Sacred Love
Sep
22
2003
Paris, FROlympia
With None
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Sting était encore en rodage...

Drole de concert pour Sting, hier soir, à l'Olympia. L'artiste avait prévenu son public d'emblée, après une version jazzy et plutôt élégante de 'Walking on The Moon', un classique de Police en ouverture. ''C'est la première fois que nous allons jouer ces nouvelles chansons devant un public international, a-t-il expliqué. Ce ne sera sans doute pas un concert parfait. Mais c'est un show encore en pleine évolution.'' La star avait, en effet, choisi de présenter de larges extraits de son septième album 'Sacred Love', disponible depuis ce matin, à Paris, là où il l'a enregistré et écrit en grande partie, il y a quelques mois.

Devant un parterre d'inconditionnels venus de différents pays qui avaient, pour la plupart, décroché leur sésame sur le site Internet du fan club, complétés par quelques tetes connues comme Luc Besson ou Charles Aznavour, l'artiste a donc joué neuf des dix titres de son nouveau disque. Et il semblait encore en rodage ce Sting soufflant le chaud et le froid, devant une salle pas toujours convaincue.

'Inside', l'un des temps forts de son album, paraissait bien fade, geché par des arrangements boursouflés, incapable d'égaler sa version studio. 'Send Your Love', pourtant son premier single, sonnait comme un tube, pour l'instant timide. Les projections en fond de scène, méli-mélo d'images mystico new age, venaient parfois alourdir des chansons qui n'en avaient pas besoin. Sans parler de 'Fields of Gold' pas encore maîtrise par son guitariste, auteur d'un joli couac, qui a valu un gros fou rire à Sting.

Mais heureusement quelques classiques de son répertoire étaient là pour relever le niveau comme 'Desert Rose' chanté en duo avec Cheb Mami, invité surprise de la soirée. Il ne restait plus qu'un rappel pour se faire pardonner avec en conclusion 'Every Breath You Take' et 'Fragile' avant de se donner rendez-vous, dans quelques mois, pour un vrai concert dans le cadre d'une vraie tournée.

(c) Le Parisien



Huren und Heilige...

In der Stadt der Liebe präsentierte Sting sein siebtes Soloalbum 'Sacred Love' vor ausgesuchtem Publikum. Nach 25 Jahren beispielloser Karriere denkt der 52-Jährige immer noch über erste und letzte Dinge nach - auch wenn er sich mal verspielt.

Paris - Diese Momente sind selten, in denen sich Vergangenes und Zukünftiges treffen und in einem Gefühl verdichten. Dann steht man etwas ratlos da, gerührt, verdrückt eine Träne über falsche Siege und wahre Niederlagen, blickt zurück nach vorn, nimmt Abschied, schüttelt den Kopf über sich selbst und seine Kämpfe und lacht gelassen über das Unvermeidliche: Tomorrow's another day? - OK...

Sting geht es gut. Warum auch nicht. Allein die amerikanischen Radio-Tantiemen des mittlerweile über zwanzig Jahre alten Eifersuchtsdramas 'Every Breath You Take' bringen ihm rund 2000 Euro ein - täglich. Er hat zwei Jahre pausiert, um an seiner Autobiografie zu basteln und war doch in den Hitparaden präsent: Der drei Jahrzehnte jüngere Craig David hat Stings Song 'Shape Of My Heart' zu 'Rise And Fall' umfunktioniert, während Johnny Cash auf dem letzten Album vor seinem Tod Stings Trauerballade 'I Hung My Head' noch mal neu einspielte.

Sting ist also irgendwie immer da, auch wenn man gerade nichts von ihm persönlich hört. Wie ein guter Freund kommt er dann mal vorbei und bleibt für eine Weile, auf einen Abend mit den richtigen Fragen und ein paar Antworten. Am Montag erschien sein mittlerweile siebtes Soloalbum 'Sacred Love' - und dafür kehrte er nach Paris zurück. Dort nahm Sting Anfang der achtziger Jahre sein erstes Solowerk 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' auf, mit dem er den Schritt aus der Police-Umklammerung wagte, dokumentiert in einem der besten Musikfilme aller Zeiten und dem gleichnamigen Livealbum 'Bring On The Night'.

Fast zwanzig Jahre später steht Sting wieder mit einer Premiere auf einer Bühne in Paris. Drau?en werden Karten für die exklusive Release-Party für 200 Euro gehandelt, drinnen sitzen Menschen zwischen 20 und 60 auf roten Polstern im engen Theatersaal des ''Olympia''. Sagte er einst, in einem Konzert müsse man vom ersten Moment an brennen, kommt er nun im gestreiften Anzug mit leicht angegrautem Bart auf die Bühne geschlendert. Im Barjazz-Stil intoniert er den Police-Klassiker 'Walking On The Moon', verschleppt, ganz ruhig, ganz gelassen. Er breitet die Arme aus, legt den Kopf schief und zuckt mit den Schultern: ''Tomorrow's another day - OK...'' Ein lässiges Intro.

Der Mann muss nichts mehr beweisen. Und so klingt auch sein neues Material. Sting ist mittlerweile so lange dabei, dass er, der sich nun schon überall bedient hat, inzwischen auch selbst zitieren darf. Das nennt man Klassiker. Auf 'Sacred Love' zitiert er Police-Zeiten ('Walking In Your Footsteps' wird zu ''His Footsteps'') und frühe Solozeiten mit 'We'll Be Together'. Der sahnig-satte Sound, die jazzigen Synkopen, die Ethno-Tupfer, mal einen Ausflug in den Country, sein prägendes Falsett, all das eingespielt und aufgeführt von den teuersten Wasserträgern des Musikmarktes. Wenn Sting bei Shakespeare klaut, wie auf dem neuen Album, bekommt der Autor nicht einmal mehr einen Quellennachweis. Darüber lacht der Musiker und zitiert mit Bert Brecht gleich noch einen anderen Klassenbesten: ''Schlechte Dichter leihen, gute Dichter stehlen.''

Es sind Sätze dieser Art und die verspielte Musik, die immer noch einen Tick weitergeht, um ja nicht normal zu sein, die Sting den Vorwurf einhandeln, prätentiös zu sein. Auch darüber lacht der ehemalige Englischlehrer: ''Das kommt von 'pretend', etwas vormachen. Aber ich mach nichts vor. Ich mache einfach, was ich mache und kann mich nicht der Bewertung anderer entziehen. Aber ich mache es nicht, um etwas zu beweisen.''

Auf der Bühne in Paris dreht Sting dem Publikum auch schon mal den Rücken zu und guckt sich eines der Filmchen an, die auf den Leinwänden hinter den Musikern seine Musik illustrieren. Dort lässt er, wenn er mal die Missionarsstellung vorne am Mikrofon verlässt, entspannt für sich die Puppen tanzen. Nackte räkeln sich in üppigen Proportionen im erotischen Schattenspiel, eine Go-Go-Tänzerin im knappen Schwarzen erregt sich an Stangen, eine fein gewandete persische Schönheit erweitert den Bauchtanz um Jazz. In diesen Momenten sieht der Bass vor seinem Bauch aus wie die Fernbedienung eines Mannes im reifen Alter, der halb verschämt halb genie?end durch ein paar erotische Programme zappt - und sich für nichts mehr schämt.

Sting spielt dazu seine neue Lieder, die sich wie schon auf dem Vorgängeralbum 'Brand New Day' fast monothematisch um die Liebe mit all ihren Abzweigungen, Verwirrungen und Mutationen drehen: Es wimmelt von Heiligen und Huren, mal lustvoll, mal beseelend, mal teuflisch, mal missionierend, mal verwöhnend, mal mahnend, mal ma?los, oft einsam, sehr nah am Wahnsinn, dann wieder zu cool, um wahr zu sein. Und über allem schwebt eine Prise Selbstironie: 'Sacred Love'? Meint der Mann das ernst (auch wenn man wei?, welche Verwüstungen eine streng katholische Erziehung hinterlassen kann)?

Sting rettet sich in und durch Metaphern. Darin ist er ein Meister, ob er dafür nun die Bibel plündert oder Jungsche Theorien aus der Psychoanalyse. Die können beängstigend schön sein, aber auch nervig klugschei?ernd. Es sind Totalausfälle dabei wie das Zahnstein fördernde 'Forget About The Future' und (auf dem Album) ein manieriertes Duett mit der HipHop-Queen Mary J. Blige. Aber eben auch echte funkelnde Sting-Perlen: 'Dead Man's Rope' berührt jenseits der üblichen Gänsehaut-Rezepturen, auch das wunderbare 'Inside', das von der Unfähigkeit erzählt, Gefühle zu offenbaren. 'The Book Of My Life' hat das Zeug zu einer stillen Hymne für Sting-Fans in Herbststimmung: ''Though the pages are numbered I can't see where they lead'', singt er. Gelassenheit bewahren, auch wenn das Ende näher rückt: ''There's promise of heaven and hell, but I'm dammed if I see.''

Aus der Rolle fällt 'The War', das Sting als frischen, knalligen Rocksong präsentiert. Er ist so lecker wie eine Currywurst nach drei Wochen Haute Cuisine, ein Rückfall in seine missionarischen Zeiten, in denen Sting wenn schon nicht die Welt, dann doch wenigstens den Regenwald retten wollte. ''Don't do nothing'' lautet seine Botschaft, die als moralisierender Fingerzeig daherkommt. Aber er ist nicht so blöd, die Vorkriegsdiskussion um den Irak zu vertonen, sondern fragt linkisch naiv: ''You may win this war. But would you tolerate the peace?''

Dazu passt, dass er deutliche Anleihen bei arabischer Musik einstreut und Brücken baut zwischen den Formen. Das lie?e sich ihm leicht als modisches Multikulti ankreiden auf der Welle des ''Wir haben uns doch lieb, ob Muslim oder Jesuit''. Aber wahr ist auch, dass Sting diese Arabesken schon Anfang der neunziger Jahre anklingen lie? im Traueralbum 'Soul Cages' und vor vier Jahren 'Desert Rose' mit dem algerischen Sänger Cheb Mami zu einem feinen Welthit führte. Das war stilprägend - lange vor dem 11. September.

Mit Police wurde Sting gerade in die ''Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame'' aufgenommen: Der Mann macht nun seit über 25 Jahren Musik und könnte ein vierstündiges Konzert allein mit Top-Ten-Hits bestücken. Dass er sich mit fast 52 aber noch zu jung fühlt fürs Museum und mehr sein will als eine Hit-Maschine, zeigte sich eher unfreiwillig bei seinem Premieren-Konzert in Paris. Er hat noch Ansprüche: Seine First-Class-Musiker lie? er schnell noch mal sechs Stunden üben vor dem ersten Live-Spiel der neuen Songs.

Aber ausgerechnet den wohl hundert mal gespielten, viel zu zuckrigen Hit 'Fields Of Gold' versemmelt sein Gitarrist Dominic Miller dann völlig. Sting lässt die Band weiterschrammeln und Miller muss sein Solo wiederholen - um wieder zu versagen. Da kichert auch Sting nur noch ins Mikro, vergisst den Text, verhaut die Saiten und albert mit Miller auf der Bühne herum, bis der ganze Saal nur noch lacht, statt wie üblich bei dem Song ein paar Tränen zu unterdrücken. Wir können auch anders, sollte das wohl heißen - und es machte den Eindruck, als fühlten sich alle etwas leichter, befreiter.

Sting ist immer noch ein Puzzle, auch wenn man seine Teile inzwischen alle zu kennen glaubt. Der Sting, der am Montag in Paris die Liebe besang und betrauerte, hat jedenfalls seine innere Mitte gefunden, mit leichten Ausreißer ins Kitschige oder Streberhafte. Einst lie? sich Sting im Rotlichtviertel der französischen Hauptstadt als junger unbekannter Sänger zu seiner Huren-Hymne 'Roxanne' inspirieren. Mehr als 20 Jahre später spricht er die Liebe heilig, ist bei 'Sacred Love' gelandet. das Titelstück lässt er nahtlos übergleiten in die ausufernde Spielfreude von 'Bring On The Night', seinem ersten Soloausritt, als schließe sich ein Kreis zwischen jenem Experiment im Paris von damals und der Stadt der Liebe von heute. Vergangenes und Künftiges in einem Moment. Liebe ist zeitlos. Tomorrow's another day. OK.

(c) Der Spei gel by Markus Deggerich



What a great show in Paris!

Well, I must I'm still amazed with the experience I had in Paris, Olympia... Such a venue! I loved every minute I spent down there... From getting my excellent seats in 6th row on saturday from the hands of Wendy (quite nice to finally get an image of your faces Dave & Wendy after all those years of web communication) to getting a free poster from a guy obviously from the staff but who I can't give a name, very nice guy, very friendly anyway. From getting back on Sunday evening to have some more meeting with Dave and some extra tickets to invite my best mate and his girlfriend to an event they couldn't have experienced without this gift from the fan club, this indeed was a true show from Sting to fans. So Thank you Dave, Wendy and Tina for making it happened this way...

This leading to the night in the hall itself: man, this is it, Jason and Sting on stage for the most incredible live version of anything I've heard by Sting and past bands live.

- This introduction with ''Walking On The Moon'' is a complete success for me. I know we were all complete freaks down there in the orchestra seats, but the response the audience immediatly gave was the most incredible I've seen for a first song in the set. And it's musically one of the most challenging thing Sting did on stage since a Loooong time, in my opinion...

- 'Send Your Love' was very nice. I'm not crazy about this song, but it add somme nice arrangements making it a treat for me. Like hearing some serious drumming from Vinnie!!! About time. I liked the kind of ''a cappella'' ''there's no religion but sex and music'' part too. I could have dealt with the acoustic guitar more proheminant in the song as he did on television in France. All in all I like the fact that Sting is still able to make some serious rearangements of is single on the first public performance. What the tour needs is challenge, let's have some!!!

- 'Inside' was a bit harsh for me. Takes off too late, the bridge part ''I climb...'' was very nice though and made the song work in the end for me. It's obvious to me that it needs some reworking.

- I'm sorry to say that I don't like 'Whenever I Say Your Name'. Well, it's a nice song but got nothing to do with Sting's album musically in my opinion. The duet would have perfectly fit to Blige's album. About the rendition they made with Joy Rose Monday night: it worked better than the album for me, less over-produced, more groovy. Maybe Vinnie is responsible here. I hope that the drummer taling the kit on tour will be able to groove it the way he does. Well Vinnie is just god of drums!

- 'Dead Man's Rope' was really good, I love the song, I love it. I just can't understand why Sting likes so much to tease us with two lines of a great songs like 'Walking In Your Footsteps' and just sticks to the album version where it could be the starting point of a miraculous medley ''à la Sting'' like I call them.

- I enjoyed 'Forget About The Future' and the jazz part - 'Jeremiah Blues' solo is a nice touch. Dominic Miller is definitely growing on me! ;-) The fact that the album radio trick is quite impossible to render on stage is not a problem for me... it worked.

- 'This War'! OH MY GOD! That's the way I noticed the 3 screens behind the band! Only joking of course, but that's the only time it made perfect sense to me. Really strong. Very nice to see my musical hero taking so radically position in front of an audience. By the way, it's an amazing song, and it was amazingly good to me live. Again, 'The Soul Cages' citation is what made love Sting's music worthwhile to me, expand Sir, expand!

- 'The Book Of My Life' turning into 'Mad About You'. Woaw... I loved the new arrangement for 'Mad About You', it has the speed and feel that that lights it up and gives it more dramatic feeling to me. Really works very well, hope to hear more of this.

- 'Sacred Love' or ''where the big screens where too much for me''. What I want to say here is that it ruined the song for me. I love it and can't even remember the way it was played! I was not at all shocked, I don't care about nudity, it can be awesome, but this was way too first degree. And the girl didn't made it for me, just thinking about all those things, how I thought it was out of place, etc, and the song was over! Failure...

- 'Field Of Gold'. Hemmm I'm beginning to think I look negative all the way down the review... So before saying ''I don't want to hear that anymore on stage'' and commenting the AMAZING version we had Monday I have to say that I love the new album, and that I love Monday night show, really. It's just easier to point out the things that made it a little bit less amazing than the very very amazing things, as I don't know that much vocabulary to say AMAZING, I'm french you know! :-) Well, here we go again... 'Fields Of Gold' is a great song. But how many times to we have to ear that live again? Considering the audience was made in great part of hardcore fans that night, why 'Fields Of Gold' and not 'I Burn For You' has quoted in half of the anwsers to the question Sting made on this site. Oh well, it's a never ending story. Then it happened. Dom and Sting made it the treat of the night! Unbelievable! AMAZING! ;-)

- It was really nice to have Cheb Mami on stage, and oh my god, Vinnie knows how to shook drums sticks! ;-)

- Never Coming Home' is certainly the track I love the most out of 'Sacred Love' at the moment. Incredible lyrics. I loved it. I loved the way it melted into 'When The World Is Running Down', I thought that the final with the yelling of ''whe was never coming home'' under ''when the world'' frenetical ending worked perfectly. The screens were really nice till the dancing, but once again, it's distracting from the music and the band and it doesn't make sense. The only moment it worked for me was 'This War'.

- encore... hemmm... pretty good if you except that we had already heard that encore serie the last 2 tours! Come on, that can be more challenging!

I spent a great night, met a great deal of persons I'd never met without this show, and that's the most important. Thanks for reading that far, it was long I know! Thanks again to the fan club for making it happened the way it happened, thanks from Jack and Anne, the two people you invited through me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(c) Martin Vauchel for Sting.com



Rendezvous in Paris: Sting Sends His Love...

For many years now, the one thing that the Fan Club has received most requests for is a special Fan Club concert. The recent launch of the new online Fan Club not only provided the perfect opportunity for organising such an event, it also provided Sting with an outlet with which to preview the songs from his new album 'Sacred Love'.

So, on the evening of September 22, we found ourselves with almost 2,000 Fan Club members, competition winners, record company employees and VIPs at what is widely recognised to be one of Paris's best venues in terms of acoustics and viewing - the L'Olympia Theatre in the Boulevard des Capucines. The final few tickets for the show were snapped up by eager passers-by who were taken by surprise at seeing the name 'Sting' being displayed outside the theatre.

Sting arrived in Paris after appearing at the Festivalbar show in Verona on the Saturday, and spent two days rehearsing with the band for the show. Several people bumped into him as he strolled casually between his hotel and the venue, catching their first glimpse of him since the last tour. Looking as fit and trim as ever, and sporting a deep tan and blond/grey beard Sting continues to defy the passage of time.

Show time came around quickly, and a little after 8.45pm, Jason Rebello took to the stage followed shortly afterwards by Sting who walked out to a welcome that must have taken his breath away. After more years than we care to remember of seeing him play live, we can't recall a warmer more heartfelt welcome anywhere. The noise eventually subsided, and together Sting and Jason performed their new very jazzy reworking of 'Walking On The Moon'. A surprising choice to open a set with perhaps, but if more than 25 years of Sting's music have taught us anything, it is that surprises are always just around the corner. It's a two way street - he enjoys surprising us and we enjoy being surprised.

The rest of the band were then introduced - Dominic Miller (guitar), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), Rhani Krija (percussion), Kipper (keyboards) and Joy Rose and Donna Gardier Elliott (backing vocals) and Sting took the opportunity to welcome us all and to explain that he and the band were still feeling their way with the new material and to expect some mistakes during the performance. He also told us that they were trying out some new visuals for the first time and that he hoped we'd enjoy them.

Danny Quatrochi handed Sting his ancient tiny Spanish acoustic guitar and placing one foot on a stool he held the instrument flamenco style and launched into the current single, 'Send Your Love'. Inside the opening track from Sacred Love was the third track of the evening, and seriously warmed the crowd up. Joy Rose, stepped forward to trade lines with Sting in the later part of the song, and demonstrated what a fabulous singer she is. The final notes brought a standing ovation and the comment from Sting that he was surprised that so many knew the lyrics, even light heartedly suggesting that we must have bought bootleg copies! Someone shouted out that the lyrics were on the website, to which he replied - ''Ah the website - so how is my website?'' which prompted an encouragingly loud and positive response.

Introducing 'Dead Man's Rope', Sting spoke about his friend, the late Kim Turner, and dedicated the song to him. The song is one of those featured in the exclusives section of the website, and is clearly already a favourite amongst fans. The version in Paris was poignant and uplifting - a great performance of a great song.

Joy Rose then again stepped forward to duet with Sting on 'Whenever I Say Your Name'. Although Mary J. Blige performs on the album version from the time we first heard this song live at the Mermaid Theatre in London, we immediately preferred Joy's performance which seems more dynamic. Let's all hope that Joy tours with Sting next year because she adds so much to the sound, and deserves to be recognised as much more than merely Mary J's stand in.

Then three further tracks from the new album followed: 'Forget About The Future', the guitar driven 'This War' and finally 'Sacred Love'. 'This War' is a terrific song and it was wonderful to hear Dominic Miller come to the fore and satisfy us with some raucous playing. The song featured some striking visuals - comic strip style drawings of soldiers, oil wells and aircraft on the three backdrop screens - but the backdrops to 'Sacred Love' were equally memorable, albeit for different reasons. As Sting sang ''take off those working clothes...'' the left hand screen showed a stunning silhouetted lap dancer performing her routine on a chair before later reappearing on the right hand screen performing an acrobatic pole dance, before taking off her boots, putting on her dress and shoes and exiting. It would be safe to say that not all male eyes in the audience were focused on Sting during this song, something he jokingly alluded to at the end of the song when he asked ''what had been going on behind him'' whilst he'd be singing.

An old favourite followed with 'Fields of Gold', but what promised to be a by-the-numbers run through of a song that most of us had heard performed live many times before, suddenly veered off into the world of the weird and wonderful. At the song's mid-point everything was proceeding as planned as Dominic wandered to the front of the stage ready for the spotlight and his solo. Instead, he seemed to forget the chords he'd played hundred of times before and gave us something totally unexpected, not least to himself. The look on Dominic's face brought about a wave of laughter and cheering from the audience and Sting looked across with a mixture of amusement and puzzlement before inviting Dominic to try again, which he did - perfectly.

With the audience still cheering Dominic, it was Sting's turn to crack. In mid verse he simply burst out laughing much to the amusement of Dominic and the audience. Regaining his composure he began singing once more before making the mistake of catching Dominic's eye. This took him back over the edge once more, and he burst out laughing again. Dominic then wandered over to Sting, reached down to his music stand and calmly turned his lyric sheet over before looking at the crowd as if it say 'It's a good job I'm here to keep him straight'. The crowd loved it and simply erupted. Dominic turned away, gave the crowd a smile, and then walked back to the front of the stage where he made a play of watching for Sting following him. As the two embraced at the end of the song, we realised the preciousness of those four minutes and the camaraderie and warmth not just between Dominic and Sting, but between the whole band, and between the band and the audience who realised what we'd seen.

For 'Book of My Life' Rhani Krija came to the front of the stage and was joined by Dominic who took a seat on one of the monitors and this then segued into a reworked and very nice version of 'Mad About You' which felt more middle eastern than ever. Sting then introduced Cheb Mami, and we knew 'Desert Rose' was coming. The audience danced and sang along at the top of their voices and it was wonderful to hear the song again with the prince of rai in fine voice.

'Never Coming Home' lived up to the promise implicit in the album version of the song as Jason's keyboard solo took the song off into a frenzied near lyric-less version of 'When The World Is Running Down'. After years segueing 'Bring On the Night' and 'When the World' together, it was wonderful to hear this variation. Sting was playing and dancing with such passion at the front of the stage you almost feared that he'd break through it, and he brought the song and the end of the main set to an amazing climax and thoroughly deserved his thunderous ovation.

The band returned to the stage but sadly there was no more new material. Versions of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' and a sing along 'Every Breath You Take' were followed by the inevitable Fragile which rounded the evening off. As Sting walked off stage he smiled to the camera which had been recording the concert and gave a gesture that said, ''THAT was a show!''.

Highlights? 'Dead Man's Rope', 'This War', 'Sacred Love', 'Fields of Gold' and 'Never Coming Home'/'When the World Is Running Down'.

Disappointments? We could be greedy and say that another 2 or 3 songs would have been good, but by the time the tour kicks off in the States in January this may well have happened. It was a shame though that 'Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)' was not played.

Surprises? The amazing Joy Rose; the filmed backdrops which we thought were striking and will possibly be much more effective in larger venues; and no 'Roxanne'.

Unsurprisingly, Fan Club members had travelled from all around the world - Japan, India, Cyprus, Israel, South America, and South Africa as well as from all over Europe and the USA for this unique event. The buzz around and immediately after the event was unbelievably positive. It was a great way to launch the album, and it would be nice to think that this show has set a precedent.

(c) Dave & Wendy for Sting.com



The message of love...

He looked fantastic, with his supple trained body, his sexy black shirt, his lightly unshaven face and his blond hairs, which don't want to become grey at his 52nd. No other solo performer is in business as successfully as Sting and no other ex-rocker can permit so many liberties.

In the Olympia, where many big names have played before, Sting introduced his new CD to the world on Monday evening. They had come from far and near, journalists and fans, to listen to songs about war and love. Because on 'Sacred Love' Sting has a message: 'Send your love into the future'.

Fans of The Police - his ex-band - will moan. Again these dreamy songs, which touch one just as refined as mellow. Again the urge from the old republican in Sting to be equal, brotherly and free. Once again his new age doings of this multimillion pop star with seven houses, a happy family and great success.

And yet, the audience couldn't get enough of it. One foot on the stage and the room was already standing on its feet to sing along with 'Walking on the Moon'. It was like he was looking for devotion - amongst his 'troops' - with this mysterious smile: does he feel superior or really grateful? Or both? It is common knowledge that Sting likes to be at a safe distance from a crazy crowd, but at the same time he gets a kick from performing and from mass attention.

The concert would be a test case, he told. A test of the new songs, but also of the visuals on the three screens at the back of the podium. 'Send Your Love' showed in which direction it would go: belly dancing women, lightning, fiery colours and ethnic culture. Add these, let it thicken musically with soulful and warm music and the label is called Sting.

He had seven musicians, but in comparison to his band of some years ago, they had little variation to offer. Most of his songs were built up by atmospheric noises, a wall of organ playing, decorated by some guitar playing and the voices of Sting and two background singers. The problem with this approach is that it's easy to repeat and difficult to create exciting moments.

But maybe Sting doesn't want to be exciting? His new album is about issues such as religion, war and love. It's about the world after September 11 and about England who went to war in Iraq. It's about society today: 'There's a war on education, on information', he sings, 'A war on our compassion, on love and life itself'. And then this one liner: 'There's no religion but sex and music'.

One strongly gets the impression that the writer won it from the musician this time. Sting had something to say and he came up with some songs, but also 'musical surroundings'. On 'Inside' he tells how it's more difficult it is to declare love then to declare war. The song only became moving at the end.

But the man remains a pro and by the time the band is more rehearsed they will also swing more. 'Dead Man's Rope' (about dying), a powerful and groovy 'This War', completed by animation of oil wells and soldiers and 'Sacred love': these are all songs well above average.

In the mean time the image kept passing. Numerous circles, universal poses, ethnic clothing and behind this all an enormous fascination for the East. The rai singer Cheb Mami featured on 'Desert Rose' and Sting had the entire hall dancing on 'Every Breath You Take'. Mostly friendly, even gallant, saying goodbye. Love him or curse him, at least he's takes a position.

We will meet again in May or June 2004 when his world tour will pass here. Or in October, when his live DVD or autobiography will be released. It tells about his childhood in Newcastle, when he used to rise at four in the morning to deliver the milk with his father. It doesn't go further then his 25th birthday, so many questions will remain unanswered.

(c) De Standaard (Belgium) by Peter Vantyghen & translated by Lithium Sunset

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