Sting Brings Out Ghosts For The Night - His Old Standards Serve Him Well As He Tries To Reach Out To A Younger Crowd...
A few years after leaving his bandmates in the Police to walk the musical beat alone, Sting released 'Bring on the Night', a live disc that proved what an electric, versatile performer he could be all on his own.
At the Kohl Center Friday night, Sting brought his Broken Music Tour to Madison, offering the faithful - and a set of new fans - a taste of the power of that 'Bring on the Night' magic.
Clad in a GQ-worthy charcoal suit, the 53-year-old singer-songwriter clutched his bass guitar, stood and delivered a rock-solid 90-minute set that, by his own admission, represented a trip back to his musical roots.
''Tonight, I'm going to sing some songs that I haven't sung in many years - like 'My Sharona,''' Sting quipped to laughter, before launching his tight four-piece band into a nostalgic rendition of 'Spirits in the Material World' from the Police's 'Ghost in the Machine'.
With no new release to promote, Sting is working the campus angle this time out. The former teacher is alternately visiting classrooms (as he did at UW-Madison on Friday) and concert halls to connect with a generation of people who weren't even alive when 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Invisible Sun' first broke.
Whether the strategy's working seems open to question: Despite a list of hit songs that could fill several best-of discs, tickets for the show sold slowly, and the audience of about 5,000 filled only the Kohl Center's lower levels.
Still, the ones who showed up - an eclectic mix of college students and boomers - were treated to Sting at his ageless best. Aside from botching the introduction of his drummer, Sting scarcely missed a beat as he blasted his way through the Police oeuvre: 'Demolition Man', 'Driven to Tears' and 'Synchronicity II', still one of the keenest, most literate critiques of the hollowness of suburban life ever written.
Sting has always been an English major's musical dream, a man who doesn't write songs so much as set lyrical poems to music, pairing his vast vocabulary with a raw voice that shows as much range today as when he was riding pop's New Wave in the '80s.
At one point, in introducing a more obscure tune called 'The End of the Game', Sting quoted George Bernard Shaw on the subject of fox hunts. What else to expect from the only man to successfully incorporate graceful references to Nabokov, Ozymandias and Mephistopheles into Top 40 hits?
The set list dodged most of Sting's last three studio releases, including 2003's painfully self-indulgent 'Sacred Love', opting instead for an amped-up cover of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life' and a funky version of 'When the World Is Running Down'.
Sting deliberately saved the best for last for with a slow-down/speed-up version of 'Roxanne', a tune that had the middle-agers up and shaking straight through the three-song encore. Before he left the stage, Sting, confident as ever, was promising an imminent return.
When he does, even if he doesn't fill the house, here's hoping he brings on the night yet again.
(c) Wisconsin State Journal by Aaron Conklin