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You Have To See It To Appreciate It
on 12 December 2010
I agree with other reviewers that some of the versions on this album are a bit bland, given the possibilities of the London Philharmonic. But then there's always the danger that by trying to make them sound like something they weren't intended to be when they were written, they end up sounding 'wrong'. Early Sting songs were borderline punk, so adding strings would have just sounded idiotic. As with most acts, there's only one real way to find out what they were meant to sound - and even more pertinent, feel - like, and that's to hear them live.
I saw the tour in Florence, at the Teatro Verdi at the end of October 2010. Setting the orchestra in this fairly intimate arena brought the whole enterprise to life; Dominic Miller played like he had genuine competition for the best musician present, the conductor waved his arms like a madman and Sting interacted with the orchestra to bring the whole thing to life. They were all (50+ of them) enjoying it to the max. You could see that bland and mediocre were the furthest thing from Sting's mind. There were additional reinterpretations of almost all the big singles, with King Of Pain and Fields of Gold instantly memorable. Having seen and heard them play it, I understand the recording much better and listen to it with a different ear. That probably sounds unnecessarily pretentious, but it's just the way it is. Anyone that sees a tour has a different take on the music to just listening to the album in the car.
I have only two criticisms of the recorded version. Firstly, the content isn't as strong as the concert set says it could be, and a 'live' feel would ake it much brighter. More of the hits would have been a better sales proposition, too. And secondly, Deutsche are a classical label that never discount, so it's the full £18 or you don't get it. That alone must have stopped thousands of people being able to hear it, and that really is a shame.