SHOW REVIEW

Sting, Lennox conquer Darien crowd...

Who could have imagined, back in the '70s when the Police were drawing a handful of people to their first shows in the United States, that Sting would grow into a rock star of such magnitude that he'd become a caricature of himself?

Fortunately for the rain forests and adult contemporary radio, the 51-year-old rocker has proved himself worthy of being taken seriously, despite all of the gags about trees and tantric sex.

Looking pretty damn hot even to these heterosexual eyes, on Sunday night a slim, energetic Sting didn't seem to have lost an ounce of charisma or caterwauling vocal prowess for about 7,500 people at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

It was, in general, a pretty fine night for rockers who have advanced to parental status and been dismissed as inappropriate for MTV viewers. After an opening set by Sting guitarist Dominic Miller, who's clearly been taking lessons from the master, Sting himself introduced Annie Lennox, referring to her as ''one of my neighbors.'' It's an excellent gesture for the headliner to bother himself with that task, although Sting failed to mention which one of his houses Lennox lives nearby.

Lennox, sporting short blonde hair, a silver sequined jacket and mirror sunglasses, looked like a disco cop for the 22nd century. Radiating red-hot sexual ambiguity, the 49-year-old Lennox has a booming, soulful voice. On 'No More I Love You's' and 'Cold', she was as worthy a vocalist as any neo-soul Badu being marketed today. As a mature adult who dresses herself, Lennox was probably quite aware that, after she stripped off her jacket three songs into the performance, her black bra was visible through her T-shirt, so she probably wouldn't mind me reporting that back to you.

As always, the oldies grab the boomer crowd. When Lennox sat behind the grand piano for a slow, solo version of 'Here Comes the Rain Again', and later a rocking 'Missionary Man', the crowd was instantly transported back to her Eurythmics days. Thankfully, Lennox's 'Sweet Dreams Are Made of These', with its snarky keyboards, rescued that song from the clutches of Marilyn Manson.

Lennox did join Sting for a duet on 'We'll Be Together', although he hardly needed much help. Playing bass and sometimes guitar through the night, Sting produced one excellent song after another. 'Fields of Gold', 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free', the syncopated reggae beat of 'Englishman in New York', the soaring 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', the hushed and elegant 'Fragile', the incense-raising 'Desert Rose' and 'Seven Days'. 'Sacred Love', the title track of his 2003 release, was accompanied by startlingly realistic video of exotic dancers.

And as with Lennox, Sting's fans haven't forgotten the Police with 'Every Breath You Take', 'Synchronicity II' and a version of 'Roxanne' that morphed briefly 'King of Pain', then back to 'Roxanne' for fusion jazz and a surging finish. For the old Police man, it was an arresting presentation.

(c) The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle by Jeff Spevak



No pain in Sting's performance...

Sometimes, a brief scan of the crowd can tell you something about an artist. Such was the case when Sting and Annie Lennox shared a bill at Darien Lakes Performing Arts Center.

The crowd seemed to be split; many were there because, presumably, they've been following Sting's work since he fronted the Police and threw reggae, punk and pop into a blender with considerable musical chops.

Others seemed to be quite happy hearing the man's more recent fare tossed in with well-known hits, reveling in the more adult-contemporary aspects of the music.

The musicians and old-school Sting-heads and the casual pop fans all more than likely walked away from the show satisfied.

On his most recent album, 'Sacred Love', Sting's well-crafted melodies were given a studio gloss that often derailed them, downplaying their harmonic substance and highlighting a sort of world beat-pop-new age production sheen.

In concert, however, these tunes came to life, as Sting's incredible ensemble - highlighted by guitarist/on-stage foil Dominic Miller, drummer Keith Carlock, percussionist Rhani Krij and pianist Jason Rebello - brought sophistication, nuance and a dazzling display of dynamic control to the table.

Thus, opener 'Send Your Love', a radio hit from 'Sacred Love', became a percussion-fueled tour-de-force in its live guise, as opposed to the pan-continental suave pop it espoused on record.

Dressed, not surprisingly, in elegant cuffed shirt and slacks, Sting was in fine voice during the opening number, but it was when he strapped on his well-worn Fender Telecaster bass and sunk his teeth into the Police gem 'Synchronicity II' that the show really came alive.

Although this new version of the tune is a bit less brisk in tempo, and hence less driving than the original, the band sounded fantastic, particularly drummer Carlock, who seemed to be pushing Sting-the-bassist to new heights.

'Seven Days', one of several purely brilliant tunes that form the heart of the early-'90s release 'Ten Summoners Tales', came next, and Miller's fingerpicked classical guitar chords brought a distinct air of jazz to the proceedings.

'Sacred Love's' 'Dead Mans Rope' is at least twice the song in concert as it is in its studio incarnation, and Sting's own classical guitar anchored this sublime rendition.

For 'Nothing Like the Sun's' dance-friendly funk-pop hit 'We'll Be Together', Annie Lennox strutted onto the stage and the pair brought the house down with a sparkling duet. This tune has never sounded better, and the crowd loved it.

'This War', yet another new song that benefited from its live arrangement, soared on the strength of Miller's bluesy Fender Strat licks and Sting's impassioned vocal; the tasteful, hip accompanying video display underscored the tunes anti-Bush stance with subtlety.

The transition between this piece and the heart-rending 'Fragile' was flawless, as Sting offered some of the finest lyrics of his career to the gorgeous early evening air: ''Perhaps this final act was meant/to clinch a lifetimes argument/that nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could/were all as one beneath an angry star/lest we forget how fragile we are.''

'Fields of Gold' was stately and elegant, 'Englishman in New York' its usual laid-back-hipster self, 'Roxanne' a war horse given new life by a lengthy improvisational section that interpolated the jam from the classic 'Bring on the Night'. 'Desert Rose' is now world music made palatable for all and played with vigor.

As the evening ended on an incredibly high note with Sting manning electric guitar for the haunting, ethereal 'A Thousand Years', one felt inclined to forgive him for his occasional turns toward the pop-star/adult-contemporary side of the street. He remains an incredibly talented musician and songwriter with a vast musical vocabulary and, it would seem, a true generosity of spirit.

Annie Lennox tore through a set that highlighted tunes from her recent 'Bare' album and nuggets culled from her tenure with the Eurhythmics. Blending soul, R&B and pop with gospel overtones, Lennox led her stellar band through a selection of tunes highlighted by a brilliant take on Bob Marley's 'Waiting in Vain' and the back-to-back slam of 'Missionary Man' and 'I Need a Man'.

'Sweet Dreams' was given a sterling solo-at-the-piano treatment by Lennox, much to the crowd's delight.

The ballad 'Why' reached for the stars, and it grabbed a couple, too; gooseflesh, all around.

Dominic Miller opened the evening with a set of pieces from his recent 'Shapes' album. The guitarist, a masterful fingerstyle classical player, was joined by Sting for a tune the two wrote together, the 'Ten Summoners Tales' beauty 'Shape of My Heart'. The brief set ably set up this evening of sophistication and eminent musicality.

(c) Buffalo News by Jeff Miers



Sting & Lennox conquer Darien crowd...

Who could have imagined, back in the '70s when the Police were drawing a handful of people to their first shows in the United States, that Sting would grow into a rock star of such magnitude that he'd become a caricature of himself?

Fortunately for the rain forests and adult contemporary radio, the 51-year-old rocker has proved himself worthy of being taken seriously, despite all of the gags about trees and tantric sex.

Looking pretty damn hot even to these heterosexual eyes, on Sunday night a slim, energetic Sting didn't seem to have lost an ounce of charisma or caterwauling vocal prowess for about 7,500 people at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

It was, in general, a pretty fine night for rockers who have advanced to parental status and been dismissed as inappropriate for MTV viewers. After an opening set by Sting guitarist Dominic Miller, who's clearly been taking lessons from the master, Sting himself introduced Annie Lennox, referring to her as 'one of my neighbours.' It's an excellent gesture for the headliner to bother himself with that task, although Sting failed to mention which one of his houses Lennox lives nearby.

Lennox, sporting short blonde hair, a silver sequined jacket and mirror sunglasses, looked like a disco cop for the 22nd century. Radiating red-hot sexual ambiguity, the 49-year-old Lennox has a booming, soulful voice. On 'No More I Love You's' and 'Cold', she was as worthy a vocalist as any neo-soul Badu being marketed today. As a mature adult who dresses herself, Lennox was probably quite aware that, after she stripped off her jacket three songs into the performance, her black bra was visible through her T-shirt, so she probably wouldn't mind me reporting that back to you.

As always, the oldies grab the boomer crowd. When Lennox sat behind the grand piano for a slow, solo version of 'Here Comes the Rain Again', and later a rocking 'Missionary Man', the crowd was instantly transported back to her Eurythmics days. Thankfully, Lennox's 'Sweet Dreams Are Made of These', with its snarky keyboards, rescued that song from the clutches of Marilyn Manson.

Lennox did join Sting for a duet on 'We'll Get Together', although he hardly needed much help. Playing bass and sometimes guitar through the night, Sting produced one excellent song after another. 'Fields of Gold', 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free', the syncopated reggae beat of 'Englishman in New York', the soaring 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', the hushed and elegant 'Fragile', the incense-raising 'Desert Rose' and 'Seven Days'. 'Sacred Love', the title track of his 2003 release, was accompanied by startlingly realistic video of exotic dancers.

And as with Lennox, Sting's fans haven't forgotten the Police with 'Every Breath You Take', 'Synchronicity II' and a version of 'Roxanne' that morphed briefly 'King of Pain', then back to 'Roxanne' for fusion jazz and a surging finish. For the old Police man, it was an arresting presentation.

(c) The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle by Jeff Spevak

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