Sting and Four Other British Rockers Who've Gone Soft

Rock 'n' roll is tough on those confronting the universal bummer that is aging.

Physical requirements aside, there is a certain attitude needed to be a rock star, and lots of rock-'n'-rollers seem to lose that edge as they grow older. And that's fine — after all, there can be only one Iggy Pop, right?

This week, Sting (formerly of the Police) will share the BB&T Center stage with Paul Simon. And because his descent from postpunk to easy listening has been particularly precipitous, we decided to take a look at the ways in which so many of our fave Brit rockers have gone soft.


Sting and Paul Simon

Sting and Paul Simon: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at the BB 954-835-8000; thebbtcenter.com. Tickets cost $45 to $250 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.

Sting. Few have done so much to ensure graceful aging as this guy. (At 62, he still looks amazing.) Unfortunately, his maturation process has also included abandoning rock 'n' roll and reggaefied New Wave in pursuit of a solo career rife with AM favorites such as "Desert Rose" and other tracks seemingly composed with the waiting rooms of dental offices in mind.

Of course, though, Sting's coup de grâce, his final affront to rock, was his album of lute music, made without even a splinter of irony. So we don't think it's out of line to say that release has completely forsaken the rock 'n' roll spirit. That said, Sting is in good company.

Rod Stewart. There was a time when Rod Stewart was a hard-drinking soul-shouter who used his golden pipes to narrate a slew of rock 'n' roll opuses as the frontman for the best iteration of the Jeff Beck Group and then the Faces.

Stewart was an integral part of early-'70s rock glory, particularly with the Faces, a band whose blues rock was soaked in booze and adrenaline. But since the '80s, Stewart has slipped from belting out the catchy pop-rock of "Young Turks" to singing jazz standards while dressed in a tuxedo. He has signed on to reunite with the remaining Faces in 2015, but we're not holding our breath after his failure to appear at the band's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Mark Knopfler. All right, Dire Straits was never exactly the hardest-rockin' band of its day. However, Mark Knopfler and company delivered their blend of bluegrass pickin' and rock with a cool, collected edge that took the group to the peak of arena success in the '80s. "Money for Nothing," with its beefy guitars and big synth drums, was a proper burner, right?

But Knopfler, a former English teacher, has spent his late career indulging his inner storyteller, penning albums of detailed yarns punctuated with intricate, lushly adorned guitar work. His concerts are now an intimate experience with the man and a guitar, far removed from the On the Night-era bombast of Dire Straits.

Robert Plant. We do not need to tell you that Robert Plant was a rock 'n' roll god, an earthbound deity with gilded vocal cords put on this planet with a singular purpose: to deliver the greatness of rock music at the highest of decibels. But despite getting back together with guitar wizard Jimmy Page for a successful tour in the '90s and a one-night stint at London's 02 Arena in 2007, Plant has recently refused to pursue a real Led Zeppelin reunion.

That fact, coupled with the man's entirely relaxed recent discography, including albums with the Band of Joy and a Grammy-winning collaboration with country crooner Alison Krauss, has led us to believe that Robbie has given up on rock music forever. There are rumors of a Zep reunion spinning about the internet, but as with the alleged Faces revival, we're not getting our hopes up.

Eric Clapton. This guy is the reason people play Les Pauls through Marshall amps. And though Clapton has never exactly identified as a rock 'n' roll musician, the man's amped-up approach to blues guitar catalyzed absolutely massive changes in the sound of rock.

He's an odd individual: a formerly reclusive alcoholic who has led an astoundingly difficult life. However, since collaborating with producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds in the '90s, Clapton has released almost exclusively AM fodder. Yet all of that easy-listening fare has recently been eclipsed by the embarrassing Old Sock, an album that sounds like bluesy Jimmy Buffett elevator music and features a selfie of Clapton as the cover art.

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