Sting and Shaggy Bring Brit-Jamaican Collab to the Bay

in SF Concert Reviews by

When I first heard that Sting and Shaggy were coming to town, my initial reaction was “Shaggy’s opening for Sting?” It seemed like an odd pairing given that their music is so different and the two weren’t part of the same musical movements when they were coming up. Then shortly later when I learned that they’d be performing together as a duo, I have to admit that I just didn’t get it.

The pair was supposed to play two weeks ago at the Masonic but had to cancel at the last minute because Sting had gotten ill and was advised by his doctor to stay put. Last night, he looked in tip-top shape and performed a brilliant setlist comprised mostly of Sting and The Police classics, with one or two Shaggy songs (as well as a couple they co-wrote together) to make it feel like this was truly a collaborative effort. But let’s face it, most of the audience was there for Sting. At least in San Francisco, it was pretty evident.

Shaggy mainly played the role of sidekick hypeman during the two-hour-plus set, much in the same way someone like Little John or Pitbull would alongside a posse of rappers. It worked at times, while at others it felt a little out of place.

A few interesting moments in the show included an unexpected transition from “Roxanne” to the Shaggy mega-hit “Boombastic,” as well as a cute kitschy theater bit that served as an intro to “Dreaming in the U.S.A.” This eventually led up to the most heartwarming point of the show as Shaggy orchestrated a heartfelt chant of unison, peace, and acceptance amongst the multicultural folks in attendance.

But all this begs the question, how did this collaboration come about? During an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Sting explained. “He just walked onstage during Roxanne,” said Sting. “I thought it was Sean Paul,” he joked. This inspired them to get together and realized in the process that their voices worked very well together.

Although their voices did indeed work well together, especially on the more reggae-heavy Sting/Police songs, the addition of Shaggy sometimes fell flat. And while overall the show was a good time and lots of fun, for any die-hard Sting fans like myself, you just couldn’t help but hope that the sideman would step aside even for just a song or two. In the end, this was a small price to pay for a chance to see rock royalty in the flesh, especially in an intimate venue of this size.

Photos by Louis Raphael

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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