Elton John, Sting: Still standing

It’s a little bit funny but the country is in for a British invasion — Elton John and Sting, two durable UK-born singer-songwriters, are playing consecutively at the Big Dome this eventful weekend

ACE OF BASS. Singer-songwriter-bass player Sting visits Manila for a third time. Photo from Sting's Facebook fan page

MANILA, Philippines – Music lovers over here must be rejoicing as two of the biggest names in the global music industry are set to perform on the local stage on December 8 and 9.

While arguably past their creative prime, Elton John and Sting are inarguably a draw for ardent fans of these two artists’ respective, decades-spanning discography — in John’s case, since this marks his very first time to do a gig on our shores, and in Sting’s case, even if this is already his 3rd time to perform in More Fun Country.

That they are among the most creatively and financially successful gents in all of pop music — and that their Philippine concerts are happening one after another at the same venue — are actually just a few of many coincidences attributable to these two Englishmen who’ll be near New York (New York, Cubao, that is).

Real people, unreal names

Sting’s real name is Gordon Sumner (Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner in full), though he reportedly does not respond to “Gordon” if called out. 

As history puts it, the buzz-worthy nickname arose from his years as a sessionist for a working-class band called the Phoenix Jazzmen. 

Another Gordon, PJ leader Gordon Solomon, was said to have noticed that Sumner’s striped, black-and-yellow sweater at a gig made the young player look like a bee.

And so Sting was “born.” 

Many may not know John’s case, however. 

While his name sounds rather true and common, Elton John’s real name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight. 

His name change, like Sting’s, came well before his popularity set in: Before his early ’70s heyday, the chap cut his teeth as a member of a group named Bluesology. 

When he first struck up what would become his lifelong songwriting partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin, the man formerly known as Reginald Dwight adopted the new name Elton John, in tribute to two musicians: Bluesology sax man Elton Dean and Long John Baldry, the latter an English-Canadian blues singer who had enlisted Bluesology as his support band in the ’60s. 

Brits with hits

Watch ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police here:

Elton John, a Middlesex, England, native now 65 years of age, had released at least two solo singles as a singer-pianist in the late 1960s. 

But it was “Your Song,” off his 1970 sophomore album Elton John, which became his first big single. 

Since then he, largely with lyricist Taupin, delivered a succession of eventual hits, many of them during the ’70s with a smattering of smashes in the ’80s and ’90s.

Sting, who was born in Tyneside, England 61 years ago, is himself a monster hitmaker, both from his years as the singer-bassist of The Police and as a solo-billing artist. 

The Police had a hit off the bat with their 1978 debut single “Roxanne,” with more following suit as they produced one album after another. 

The band concluded and peaked with the album Synchronicity, which yielded their and Sting’s enduring hit to date, “Every Breath You Take.”

While The Police, a recent reunion tour aside, are kaput as a unit, Sting soldiered on as a mainstream powerhouse, yielding self-written tunes that strayed further from The Police’s rock and reggae leanings and ventured more into Sting’s passion for jazz and world music. 

Their music, your memories

PIANO PRO. Singer-songwriter-pianist Elton John finally plays to a Filipino audience. Photo from Elton John's Facebook fan page

If John’s PH gig, which is part of his Rocket Man 40th Anniversary Tour, would have a setlist similar to a recent stop in China, Pinoy, et al viewers would get to hear him run through the memorable likes of “Benny and the Jets,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “I’m Still Standing,” “Daniel” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”

A caveat: Unless there is a huge clamor on December 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, John would possibly skip “Skyline Pigeon.”

If Sting’s Big Dome show, which is part of his Back to Bass tour, would be akin to a recent one in South Korea, expect to hear a nostalgia-inducing 21-song lineup that includes 10 Police ditties (including the lesser-known yet nifty “Next to You” and “Driven to Tears”) and many of his solo smashes (such as “Englishman in New York,” “Fields of Gold,” “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” and the Jaguar-hawking “Desert Rose”).

Likely exclusions: “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Fortress Around Your Heart.”

In addition, John’s original “Candle in the Wind” ― his and Taupin’s 1973 tribute to Marilyn Monroe which they slightly remade in 1997 following Princess Diana’s sudden demise ― and Sting’s “Fragile” ― which has been heard on various somber occasions such as a post-9/11 telethon ― are likely to get played and earn hushed admiration in their gigs here.

Movies in their minds

Through the years, John and Sting have also been involved individually in the film industry, be it as actors (more prolifically, in Sting’s case) or producers.

Both have also contributed to one Disney movie each: Sting for the less-successful The Emperor’s New Groove and John, with lyricist Tim Rice, for the box-office biggie The Lion King

In fact, it’s probable that John will conclude his gig tonight with the bombastic Lion King cut “Circle of Life.”

Somewhat timely causes 

Here’s another black and white vid: Elton John’s ‘Circle of Life’:

Elton John and Sting, who are inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, are no strangers to each other. 

Sting, for one thing, is a patron of the non-profit Elton John AIDS Foundation. 

Both have also showcased a penchant for activism, utilizing their celebrity and talent to raise awareness towards international causes. 

John, apart from his tireless support towards AIDS research, is an avowed champion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender social movements, and it is such a rich, timely coincidence that his first ever Metro Manila show takes place on the same day at the 2012 Metro Manila Pride March.

Sting’s latest PH gig (he had first landed on local soil in 1994 and 1996, both at the PSC Football Field in Pasig) is itself almost coincidental in terms of date: December 10 marks the 64th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, which speaks to Sting’s first foray into activism: human rights via Amnesty International. 

Yet there was another cause close to Sting’s heart that made news on our end, resulting in a big hullabaloo last October that prompted a change of venue: from the original Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, the gig was moved to the Smart Araneta Coliseum, following an appeal to Sting the environmental activist

All told, those who would get to check out either or both shows these two consecutive nights are in for a loaded sonic treat. – Rappler.com

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