The following article by George Varga appeared in a March 1991 issue ofThe San Diego Union-Tribune
Sting, band are of sound minds in a video age...
Sting may be a pop king to the MTV generation and beyond. But the visual emphasis MTV has brought to pop is not king to Sting, who chose his new band members for their sound, not their looks.
"The big concern for a lot of bands nowadays is to reproduce their MTV video," said the English superstar, who performs here tomorrow night at the San Diego Sports Arena. "Not just the music, they have to do the dance routine and the whole thing. That, to me, is not very exciting. Playing live is different; it's a different art form.
"So our audiences are going to see four guys doing something different. This music has to expand and stretch. The album is only the blueprint; it's only the starting point. We're only four musicians, and we're not miming."
The album in question is Sting's chart-topping musical catharsis, 'The Soul Cages'. The four include Sting, who sings and plays bass, and the three veteran musicians he chose to expand and stretch his music on a nightly basis - keyboardist David Sancious, guitarist Dominic Miller and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta.
Together, they constitute the smallest and the most potent band Sting has worked with since he fronted the Police from 1977 to 1984. Quietly, Sancious, Miller and Colaiuta create a richly textured aural landscape that is both subtle and powerful, focused and flexible. All three also performed on 'The Soul Cages'.
In Sancious, Sting has an unusually resourceful foil whose fleet improvisations give his music a distinctly jazzy edge. As the former keyboardist for Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel, Sancious is uniquely qualified to work with Sting, whose musical disposition he likens to that of Gabriel and the Boss.
"The three of those guys all have a certain intensity about their work that's very interesting," said Sancious, a New Jersey native. "I mean, Bruce is an easy-going, regular guy. But when it comes to work, he has an incredible intensity, which is what's helped him achieve so much. I see that in Sting, too, and Peter has an exceptional intensity about his work as well."
Sancious, who has made several solo albums, is working on a new record he hopes will feature Sting, Gabriel and Springsteen. He laughed when asked about Sting's strongest and weakest points. "His strongest point is that he's willing to take chances musically. I don't know what his weakest point might be. I honestly can't give you a good answer."
In Miller, Sting has a guitarist who prefers to say more by playing less, and who favors shimmering chordal clusters to hyperactive solos. A former member of World Party, King Swamp and, briefly, the Pretenders, the London-based Miller describes Sting's bass playing as "passionate and very solid. And he has a great sense of humor, and that's vital when working with people day in and day out.
"But the strange thing is that the moment we walk out the door, he's suddenly this super rock God.' But he walks to work most days from his house, and he's not into limos and chicks; he doesn't flaunt his godness.'
"He can be easily humbled by situations, and he's not like other artists I've worked with who take this rock star thing to an extreme. He's never bought a new car in his life, I don't think."
And what does Miller think Sting's strongest and weakest points are?
"That's a difficult question. He's able to write simple tunes that people can grab hold of when they listen, and his lyrics are not just, I love you, I hate you, I want to go to bed with you,' which is usually the case with most pop lyrics
"And he's very easy to get on with. He doesn't look down on musicians; he kind of looks sideways at them." Miller chuckled. "I don't know what his weak points are. I'm sure they're there, though. And if I did know them, I probably wouldn't tell you."
In Colaiuta, Sting has a drummer equally at home with intricate jazz polyrhythms, hard-hitting rock beats and constantly shifting, odd-time reggae grooves. Colaiuta, who counts Frank Zappa, David Sanborn and Joni Mitchell among his satisfied employers, has also drummed with everyone from Bette Midler to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
"Sting's music is great, because it's so varied," said the Los Angeles-based drummer. "Under Sting's direction, this band is pushing the limits of what can happen in the so-called pop' genre. There are elements of reggae, jazz, rock funk; it's kind of the best of everything.
"He's a great musician, and he's got huge dog-ears; you can't throw that guy! He comes up with the hippest grooves, and he can lead a band by playing bass. He's like Joni (Mitchell) - she's brilliant and Sting's brilliant. As for his strong and weak points, that's a real tough question. I can't really think of any weak points; he's so confident. It's difficult for me to fathom how he goes up there and plays and sings as well as he does. And he wrote the stuff, these classic songs. So, it's hard for me to bring up weak points. I honestly can't think of any."
© The San Diego Union-Tribune