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An Englishman in Aberdeen: When Sting sent out an SOS to make 1996 gig

The legendary Sting performing another classic track at the AECC in 1996.

Rock legend Sting sent out an SOS for a private jet to make the stage in Aberdeen 25 years ago to kick off the UK leg of his world tour.

The AECC concert took place on November 22 1996 and Sting made a dash from London following a teatime appearance on TFI Friday.

The iconic ’90s Channel 4 show was hosted by Chris Evans and Sting appeared alongside Sheryl Crow, Stephen Fry and Barry Manilow.

Afterwards he jumped on a private jet to Aberdeen before being driven to the AECC where 4,000 fans were already giving support act Paul Carrack a warm response.

Tickets were £22.50 and Sting was performing in Aberdeen for the first time since 1986, when he played the Capitol Theatre after leaving The Police.

Hounds of Winter

Sting shrugged off the biting North Sea chill and came on stage at 9pm to perform 22 songs from his time with The Police and his solo career.

”I’m as dark as December, I’m as cold as the man in the moon,” he sang in the show’s first song, The Hounds of Winter, from his Mercury Falling album.

Sting performing at the AECC in 1996.
Sting performing at the AECC in 1996.

Sting didn’t spend the whole night downbeat, though.

He proved quite the charmer and let his guard down while blending old and new tracks seamlessly for the next two hours.

Sting kept up the feel-good factor when he brought two members of the crowd on stage to sing alongside him on the track I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying.

As the night wore on, the hits got bigger.

The Police 1978 single Roxanne started true to the original but exploded into a jazzy trombone solo and audience sing-along.

Set highlights included Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Seven Days, Fields of Gold, Demolition Man and Englishman in New York.

Sting puts his trademark stamp on another classic song in front of 4,000 fans.

Every Breath You Take, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You, Lithium Sunset and Fragile brought the house down before the lights finally went up at 11pm.

The crowd was still clapping and cheering.

Just gets better

The Evening Express review said: “He quickly proved again why his career has stayed in top gear, winning millions of fans across the globe, for so long.

“Sporting a shaved head, tiny goatee beard, and dressed all in black, the singer took the audience on a polished and professional tour of some of the highlights of his career from The Police onwards.

“Looking relaxed despite the dash north, Sting won over the crowds with his laid-back style and jokey chat.

“He even invited two lucky fans on stage to sing along.

Sting was clearly enjoying himself on stage in November 1996.

“A jazzed up version of Roxanne went down well, as did Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Every Breath You Take from the early years.

“Saxophonist Butch Thomas and brass player Clark Gayton delighted the crowds with their background jiving as the concert progressed through songs from all his albums till Mercury Falling which the tour promotes.

“Predictably, the concert – the first date on the UK leg of his world tour – concentrated very heavily on the new material, which meant leaving out many past favourites.

“But high points, included the beautiful Fields of Gold, Mad About You, An Englishman In New York, If I Ever Lose My Faith In You and the haunting Fragile.

“By the encore, everyone was on their feet and screaming for more.

“He just gets better and better.”

No regrets after split

Kerry Gibb was selected by the star to sing along with him on stage.

“I still can’t believe that I was there on stage with him,” she said.

“I’ve been daft about him since he was in The Police.

“He’s even lovelier close up.

“I was so nervous I thought I wouldn’t be able to sing but I’d learned all the words of the song in case I was picked.”

The Police pictured in 1983 at the peak of their powers.

After the concert Sting spoke about how he still had “no regrets” about leaving The Police in 1984 to embark on a solo career.

They reformed briefly for a handful of Amnesty International shows in 1986 and Sting’s wedding in 1992, but resisted all offers to tour.

He said: “I think it was when we reached the pinnacle of being the biggest band in the world at that time and, you know, playing in giant stadiums to hundreds of thousands of people.

“I thought, well, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.

“All we can really do is repeat this and there’ll be diminishing emotional returns every time we do, so I’m going to start again.

“It was basically about freedom.

“I wanted to have that initial excitement again of starting something.

“My instinct was right, but at the time rational people were saying to me: ‘What the hell are you doing leaving this very successful group. You’re crazy.’

“There’s a lot of resistance against people leaving bands, but my instincts told me that’s what I should do.

“Twelve years later, I feel justified.”

The band would return to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2007.

The Police performed Roxanne at the 2007 Grammy Awards before playing 152 shows during a reunion tour that grossed more than $300 million.

Solo and with The Police combined, he has now sold more than 100 million records.

He remains one of the most popular artists of his generation.

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