Sting & Shaggy
Live @ O2 Academy Birmingham
May 24, 2019
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman
See more of Steve's pix here

When outlining Sting & Shaggy's musical union, BBC News reported: "While the star's relationship with his first band remains fractious, his latest musical partnership is a veritable "bromance". The 66-year-old has teamed up with dancehall/reggae star Shaggy, of Mr. Boombastic fame, to create one of the year's unlikeliest albums. The duo first hooked up last summer, when Shaggy was recording new material in LA. Shaggy's producer, Martin Kierszenbaum, also happens to be Sting's manager and sent the British star an unfinished song called Don't Make Me Wait, asking if he'd sing the chorus. Six weeks later, the pair had finished not only that song but an entire album. 'It's a total accident, but we're very happy,' says Sting. 'Everyone who heard about it said 'Oh, what a surprise,' and actually that's the most important element in all music - surprise.'"

With their debut long player, 44/876, receiving critical acclaim and even winning a Grammy Award in 2019, for 'Best Reggae Album', the next logical step, was for the pair to take their music on the road together, and tonight, Sting & Shaggy perform to adoring fans in Birmingham - with Shaggy even endearingly trying his hand at the Brummie accent, much to Sting's amusement! Their collaboration - named 44/876 after the respective dialling codes for the UK and Jamaica - clearly appeals to a wide demographic, as the considerable crowd is a real mix of ages. As a fan of The Police myself, I was really hoping that some of the band's classics would be played this evening and at precisely 8.10pm, Sting & Shaggy march onstage to loud applause, accompanied by 7 additional musicians and backing singers. Funnily, Sting has described himself as Shaggy's bass player, while in turn, Shaggy has become Sting's self-styled 'hype man'. You can see the close bond between the pair instantly!

Aptly opening with 44/876 on 'The 44/876 Tour' and bathed in colourful lighting throughout, the set list is a jubilant affair from start to finish, with people smiling, dancing and enjoying every single moment! Songs performed, include cuts from Sting & Shaggy's new record, along with many greatest hits by The Police, Sting and Shaggy. Each track is tinged with a reggae feel, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it's The Police singles which prompt the biggest cheers and singalongs, such as Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Message In A Bottle, Walking On The Moon, So Lonely, Roxanne and Can't Stand Losing You. It's fantastic that Sting & Shaggy were happy to approach these gigs as almost 'best of' concerts, as sometimes, when artists undertake side-projects and tour, they really want to focus solely on this material, with only a sprinkling of their most famous and beloved music played... if any.

Onstage, Shaggy is a carefree character, endlessly moving around, interacting with Sting / the audience and always making sure that everybody in attendance is having a great time! Twinned with humorous banter from the duo, there are also powerful messages about love, hope and equality, which only serves to highlight the positive power of music and how it can bring us all together! Another point worth mentioning, is how both Sting & Shaggy have such identifiable voices, which blend so well together. There was every chance that each musician's contributions to one another's songs, could have felt a tad shoehorned. But, not in the slightest! Some tracks even have well-rehearsed interludes which pay respect to their inspirations, including Walking On The Moon, which for a brief moment, seamlessly morphs into Bob Marley's Get Up, Stand Up. A little later, by cleverly using the same technique with their own originals, Roxanne metamorphoses into Shaggy's popular Mr. Boombastic. This is also a testament to the magnificent musicianship on display during the set.

Following the mischievous and fun-filled, It Wasn't Me, plus The Police masterpiece, Every Breath You Take, Sting & Shaggy take a collective bow with their touring musicians. However, the show's not over yet, as they soon return for an additional encore of The Police's Next To You. Gauging the crowd's reaction - after a gargantuan 28 songs - it's safe to say that punters feel they got their money's worth! Poignantly, when once speaking about his much lauded collaboration with Shaggy, Sting revealed: 'I owe a great deal to the whole reggae bass community. My spiritual, musical mentor was Bob Marley - who I knew - and I really feel that I'm doing something that feels authentic to me. Working with Shaggy gives it that extra edge. He's an authentic reggae dancehall superstar. I dabble and I dibble, but that was the common ground we had.'

A very special thanks to Jenny @ Chuff Media, for all of her time and help.

See more of Steve's pix here

Birmingham Set List

Morning Is Coming
Englishman In New York (Sting cover)
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic (The Police cover)
Oh Carolina / We'll Be Together
If You Can't Find Love
Love Is The Seventh Wave (Sting cover)
To Love And Be Loved
Message In A Bottle (The Police cover)
You (Shaggy cover w/ Alexander Stewart)
Brand New Day (Sting cover)
Waiting For The Break Of Day
Gotta Get Back My Baby
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free (Sting cover)
Don't Make Me Wait
Angel (Shaggy cover)
Dreaming In The U.S.A.
Crooked Tree
Shape Of My Heart (Sting cover)
Walking On The Moon (The Police cover w/ Get Up, Stand Up snippet)
So Lonely / Strength Of A Woman
Hey Sexy Lady (Shaggy cover)
Roxanne / Mr. Boombastic

Can't Stand Losing You (The Police cover)
Desert Rose (Sting cover)
It Wasn't Me (Shaggy cover)
Every Breath You Take (The Police cover)

Encore 2:
Next To You (The Police cover)

"I hear reggae music, that's playing in the street
With maximum bass at all frequencies
It shakes me to my soul with a positive vibration
I start dreaming of Jamaica and the Caribbean nation"