No one was really expecting, or asking for, Paul Simon and Sting to team up and tour together. But the duo put their heads together and came up with an engaging evening of music at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Wednesday.
Despite a turnout of about 7,500 people, judging by an eyeball estimate, the two stars put on a solid show that, over the course of 31 songs and two hours and 40 minutes, covered both of their musical catalogs.
They performed together and separate, and traded good-natured ribs at the onset of the show: After Simon said he thinks the tour will result in him being more “Adonis-like,” Sting zinged his partner, telling him, “I think I’ll stay the same, thank you.” Enough with Jimmy Fallon, give these two “The Tonight Show!”
They opened the show as a duo, trading verses on Sting’s “Brand New Day,” and rolling into Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble” and Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” Sting then did a solo set of a few songs; Simon came out and joined him, then performed his own set, and so on. The show was very democratic, with each getting an equal amount of stage time, but they were far from spotlight hogs, giving the members of their 14-piece mega-band plenty of time to shine both collectively and individually.
Backup singer Jo Lawry let loose a haunting howl during her solo on “The Hounds of Winter,” and Sting’s violinist Peter Tickell turned in a rousing solo during “Driven to Tears.”
Sting, 62, and Simon, 72, treated the show like an evening of refined musicality, and the music took center stage in front of the sparse production. The backdrop was a simple black curtain, and the lighting was elegant and understated, with a video screen on either side of the stage giving fans a better view of the action. Simon’s late show “Hearts and Bones” was a standout, with his drummer turning out a graceful guitar solo as the song eased into its finale.
Simon closed out his final set with the “Graceland” favorites “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and “You Can Call Me Al,” and Sting joined him — and outshined him — during an encore performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Together, the pair sang the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” and Simon’s “Late in the Evening.” They threw in a curveball for the closer, going head-to-head on a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved.” It was a simple close that paid homage to the recently deceased Phil Everly and put the focus squarely on the two stars’ voices.
And it capped an evening that showed when two stars the caliber of Simon and Sting get together, no matter what the background or the reason, it’s going to wind up being pretty special.