Ace band puts a lively new tale in the Sting...
I know lots of people who turn their noses up at Sting. Is this still fair? True, a negative view was hard to avoid when trite homilies like 'Russians' filled the airwaves and interviews were given with a self-satisfied smirk, but Sting's opening Sydney show demonstrated how much things have changed since then.
Two or three years ago his attempts at grafting jazz overtones on to pop were unsatisfying, his band less than the sum of its parts, too stiff and contrived to fully enjoy the benefit of ace American jazz players like saxophonist Branford Marsalis and pianist Kenny Kirkland. But last year's 'Nothing Like The Sun' LP marked a considerable advance now boldly underlined on stage.
Opening with a torrid percussion solo from former Miles Davis sideman Mino Cinelu, the musicians take to the stage one by one to build up a locomotory volume of steam on the infectious 'The Lazarus Heart'.
From here, through two sets, they play with a Three Mile Island intensity, and not without subtlety. Cross-rhythms fire across the stage like pellets. Songs melt into each other in ingenious segues, Marsalis's soprano acting like cool air on the back of the neck. Kirkland plays like a demon.
Sting dropped nearly all of the material from his first solo album to concentrate on his more recent songs, plus some inspired reworkings of classic Police songs like 'Bring On The Night' and 'Every Breath You Take'.
Latin influences now play the inspirational role that reggae played in The Police. Instead of trying to get his players to sound white enough to back his English gentlemanliness, Sting has allowed himself to be moulded into their New World way of thinking; the sophistication now unfolds organically from the material rather than feeling as though it has been plotted on paper with a compass.
True, Sting gratuitously removes his shirt, and the band indulge in the odd pompous coda or squealing guitar solo, but these are essentially minor irritants, par-for-the-course at big concerts these days.
(c) The Sydney Morning Herald by Lynden Barber