05.11.05 Portland Gig Review...


Sting's stripped-down oldies show rocks...

Wearing a gray pin-striped suit and black T-shirt, Sting came out on stage at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland Tuesday night singing 'Message in a Bottle' followed by 'Demolition Man'.

These were the first of many Police songs he performed over the course of the evening to a nearly soldout show of more than 6,000 fans.

"This town reminds me of my hometown," Sting told the audience by way of hello. The 53-year-old rocker hails from Wallsend, a coastal British town near Newcastle.

"It's (expletive deleted) cold in the winter, it's by the sea, and the women are sexy."

He told the audience - a mix of teens, young adults and middle-aged fans - that he'd be playing old stuff and he did. No songs from his latest album, 'Sacred Love', were included.

Instead the audience was treated to 'Spirits in a Material World', 'I Hung My Head', 'Driven to Tears', 'Heavy Cloud No Rain' and 'Why Should I Cry for You?' The latter included a drawn out emphasis on "why" that truly sounded like a cry from deep within the man. The audience loved it.

He also performed favorites like 'King of Pain', 'Fields of Gold', and 'Every Breath You Take'.

I grew up with the Police and Sting, but there were several Police songs I didn't know. They were still good songs, so I didn't care if I knew them or not.

Sting is Sting and his hard-core fans take whatever he wants to give us, but for those who didn't know a lot of what he sang, I wondered if they felt left out.

No one can feel left out with the song 'Roxanne', which he sang not as a straight rendition. It was more like an improvised jam session. At points during the jam, with the help of an echo, Sting sang repeated bits of this perennial favorite as if they were the ravings of an obsessed lover.

On 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', Sting and the audience exchanged their love, with Sting pointing at the audience and the audience pointing back at him.

It was during this song that he and the audience exchanged sarcasm, he through body language and the audience through a vocalized emphasis on "I lost my belief in politicians."

Sting told the audience that this stripped-down 'Broken Music' tour was about going back to his roots, trying to find out who he is, and part of that search is to reconnect with old songs and musical influences. He said that he owed a big debt to the Beatles and by way of tribute performed 'A Day in the Life'.

He refers to his tour as stripped-down because it's just him, two other guitarists, and a drummer, but the energy from those four guys was pretty close to a full blown rock show. It reminded me of the energy of his 'Bring on the Night' concert from the mid-1980s.

He told the crowd that this was the sixth week of the national leg of the 'Broken Music' tour. Next stop was Providence, R.I., on May 11, and New York state Friday.

When he performed 'Voices Inside My Head', he got the Portland audience singing the chorus as he and the band improvised the rest. The energy was high and the audience delighted in the rhythm.

There was a pregnant woman in the second row from the stage who looked like she was having the time of her life. If her baby doesn't become a Sting fan, it won't be for want of trying.

At one point during his set, he made mention of his own adult son, Joe, who led the opening act, Fiction Plane.

Fiction Plane played as a four-man rock band. Joe Sumner, Sting's son, is the band's lead vocalist and guitarist.

He resembles his dad, but has his own distinctive sound. He seemed to take his role easily and had a good rapport with the audience, even joking with them, such as when he announced the name of the fourth song, 'The Author Lies'.

"Do you know it?" he asked. "Probably not. You will. You will."

Their danceable music, such as 'American Standard', had some interesting lyrics.

Sting performed two encores of improvised jams that included 'Next to You', 'Every Breath You Take', and 'Lithium Sunset'. He got on stage around 8:25 p.m. and was off by 10 p.m.

I was disappointed that his set was so short, but he promised he'd be back.

© Portland Press Herald by Stephanie Bouchard