SHOW REVIEW

A star provides a winning mix for Forum fans...

It's not nearly as easy to make fun of Sting as it is to have fun at his concerts.

The famed blonde British star has taken his fair share of heat for bringing literary allusion, jazz musicians and the dreaded political pretension to the pop arena since splitting with the Police for a solo career earlier in the decade, and it was up to last night's Forum date to silence his critics.

Not too much noise around these parts this morning, and not only because of the wonderful quiet a foot of snow brings to the urban scene. Sting and fabulous eight-piece band have quite simply proved it's possible to mix intelligence, funk, theatre, jazz, silly rock attitude, extraordinary musical chops and fan-friendly high technology during a marathon two-hour plus concert experience.

Sting's visit brought out a wild sold-out crowd of 15,000, drawn partially by a sexual allure that does strange things to otherwise perfectly sentient females, but mostly by the man's dangerously addictive world view of pop. During a two-part set that pulled tunes' from every facet of his career - and propelled by a band fuelled on Branford Marsalis's saxophones, the keyboards of Kenny Kirkland and Delmar Brown, and the insidious percussion of Mino Cinelu - Sting laid all but the most obvious flaws in his career portfolio to rest forever. Forgive vocals hurt by their limited range and current cold; accept an ego large enough to fill an arena; and Sting in concert is silk-smooth sailing.

After lugging through a rough start - too brittle a sound; musicians as cold as the night - Sting dug into the old Police pop reggae song 'One World', and set the mood for the evening. The tune started out with portentous Kirkland keyboards, then broke into a group romp, with Sting leading the crowd response, the effervescent Brown bouncing like a sing-along ball, and Kirkland laying down brilliant shards of piano during an extended solo that saw the rest of the band dancing round the stage.

With that, an old complaint that Sting held too tight a hold on his players was forgotten - loose-jointed jazz and Latin fever held for the rest of the concert. 'If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)' carved a deep pop groove for an ecstatic reaction; 'Sister Moon' offered a moody playground for Marsalis's and Kirkland's jazz improvisations; 'Roxanne' brought back memories; and 'They Dance Alone' neatly tied up Sting's European musical tradition, his love of Latin music, and exceptionally solid human rights issues into one superior package.

If the musical and implied political values weren't enough to put the concert across, Sting also brought advanced sound and an unobtrusive state-of-the-art video arsenal that beamed his every facial tick to the cheap seats. Rock technology, jazz discipline, universal moral values, and the old pop cheesecake profile - Sting stripped on down for 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' - provided something for everyone.

(c) The Montreal Gazette by John Griffin

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