NEW YORK (AP) — They say it's practice, practice, practice that gets you to Carnegie Hall. But for Sting, it was a chance encounter with Britain's Queen Mother when he was 10 years old that gave him the ambition and drive he needed to reach that hallowed stage.
The rocker told the story of that fateful encounter Monday night during an ebullient show — at once intimate and grand — that marked his first solo headline gig at the venerable New York venue, despite his having performed many times there. He was accompanied by the powerful Orchestra of St. Luke's, with many of his old classics arranged by conductor Rob Mathes.
The 64-year-old singer arrived to a standing ovation, and immediately began with "Englishman in New York," aptly enough, with the crowd singing along to the lyric, "Be yourself no matter what they say."
"I sincerely hope that THIS Englishman in New York has earned a place here," he said, to cheers.
He performed many of his hits from his Police years and then from his solo career, and included a couple songs from his recent Broadway show, "The Last Ship." He also paid tribute to Frank Sinatra in his centennial year, performing "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" along with trumpeter Chris Botti. He recounted how Sinatra had addressed an autograph to him — the only autograph he possesses — as "the new blue eyes."
"Except my eyes are green," Sting quipped.
The rocker prefaced the soulful title song from "The Last Ship" — his debut as a Broadway composer, which closed in January after a brief run — with the anecdote about the Queen Mother, who came to his hometown more than a half-century ago to christen a ship, and rode down his very own street "in a giant Rolls Royce" as he waved a Union Jack, dressed in his Sunday best. "She caught my eye," he said, and kept looking. "I was infected with the idea that I didn't belong on that street, in that house," he said. "I wanted to be in that car ... I wanted to end up in Carnegie Hall. And here we are."
Sting dedicated "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" to his longtime, outgoing manager, Kathy Schenker, who was spending her last performance as his manager. He dedicated "Fields of Gold" to his wife, Trudie Styler, speaking of their country home in England, where he said would hope to end his days under a copper beach tree. He made a brief reference to the gun control debate when he introduced "I Hung My Head," a song about an accidental shooting and its disastrous consequences.
The hits came fast: "Roxanne," ''King of Pain," ''Every Breath You Take," and a hip-swiveling encore of "Desert Rose." Finally, with the crowd still calling for more, Sting obliged with "Message in a Bottle" — just him and his acoustic guitar.
The show, "Symphonicities," raised over $2 million for music education programs at Carnegie Hall.