Aug
27
1988

Syracuse, NY, US (New York State Fair)

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SHOW REVIEW

Sting wows crowd with a musical mix...

In front of a grandstand crowd of 9,000 Sting and his virtuosic eight-piece band proved they could dish up a musical mix more varied than the Central New York weather that was threatening their show.

The lightning striking in the distance almost seemed to make a perfect circle around the Fairgrounds, as the songwriter and his ensemble weaved a melodic mix of rock, folk, reggae and jazz.

The audience was bothered only by one brief downpour during intermission and by the show's end, a dull orange moon had reappeared. It's the same moon that made a well-timed debut, above the blue, green and yellow neon of the small ferris wheel, as Sting offered his composition 'Sister Moon'. That ballad best demonstrates the distance Sting has traveled artistically since he first brought the Police to Syracuse's Firebarn in 1978, a visit he recalled to the crowd's delight.

Written about the lunacy induced by the moon, 'Sister Moon' finds the one-time conveyor of quirky pop emerging as a serious composer.

His whiny vocals work their way in and out of the multi-layered rhythms, before giving way to Branford Marsalis' fluttering soprano saxophone solo and Kenny Kirkland's delicate piano work. Mino Cinueli's fiery percussion paces the entire work.

From this, the band segued into 'Rock Steady', an upbeat Caribbean-influenced number, based on the story of Noah's Ark.

Sting also sang out in honor of Nelson Mandela ('If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free'), against the regime of Chilean leader Pinochet ('They Dance Alone') and in ridicule of Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Dan Quayle ('Consider Me Dumb'.)

Marsalis, performing on tenor, alto and soprano saxophone, was the evening's most impressive musician, although the entire band was top-notch. The NewOrleans-bred sax man soloed on nearly every tune, as well as offering subtle counterpoint to the big beat the band offered on tunes such as 'Rock Steady' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me'. Marsalis also demonstrated an amazing stage presence, joking and two-stepping around stage with the star when he wasn't blowing.

Sting closed his show with the Gil Evans arrangement of 'Little Wing', that appeared on his last album, with guitarist Jeff Campbell aping Jimi Hendrix's licks.

A standing ovation brought a rendition of 'Home on the Range' - no kidding - before Sting and the band launched into a string of encores, anchored by some of the Police's biggest hits.

(c) The Post-Standard by Brian G. Bourke

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