If you have a thing for Sting, don't miss new HBO concert...
[This is a review of the TV broadcast of the Tokyo Dome concert from 25 October 1988]
"Sting in Tokyo", the "HBO World Stage" presentation that debuts at 10 pm Saturday on the premium cable network, is the concert event of the TV season. How hot is "Sting in Tokyo"? Don't judge by the reaction of the Japanese audience. The enthusiasm many Japanese have for Western culture apparently didn't extend to this concert taped in the Tokyo Dome a few months ago. Sting's ability to slide easily from one musical form to another is just one of many reasons to be enthusiastic about this show. He rocks out with 'Rock Steady', followed by 'Sister Moon's' bluesy, jazz treatment, which gives saxophonist Branford Marsalis an opportunity to shine.
Next up is the reggae-accented 'One World', followed by 'Bring on the Night'/'When the World is Running Down', a pair of poignant pieces performed with emphasis on the words.
'King of Pain', a song so closely identified with Sting that many will have forgotten that it appeared on the Police's 1983 album, 'Synchronicity', sounds amazingly fresh here.
Marsalis is extraordinary on reeds and even takes some turns helping percussionist Mino Cinelu with his array of unusual instruments, which give interesting and unexpected textures to Sting's music. Marsalis is so good and featured so much, this concert could bear his name as headliner.
Kenny Kirkland and Delmar Brown always have the right keyboard phrasing, shifting as easily as Sting through the array of this concert's musical styles. Sting clearly doesn't tolerate musicians who go for a certain consistent sound and carry it through a performance or album.
Major credit is due Dolette McDonald, whose energy and ability stretch far beyond the usual confines of the term "backup singer."
Sting is a master at using his voice as a musical instrument and of letting the lyrics sell a song when that's appropriate. The music takes center stage, because Sting doesn't confuse the presentation with a lot of razzle-dazzle.
He may not be glittery and overblown, but Sting manages to retain command of the stage.
I've never seen Sting in person, but his past TV concert performances and a revealing interview-jam on "Showtime Coast-to-Coast" last season have been impressive. "Sting in Tokyo" is more impressive than those.
HBO's "Sting in Tokyo" is a concert to watch now and to tape for later enjoyment.
(c) The Fresno Bee by Lanny Larson