Sting was breaking a promise he had made to himself.
Back in the ’70s, when he was earning his wages performing nightly for passengers aboard the S.S. Oriana, he swore he would never set foot on another ship. That is, he said, “until I owned the thing.”
Yet there he was on the Queen Mary 2, docked that bright October afternoon in New York Harbor. It seemed the boy in him, who grew up in the industrial northeast England town Wallsend — “in the shadow of a shipyard,” as he put it — couldn’t pass up the chance to perform on the world’s largest ocean liner.
“It’s not every day you’re invited aboard the Queen Mary 2,” he said. That such an invitation could still flatter a man who, at this point, might very well be able to purchase the vessel is a testament to just how large ships loomed in his childhood. Shipbuilding, in all its grit and glory, is the stuff of the new Broadway musical, “The Last Ship,” for which Sting wrote the music and lyrics.
That afternoon, against the twinkling backdrop of the ship’s Royal Court Theater, he performed a few of its numbers before a crowd of 200. Though dressed in his usual rock-star attire — black leather pants, a denim shirt, a loosely wrapped red scarf — he inhabited some of the musical’s characters, belting out anthems and waltzes in a northern brogue. For the tender ballad “August Winds,” though, his voice returned to its natural, silvery tenor.
For his encore, he set aside “The Last Ship” to play a few Police hits. The strongest applause came from the crew in the balcony. “I’m sending out an S.O.S.” Sting sang, adding, “C’mon, Captain, you know how to do it.” Afterward, on the ship’s bow, Sting talked about his hometown, the inspiration he drew from its landscape and his days as one of the crew. >>> continue reading at nytimes.com >>>