When Sting Started His First Solo Tour
It's one thing to enter the studio with a brand new group of musicians after spending years safely ensconced in a multi-platinum band. It's quite another to present your new sound to a live audience, as Sting discovered firsthand when he ventured out on his first solo tour in the summer of 1985.
Sting's Blue Turtles tour, named for his debut full-length solo effort The Dream of the Blue Turtles, started Aug. 13, 1985, in San Diego. By this point, the Blue Turtles record was already a hit, well on its way to three million in sales and a pair of Grammy nominations, but the shows still represented a substantial risk.
For starters, this trek represented Sting's first sustained run of dates away from the Police since the band's ascension to superstardom — and with the band on hiatus following their wildly popular Synchronicity LP, there were a lot of expectations riding on his next step. For another, Sting had made a concerted effort to make a musical departure with the Blue Turtles record — not only in terms of his previous work with the Police, but in terms of rock in general.
"My intention was to use musicians who had the finesse of playing jazz, but to make music without that label. I think we got enough spontaneity on the record and yet enough discipline to have gone into areas that most pop records don’t go," he said. "A lot of people will be surprised at how this album sounds, because it isn’t jazz but nor is it a mainstream pop album. It will be interesting to see how radio adjusts to it. If they adjust at all."
To that end, Sting embarked on tour with a live combo that included saxophonist Branford Marsalis, keyboard player Kenny Kirkland, drummer Omar Hakim and future Rolling Stones bassist Darryl Jones, leading audiences through a set list that impressed many critics in its attempts to bridge together genres and styles. "Certainly, jazz and rock have fused in concert before," admitted the San Diego Union-Tribune. "But not led by someone who is known as a structured pop songwriter, a vocalist (rather than an instrumentalist), and a hunk heartthrob."
The results, while perhaps not as rapturously received as the Police's bestselling outings, got Sting's solo career off to a running start, and were captured for posterity on 1986's Bring on the Night documentary and two-LP live album set. By the following year, with his former band officially laid to rest, he'd wander even further down his own musical path with his Turtles follow-up, ...Nothing Like the Sun.
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