04.14.05 Denver Gig Review...

Bee has exited Sting's bonnet - Ex-Police frontman drops jazz, ballads in return to 'roots'...

Before introducing the Beatles' 'A Day In the Life', 53-year-old Sting declared his "Broken Music Tour" a "way of going back to my roots - to figure out who I am."

Fortunately, for Police fans, Sting's newfound identity doesn't involve complex jazz solos or adult-contemporary ballads but a punk-rock quartet full of gunshot drums and loud guitars.

During an entire 1 1/2-hour show at the University of Denver, Sting played almost nothing from his past three albums, dipping into his solo hits just for really strong ballads such as 1993's 'Field of Dreams' and 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' and an especially dark and moody version of 1991's 'The Soul Cages'.

Otherwise, thanks in part to unyielding drummer Josh Freese, the rock bassist emphasized fast-and-loud Police classics, including the opening 'Message In a Bottle', 'Spirits In the Material World' and 'Synchronicity II'.

Wearing a black pinstriped jacket on a black stage - with Freese and guitarists Dominic Miller and Shane Fontayne in black as well - Sting was loose and jovial, telling stories and shrugging sheepishly when he came to the corny 'Roxanne' chorus of his best-known song.

His shows have been more serious in the past, when he led big jazz bands and leaned on theatrical, big-statement ballads such as 'It's Probably Me'. But Sting, who for a decade after he broke up the Police in 1984 was one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, seems to have sensed the problems with his career.

His 2003 CD 'Sacred Love' stiffed, and 1999's 'Brand New Day' relied on a Jaguar commercial for a boost up the pop charts. Sting was becoming more famous as a beautiful person, with a beautiful wife, who stands up for beautiful causes, than he was as a rock 'n' roller.

The "Broken Music Tour" changes that. While Sting left plenty of melodic breathing room on the Police smash 'Every Breath You Take' and the funky 'Heavy Cloud (No Rain'), he clearly had a hard-rocking agenda. His quartet fired up 'When the World Is Running Down (You Make the Best of What's Still Around)', 'Driven to Tears', 'Demolition Man' and especially 'Next to You' into adrenaline anthems.

It was almost like seeing the Police again - although Sting made a point of slowing down certain verses, and Freese's Nirvana-style drum bashing was about as far as you could get from Stewart Copeland's busy reggae and jazz fills.

Sting commanded center stage with his bass and slicked-back blonde hair and hunky physique, but it was almost as fun watching the interplay between the flashy, heavy-soloing Miller (a longtime Sting sidekick) and the more subdued, harmonica-playing Fontayne (who once played with Bruce Springsteen).

At one point, somebody yelled, and Sting responded: "You love me? Where are you, darling?"

If he keeps rocking like this, he might not have to search for his fans much longer.

From © Rocky Mountain News by Steve Knopper