04.12.05 Salt Lake City Gig review...

Sting rocks the Delta Center with a set heavy on classics

Sting dubbed his latest road trip "The Broken Music Tour," and judging by the solid, classics-heavy set delivered Monday at the Delta Center, he should consider not fixing whatever is broken.

Touring with with just two guitarists and a drummer, the bass-wielding Sting largely eschewed the often-sappy adult contemporary fare of his recent solo work in favor of songs from his days leading Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers, The Police, and from his early solo albums. In fact, he was four songs into the 90-minute show before touching on any solo material.

That is no complaint. The opening troika of 'Message in a Bottle', 'Spirits in the Material World' and 'Demolition Man', had to be a thrill for any fan still mourning Sting's split with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers two decades ago. The arrangements of those songs played to the strengths of Sting's current band, particularly his longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, who delivered several sterling solos early on. Guitarist Shane Fontayne provided the reggae riffs of 'Spirits' with ease, and while drummer Josh Freese is not as intricate a player as Copeland, his straightforward approach and power gave the songs a strong backbone all night.

'If I Ever Lose My Faith' was a welcome selection from Sting's poppier solo work, and he followed it with a powerful version of 'I Hung My Head', a song Johnny Cash recorded shortly before his death. It was easy to hear why the song would appeal to Cash, but sadly it was almost impossible to hear the harmonica bursts coming from Fontayne.

The sound was rarely an issue, though, at least from the seats on the Delta Center floor.

Sting's voice remains about as strong now as 10 or 20 years ago. He doesn't quite have the same banshee wail he once used to open 'Synchronicity II', but the crowd was more than happy to help out. Songs such as 'Invisible Sun', 'Driven to Tears' and 'Fields of Gold' were no problem. 'Fields' also gave Miller one of his best moments, finger-picking out the lead guitar part.

"I had a great day today," Sting announced by way of introducing a cover of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'. "I was at Snowbird. I was boarding. I fell on my ass so many times, it really hurts. But it was a great day."

Sting hammered on the longtime favorites at the end of the set, just as he did at the beginning. 'The Soul Cages' was more dynamic live than in its recorded version, and he followed it with sing-alongs of 'When the World Is Running Down (You Make the Best of What's Still Around)' and 'Roxanne', complete with red lights soaking the stage.

After an 80-minute set, Sting returned to the stage for an encore including the frenetic 'Next to You' and 'Every Breath You Take', followed by another encore of 'Mercury Falling'.

© The Salt Lake Tribune by Dan Nailen