ST. LOUIS – Don’t arrive late.
The 8 p.m. ticket time matters to Sting, because a few minutes past the top of the hour, he’ll stride on stage in his Sting uniform of black – snug pants, T-shirt, work boots – chat for a moment or two and share what he calls, “The story of my life around 1975,” revealed as the acoustic ballad “Heading South on the Great North Road.”
He’ll cede the stage to his sound-alike son, Joe Sumner, and the melodic pop-rock quartet from San Antonio, The Last Bandoleros, before appearing again to join the harmonies on the band’s new single, “Where Do You Go?” – positioning himself as the world’s coolest backup singer.
When Sting does this on the Tabernacle stage Monday night for a show that sold out within minutes of its announcement, it will be apparent how much fun he is having, how his choice to perform in (mostly) intimate venues on a tour to support his new “57th and 9th” album has loosened and relaxed him.
Also, the man has no right to look and sound as good as he does at 65. Tantric-whatever apparently works for him.
At a recent performance at The Pageant in St. Louis, a venue Sting told the audience he last played in 1979, he hopscotched through a career set list for 90 invigorating minutes.
He doesn’t have such a distant history here since he performed at the Tabernacle in 2013 for a private show during the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship ; he also returned that summer for a show at Chastain Park Amphitheatre.
Considering the breadth of Sting’s catalog, it would be impossible to do anything other than dent it, which is exactly what he does while leaving out many fan favorites (sorry, no “Fields of Gold” or “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” or “All This Time” this time).
The tale of suburban malaise, “Synchronicity II,” opens the set with all of its tightly coiled tenseness, and the moment Sting unleashes a patented “ee-yo-ohhh-ohh,” everyone can breathe a sigh of relief that his Sting-ness is still gloriously intact.
Many songs have been recast with different tempos or tones – a shifty “Spirits in the Material World,” an accelerated “She’s Too Good for Me” and a de-country-fied “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” among them.
Throughout the set, Sting is backed by guitarist Dominic Miller, his right hand man for more than 30 years (that’s about two decades more than The Police’s Andy Summers), as well as Miller’s guitarist son Rufus and drummer Josh Freese. The frisky guys in The Last Bandoleros and Sumner crowd a microphone at the back of the stage, a backup team primed for fun.
Sting is undoubtedly rock’s Dorian Gray, evidenced not only in his rugged appearance, but in the way he wiggled his hips and allowed his bass lines to dance through the melodies.
Whether coasting through the slinky groove of “Englishman in New York” or showing restraint while Dominic Miller’s feathery guitar steered “Shape of My Heart,” Sting’s musical presence was evident.
Of course, he does have a new album to promote and fortunately, “57th and 9th” is a lute-free zone. “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” is his catchiest song in decades, while “Petrol Head” rocks at a full throttle not heard since1978’s “Outlandos d'Amour.”
Despite the mere six-years, five-album career of The Police (compared to Sting’s solo life now at 12 albums and 32 years), fans’ adoration of those late-‘70s/early-‘80s classics will never wane, a sentiment that has likely funded many an Italian villa for the Sumner family.
Sting didn’t neglect his past stadium fillers as he rocked in place and held an impossibly long note inside “Message in a Bottle,” led the crowd in a call-and-response during “Walking on the Moon” and basked in the frenzied lights and shouted chorus of “So Lonely.”
He appeared to relish returning to his punk roots as he and the band whipped through “Next to You” and then played to the casual followers with the eerily thumping “Every Breath You Take.”
Sting will land in Atlanta the day after performing his wrenching Oscar-nominated ballad, “The Empty Chair,” on the Academy Awards telecast.
Another bit of advice – don’t leave early, either.
With Joe Sumner and the Last Bandoleros. 8 p.m. Feb. 27. Sold out. Tabernacle, 152 Luckie St., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.