Jun
12
2010

Concord, CA, US (Sleep Train Pavilion)

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SHOW REVIEW

Sting scores at Sleep Train...

Sting was perhaps the only Brit happy with Saturday's results from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - a 1-1 tie game between the heavily favored English team and those upstart Americans.

''I was extremely pleased,'' the former chief of the Police said to the crowd assembled that night at the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord. ''I would not have wanted to face an American audience if (the English team) had won.''

The 58-year-old vocalist then proceeded to perform two sets and nearly 2½ hours of music from throughout his storied songbook - stretching from the Police's 1978 debut, 'Outlandos d'Amour', to recent solo recordings - and everywhere he went sounded much like this: GOOOOOOAAAAAL!!!

He did, however, have plenty of help. Sting's last trip to the Pavilion was during the 2008 Police reunion tour, which meant he had guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland by his side. This time around, he brought along a much larger group of friends - a 50-member ensemble.

Sting's current ''Symphonicity Tour'' (an obvious play on the Police's multiplatinum 1983 album, 'Synchronicity') features a five-piece rock band and the 45-member Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. It's every bit as elaborate, ambitious and, to be honest, pretentious of a production as it sounds - yet it works, as those who buy the forthcoming tour companion CD, 'Symphonicities', will likely find out.

It seemed to take a few numbers for the star of the show to get comfortable with the arrangement. He fidgeted his way through the opener 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' (from 1993's'Ten Summoner's Tales'), not knowing exactly what to do with his hands, and then did some awkward marching in place during 'Englishman in New York' (from 1987's '... Nothing Like the Sun').

By the third selection, a take on the Police's 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', the man born Gordon Sumner was enjoying the evening as much as the 6,000 fans in attendance. That song was one of the concert's best, for it accomplished what one hopes for, but seldom gets, from these rock-goes-symphonic productions - it managed to put an interesting, and meaningful, new twist on an old favorite.

The once-bouncy ska ditty was transformed into something far more elegant and grand. It wasn't better than the original - just better for this occasion. The same was true of 'Roxanne', which became a warm, alluring love ballad, boasting a degree of flamenco flavor, thanks to all the expert hands on the cellos and violins.

The best moment of the night wasn't what most would've expected. It came when Sting revived the heavy-handed Cold War cut 'Russians' (from his 1985 solo debut, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles') and turned it into something again worth hearing. The arrangement was full of Shostakovich-style drama, and conveyed a barren, lonely and ultimately industrial landscape. In that mix, Sting's voice - in fine form throughout the night - came across like a frightened, (mostly) hopeless and bewildered cry for sanity.

Not everything worked that well. Some symphonic re-workings - such as 'When We Dance' (from 'Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994') - sounded one elevator stop away from Muzak, and, in general, the second set would've benefited from a greater number of up-tempo songs. In all, however, Sting's ''Symphonicity Tour'' was an experiment worth everyone's time.

(c) The Oakland Tribune by Jim Harrington

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