WEST VALLEY CITY — From chugging a jar of M&Ms to slipping in a sea of chili, Kevin Malone is by far one of the goofiest characters in the NBC sitcom “The Office.”
But here’s one of Kevin’s smarter choices: Being the drummer and lead singer of the group “Scrantonicity,” a Police cover band. Because Sting’s nearly sold-out concert at USANA Amphitheatre Saturday night proved that his music hasn’t — and will never — go out of style.
The British musician walked Utah fans through his career, beginning with his mid-20s when he was “a singer in a band that no one had ever heard of.” (Well, maybe except for Kevin Malone).
While playing in Paris, this no-name band scraped up enough money to lodge at a seedy hotel behind a railway station, he said. Prostitution was everywhere. Sting, who felt he’d lived a sheltered life up to that point, went back up to his hotel room, pulled out his guitar and wrote about what he saw. He imagined falling in love with such a woman and helping her leave behind that lifestyle.
The woman’s name? Roxanne.
That’s the story behind the hit song that launched The Police into stardom, as told by Sting. The screaming West Valley crowd showed the musician has come a long way from his days of living under the radar.
Now, at 67, Sting has a massive following. With 17 Grammy Awards, 100 million records sold and 6 million followers on Facebook, Sting is using his position to promote environmental causes around the world. A few days ago on social media, the musician, who in 1989 founded the Rainforest Foundation Fund with his wife, Trudie Styler, acknowledged the ongoing rainforest fires and encouraged his fans not to be “complacent about the tragic dimensions of the disaster taking place in the Amazon.”
On Saturday, Sting came to Utah to support Zion National Park — Utah’s first national park that attracted 4.3 million visitors in 2018. Sting’s benefit concert for Zion gave fans a long string of hits and helped raise revenue for the Zion Forever Project, which pays for programs and projects not ordinarily covered by the National Park Service budget.
Sting was quick to mention Zion. After opening his 90-minute show with “An Englishman in New York” — a lively rendition that let us all know he’s still got it — Sting talked about the environment, and more specifically, Utah’s beloved, first national park.
“The preservation of our natural wilderness has never been more important than it is now,” he emphatically told his West Valley crowd.
From there, Sting went on to perform and tell the stories behind the songs that have cemented his place in music history — hits like “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” “Fields of Gold,” “Desert Rose” and “Every Breath You Take.” Backed by the Utah Symphony and conducted by the animated Rob Mathes — who has produced Sting’s last few albums — Sting performed his greatest hits with a classical twist.
Most of the time, the symphonic arrangements worked. But for a popular song like “Roxanne” that has a heavy reggae-driven beat, the mellower rendition was a little disappointing.
But make no mistake: Sting can still hit those high notes.
Sting’s voice hasn’t changed all that much, but his music has. Saturday night was a reminder of what makes Sting so unique: The man is constantly reinventing himself. The musician who decades ago merged reggae with punk went on to dabble in country music — leading to the song “I Hung My Head” that Johnny Cash popularized — and is today finding new audiences by reinterpreting old classics.
The leading example is Sting’s 2010 album “Symphonicities” — a play on the Police’s fifth and final studio album, ”Synchronicity.” The Utah Symphony did a remarkable job with Sting’s music, taking familiar tunes that the audience could sing along to but, at the same time, making them feel new.
Aside from the popcorn and drinks, Saturday’s concert would’ve fit right in with the fanciest ballrooms and symphony halls around the world. It was a reminder that even as he nears 70, Sting is still evolving and transforming. He isn’t a one-trick pony. And that kind of versatility will ensure his success for a long, long time.