Sting stands tall to turn on a memorable musical experience...
It was a concert where the objective was to be all things to all people, a performance where Sting could showcase his daring and distinctive new music but still keep his old fans happy.
The balance was met by continually changing the pace of the 140-minute show from a heady jazz flavour to dance music with beat, peaking with a roaring rock tempo then shifting to take in more sparse, tender tunes.
The compromise worked successfully, although the closing sequence of old Police hits tended to undermine the importance of songs from the 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' album, which were brought to life by Sting's exceptional, jazz-trained band. Before a pop-oriented audience, it was perhaps wise for Sting to retain some familiar musical reference points rather than hope to educate people with an onslaught of radical and adventurous new sounds. But each new song tackled by the British singer and his black American cohorts was given a curious new twist, making the performance a feast in intriguing and tastefully executed music.
The early portion of the show focused on the songs from the 'Blue Turtles' album, each fleshed out with passages of instrumental improvisation. It allowed the players to flex their musical muscles, particularly Kenny Kirkland on keyboards and the exciting Branford Marsalis on saxaphones.
A number of songs began to take a more rambling, free-flowing form as the solos became longer and more intricate. Kirkland turned in a sparkling jazz piano solo on 'Bring On The Night', Marsalis pettered Fortress Around Your Heart with delightful soprano sax, and the rhythm section of Darryl Jones (bass) and Omar Hakim (drums) performed dazzling virtuoso roles in a song from Sting's 'Brimstone & Treacle' soundtrack. Sadly, the intimacy of these spectacular passages was reduced in the vast space of Memorial Drive.
The band tackled the performance in a relaxed, almost effortless manner, dancing merrily around the stage with a supremely confident Sting. His time to shine came during the final run of hits, singing superbly over the minimal accompaniment of 'Roxanne' and 'Message In A Bottle' and soaring in a euphoric rendition of 'Every Breath You Take'.
But the most memorable moment of the concert, and certainly the most heartening for Sting, was during the evocative 'Russians' when the entire crowd helped to sing his plea for international understanding and peace.
The show of support for such poignant sentiments, coupled with the appreciation of a dazzling musical display, was proof that Sting stands tall as one of today's most crucial pop artists.
Sting was joined by Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers at the Omni in Atlanta for a brief reunion as they play a short set as part of an Amnesty International 'Conspiracy Of Hope' benefit tour, including a version of 'Invisible Sun' with U2's Bono joining them on vocals.
(c) The Advertiser by David Sly