SHOW REVIEW

New stars shine with Sting - Policeman and his band create musical magic...

You know there is some fearsome music going down when the weakest link in Sting's new band is the bandleader himself.

That's stretching the truth more than somewhat.

Sting was as much hampered by a ravaged voice and a wretched sound system in last night's concert at the Maurice Richard Arena as he was outshone musically by the best and brightest of the new generation of American jazzmen he's recruited for his first post-Police album and tour. And he wasn't nearly unravelled enough by either of these forces to let them come between him and the summer's most adventurous and exciting night of pop in a new vein.

This tour, coming on the heels of his best-selling debut solo LP 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', is Sting's breakaway from the mega-success and potential creative predictability of the Police. It's created a stir from the outset; cast adrift from his day gig, could the multi-talented performer and teen dream maintain his commercial appeal while working out on the cutting edge of pop and jazz?

Some 6,800 fans sold out this resurrected venue in minutes to prove that the hooks on his new album and his wicked visual charm haven't diminished an iota. More importantly, some of the fans who came to scream left with new names on their lips - names like Branford Marsalis, Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones and Kenny Kirkland.

If there's a fault with the 'Turtles' album, it's that Sting reined his players in too tightly, that he could have used lesser musicians to the same effect. That's partly true, and not least for the fact the album was composed before Sting knew what direction he'd be taking with it. Now, after time on the road, the material and the band are as one; the music belongs as much to Marsalis, as much to Jones, as it is does to the creator. There's the room and the confidence to breathe, stretch out and - essential for these serious jazzmen on the lam - to have some fun.

''Let's go!'' roared Sting to start the two-hour-plus concert, and took things from there. A driving 'Shadows in the Rain' set the tone, with both Kirkland and Marsalis building extended solos on keyboards and tenor sax respectively. The neat reprise of 'Driven To Tears' showed the band's subtlety and rhythmic flexibility despite auditorium sound that one suspects was worse through the stage monitors than in the house, where it actually wasn't that bad at all.

Songs from Sting's solo shot - songs like the reggae-ish 'Love Is The Seventh Wave', the overwhelming 'Fortress Around Your Heart' and a hushed 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' mixed comfortably with 'Roxanne', the classic 'Every Breath You Take' and others from the Police catalogue. And 'I Burn for You', a piece from Sting's soundtrack album to his film 'Brimstone and Treacle', provided the concert's musical highlight with amazing solos in turn from Marsalis, Kirkland and Hakim, a tower of strength on drums.

Emotionally, though, the show belonged to Sting, whose talent, vision and sheer will power brought together people and sounds from different backgrounds to truly reflect a world that is, as he and the entire house sang last night, ''enough for all of us.''

(c) The Montreal Gazette by John Griffin

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