Though their recent run of dates was given the name "The Rock Paper Scissors Tour," Sting and Peter Gabriel's headlining slot at Festival d'été was more about collaboration and reflection than individual looks at their catalogue. Gabriel's backing band wore red while Sting's wore blue, and the two seasoned stars delivered on their promise of musical exploration and experimentation Thursday evening (July 7).
The collaborative nature of the tour delivered some of the more interesting results of the set. At times, Sting and Gabriel would swap vocal duties on verses — or entire songs — of each other's material: Gabriel handled a good portion of the lead vocals for Sting's "Fragile," while Sting took the reins on a sleeker rearrangement of Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey." Now both in their mid 60s, their voices were still very much in fine form and complemented each other more nicely than many might think in moments of harmony.
"Shock the Monkey" wasn't the only track that got a bit of a facelift. Sting led the bands through a rework of the Police's "Driven to Tears," its reggae tendencies almost entirely pushed aside to feature a prominent violin solo. Gabriel reworked Sting's solo hit "If You Love Somebody Set them Free" to remove the urgent nature of the original, opting for a blues-rooted arrangement in its stead.
Of course, there were plenty of hits that made an appearance too. Gabriel's "Red Rain" remained just as powerful live as on record, while a three-song run of his other So smash "Big Time," Sting's "Englishman in New York" and Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" pleased the crowd. Even a tease at some Gabriel-era Genesis was worked in, with Sting singing the opening lines of "Dancing With the Moonlit Knight" before launching into the Police classic "Message in a Bottle."
The enjoyment that Sting, Gabriel and their bands were getting from the evening was palpable, all smiles in driving right through to the finish with powerful renditions of Sting's "Desert Rose" and Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," setting the crowd up for a blowout encore of the Police's "Every Breath You Take" and Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," the latter of which saw the two Englishmen bust a few dance moves at the stagefront.