05.09.05 Another Mohegan Sun Gig Review...

Sting sizzles with Police hits...

With a stripped down sound and a show incorporating a whole lot of material from his days with The Police, Sting is going back to his roots.

"Tonight I'm singing a lot of songs I haven't sung in many years," Sting told the crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday. "Like 'My Sharona.'"

The remark drew plenty of laughter, and while he didn't dig out the Knack's big hit, he did dig deep into his Police catalogue for the first time in recent memory, delighting the capacity throng throughout his hour and 40 minute double encore performance.

Instead of touring with his usual bigger band, the 54-year-old bassist and singer was accompanied by his long-time guitarist Dominic Miller as well as guitarist Shane Fontayne (best known for his work with Bruce Springsteen and Lone Justice) and drummer Josh Freese of A Perfect Circle.

And while this was far from a long-hoped for reunion of The Police - don't bet on that happening anytime soon - the emphasis throughout the night was on Sting's groundbreaking work with that band.

He even started the show with four sizzling Police songs in a row, kicking off with a faithful reading of 'Message in a Bottle', before a fairly reworked 'Demolition Man', a standout version of 'Spirits in the Material World', and a throttling take of 'Synchronicity II', that had the crowd singing in unison like some English football match.

Sting was in fine voice, still very capable of reaching his upper octaves. After the first four songs, the guy known for his rather pretentious persona offered some very down-to-earth commentary concerning his love of American TV westerns like "Rawhide," "Bonanza," and "Have Gun Will Travel," when he was growing up in England.

"It's really where I got my love of country music," he said, before noting that later in life when Johnny Cash covered one of his songs, Sting felt "like I finally made it as a writer."

He proceeded to perform a fine version of that western-styled saga song, 'I Hung My Head', with Fontayne chiming in on harmonica and acoustic guitar.

The latter's harmonica work didn't fit nearly as well into the next song, Sting's solo smash 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', but the middle part of the concert had several high points including The Police track 'Driven to Tears', which featured a stirring electric guitar solo from Miller; the cool groove of 'Heavy Cloud No Rain'; and a very reworked rendition of 'Invisible Sun'.

Though Sting's own version of his now classic 'Fields of Gold' will probably never top the late Eva Cassidy's incredible cover, he did deliver it with eloquence Friday, prior to a somewhat surprising run through The Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.

The night wound down with several Police gems, including 'King of Pain', and a mix of 'Voices Inside My Head', and 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'. He closed the regular portion of the evening with the Police's breakthrough hit 'Roxanne', which led into 'So Lonely'.

His double encore was highlighted by The Police's ever compelling song of obsession and lust, 'Every Breath You Take'. Though it's a safe bet that many in the crowd didn't know it, this was a real family night for Sting, because his son's band, Fiction Plane, did a fine job as the opening act.

The group, which is fronted by Sting's son Joe Sumner, released a superb, underrated debut ('Everything Will Never Be OK') in 2003, but they've been operating somewhat under the radar ever since.

Even though they never even mention the Sting connection from the stage, it's quite obvious, especially when Sumner reaches into his upper octave and sounds incredibly like his father. Highlights of their tight, 35-minute set included 'Cigarette', 'Listen to My Babe', and 'The Author Lies', the latter slated to appear on their sophomore set due later this year.

© The Republican by Kevin O'Hare