Sting performs at NBA all-star game halftime show, but no Drake surprise
Sting performs during the half time show at the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto on Sunday, February 14, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Mark Blinch)
David Friend, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, February 14, 2016 10:42PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 14, 2016 11:54PM EST
TORONTO - Any hopes that Drake would take the stage during the NBA all-star weekend were dashed Sunday night as a halftime performance by Sting went by without a single verse from the Toronto rapper.
Sting, the UK-born former frontman of the Police, raced through a set of megahits after facing weeks of flak on social media over being chosen to perform at a decidedly Canadian basketball event.
Some observers predicted he might call on a few special guests to help silence the naysayers.
But he didn't play to the critics, deciding instead to dig deep into his arsenal of hits like "Message in a Bottle" and "Every Breath You Take," both songs by the Police.
The 16-time Grammy winner also performed his solo hit "Desert Rose," which climbed to No. 2 on the Canadian charts in 2000.
Perhaps most surprising was the absence of "Roxanne," one of Sting's biggest hits with the Police and a mainstay on radio.
Earlier in the weekend, Snoop Dogg handpicked "Roxanne" for one of his DJ sets at a local nightclub.
Basketball fans were unusually subdued during the halftime show, which is typically reserved for high-energy acts like pop singer Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, who performed together last year, or Janelle Monae and Earth, Wind and Fire in 2014.
Sting, however, did have some high-profile supporters in the crowd
Among them was former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal who live streamed a video through the Periscope mobile app as he sang along from the sidelines.
Overall, the musical entertainment for the NBA all-star game was a mixed bag.
Cirque du Soleil, the acrobatic troupe founded in Montreal, opened the event with a showcase that paid tribute to basketball. The performers flew through the air as projected graphics created the illusion they were slam dunking into hoops.
Nelly Furtado sparked an immediate negative reaction on social media with her unconventional take on Canada's national anthem alongside Native American flutist Tony Duncan.
R&B singer Ne-Yo performed the "Star Spangled Banner" after an unusual introduction which credited him as both a vocalist and a "critically acclaimed actor."
His limited film credits include "Sharknado 3," and the critically-panned "Red Tails" and "Battle Los Angeles."