“You people are either very lucky or very hooked up.” Bill Flanagan, the television executive and music critic, was warming up an invitation-only crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan Tuesday night for a taping of the latest episode of CMT Crossroads. “This is the hottest ticket in New York tonight,” he said without exaggeration, “and the biggest show in Crossroads’ ten-year history.”
The critically-acclaimed CMT series matches country and rock stars, usually for one-night-only concerts (the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss pairing was an exception). The new show debuts November 25, the day after Thanksgiving.
For years, Crossroads has wanted to anchor a show around Vince or Sting. But, as Flanagan explained, the concept was always ‘which rocker can we match up with Vince?’ and ‘which country star would be appropriate for Sting?’ Finally, CMT execs realized they should just ask the two stars if they’d like to do it together.
It’s a match made in heaven, as Vince and Sting proceeded to demonstrate. The unlikely pair bounded onto the stage, a bespectacled Vince in unpretentious plaid shirt and jeans, Sting dressing down in a gray t-shirt.
The band is basically Vince’s all-star lineup, complemented by Sting’s long-time sideman and collaborator Dominic Miller on guitar and vocals. Vince plays his usual variety of Telecasters and Gibsons; Sting plays bass, his mini-Martin guitar and, occasionally, harmonica.
The show, a tightly paced hour-long set, follows Crossroads’ usual practice of alternating songs from each artist’s repertoire. Among the highlights:
– Gill sings an angelic rendition of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” (“I always wanted to sing this song, especially after hearing the beautiful version of the late Eva Cassidy,” Gill says).
– Not to be outdone, Sting takes the lead on an exceptionally moving version of Vince’s “Whenever You Come Around.” “It’s one of my favorite Vince Gill songs,” Sting says. “When I first heard it, I felt as if he was writing it for me.”
– Introducing Sting’s classic “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” Vince jokes that “I always wanted to be a rock star, I just couldn’t fit into the spandex.” He then proceeds to tear it up with a blistering guitar solo that leaves the crowd cheering.
– The one cover is the Everly Brothers classic, “Let It Be Me.” In this one, as on several of the other tunes, Vince takes the high harmony – in his usual peerless fashion.
“We enjoyed playing together so much, we’ve decided to go out on the road. We’ll call ourselves “The Self-Righteous Brothers,” Sting jokes.
Here’s the complete set list:
Fields of Gold
Whenever You Come Around
If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
Shape of My Heart
Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away
Let It Be Me
Every Breath You Take