CULTURE

Sting’s special place on local rock circuit

Sting, the international music star who confirmed just days ago for two shows in Greece this coming summer, holds a special place on the local concert circuit. The musician’s now-defunct supergroup, the Police, an enormously popular act in the ’80s, has gone down in local music history as the first major foreign act to perform in Greece following the country’s seven-year military dictatorship (1967-1974). The Police’s show here, in 1980, was the country’s first by a major visiting act since 1967, when the Rolling Stones visited to play a marred show just ahead of the country’s looming military takeover. Their show in Greece barely got off the ground. Police officers, expressing the conservative political establishment’s line of intolerance, ambushed the stage to cut short the notorious British group’s performance. Lasting about four songs, the tarnished show here reportedly came just several weeks after members of the British group were busted for drugs in the UK. Legend has it that police – real police, not the group – stormed the stage when a young lady from the crowd handed Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger a red rose. Restless authorities, just looking for a pretext, apparently interpreted the gesture as a pro-communist initiative. And then, for rock music concertgoers in this country, there was musical silence that lasted well over a decade until the Police – the rock group – arrived to break the stillness in 1980, around the time the British trio had begun skyrocketing to worldwide fame, just two albums into their five-album career. They disbanded in a vague fashion in 1984, at the peak of their popularity. The frontman had already begun work on a solo album before the group spoke about «an indefinite hiatus.» Sting recruited top-grade jazz musicians, among them Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland, and Omar Hakim, for his debut solo album, 1985’s «The Dream of the Blue Turtles,» which helped sustain the frontman’s popularity. Its follow-up, «Nothing Like the Sun,» released two years later and featuring a big team of top-notch musicians, proved another hit album for Sting. But later, Sting’s solo material – gentler, jazz-oriented work with only the singer’s trademark high-pitched voice for evidence of his previous connection with the Police – began polarizing fans. Some saw his newer material as pompous, others took it as work of increased maturity. Sting’s ensuing solo work in the early ’90s, which took a lighter, more pop-oriented direction, prompted many of the older Police-era fans to switch off. His album sales have since slipped, but Sting remains an enormously popular touring act. For the current tour, playing as part of a guitar-bass-drums band, Sting has readopted a rock sound. Funnily enough – considering the aforementioned historical links in Greece between the Police and the Rolling Stones – Sting’s upcoming shows here, scheduled for June 16 at Terra Vibe, on the outskirts of Athens, and June 17 in Thessaloniki, at the Gis Theater, come just days ahead of a performance by the Rolling Stones at the Olympic Stadium on June 25.