed his hits Englishman In New York and Walking On The Moon with the less known 1980 Police gems When The World Is Running Down and Driven To Tears.

Simon seemed to do the same in his solo stretches, because there was a lot I didn’t know.

I say solo, but I counted 17 musicians in the backing group (and these are two stars who tour with the best back-up teams around).

By the end of the night (final tracks included Every Breath You Take and You Can Call Me Al) the fans had moved beyond cricket match mode of in-seat applause.

They were on their feet and dancing and cheering – insofar as such is allowed now at middle-aged pop concerts.

It was a professional night by two ultra-pros.

I loved it, and so did the people around me.

But it hadn’t sold out.

The 5,000 people in the Arena compared to 8,000 the previous night for Olly Murs.

Olly Murs?

What was I saying about the fine slicing of generations when it comes to pop music?