“Sting: Bring on the Night” is a 1986 theatrically released film
available on DVD, chronicling Sting’s first tour as a solo
musician in 1985. Technically, Sting had done some solo work
as early as 1981 when he was still with The Police, but by
this time, he had decided to do a record with a group of
musicians with formidable Jazz backgrounds. Known as
“The Blue Turtles Band,” the members included drummer
Omar Hakim, keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, saxophonist
Branford Marsalis and bassist Darryl Jones. Dolette McDonald
and Janice Pendarvis contributed backup vocals. In addition
to singing lead vocals, Sting primarily strummed a six-string
guitar; although there is one song where he plays an
electric upright bass.
The structure of this 97-minute movie is based around the
rehearsals done in a historic French château, leading up to
the band’s first live show at the Théâtre Mogador in Paris.
A human element was provided by including among other
things, the birth of Sting’s child, as well as numerous interview
clips of Sting’s wife, Trudie, and the musicians. As I watched this
film, I was taken directly into the creative process, as various
aspects of Sting’s songs were fleshed out in terms of their
arrangements, etc. The actual songs on the set list were an
eclectic bunch, including stripped down songs that Sting
recorded while with the Police, such as “Roxanne,” and “Message
in a Bottle,” as well as Blues numbers, such as “Need Your Love
So Bad.” The concert appeared to be a bona fide triumph,
performed before a receptive capacity audience.
I mentioned that the musicians come from Jazz backgrounds,
but the songs on tap here are indicative of Sting’s desire to
push the envelope where Popular music is concerned. As
mentioned above, this music was an eclectic bunch of songs
which defied categorization, yet still maintained a populist
appeal. It’s not really Jazz or Rock, but an amalgamation of
both without totally belonging to either genre. His musicians,
all of whom are formidably equipped, clearly relished the
opportunity to make such music, and the sessions were
indicative of their esteem and respect for Sting (1951 – ).
Throughout this film, it was made clear that due to the
genre-crossing nature of this music, Sting endured no small
amount of pressure from his record label.
I got a kick out of these musical episodes, and one that
illustrated the breadth of Kenny Kirkland’s keyboard skills,
showed him at a grand piano, launching into an impromptu
rendition of a Brahms rhapsody, during a break in the
rehearsals. As I mentioned earlier, all of these musicians had
impressive pedigrees. During this time, drummer Omar
Hakim was playing with Weather Report, and bassist Darryl
Jones was playing with Miles Davis.
By this time, The Police had for all intents and purposes
disbanded, and Sting was embarking on a new chapter in
his career, which we now know has been quite successful.
With this film, director Michael Apted whose credits include
“Gorillas in the Mist” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” has joined
the ranks of other famous Hollywood directors, such as
Jonathan Demme and Martin Scorsese. Apted has created a
film which captures these musicians in an exemplary fashion,
both in concert and behind the scenes.
The sound for this 2005 release has been improved with
digital remastering as well, making this DVD particularly
worthwhile. Bonus features include videos of three of the
band’s songs, along with a photo gallery and a 32-second
theatrical trailer. “Sting: Bring on the Night,” is highly