SHOW REVIEW

A whimsical statement of maturity - Sting indulges his fans by reworking his repertoire as an easy-listening evening...

It was three years ago almost to the day that Sting and his old bandmates Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland played the Bell Centre for the first time in decades as part of the Police reunion tour.

If that show (and the encore a few months later) before 19,000 enraptured fans was a recapturing of their youth, Sting's solo performance for 9,400 at the same venue last night, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was a whimsical statement of maturity.

He's 58 years old, as he reminded us -- and for most of the evening, he acted like it, playing classically arranged versions of his solo material and Police classics, as can be found on his new album, 'Symphonicities'.

It was date night at the Bell Centre, and the older crowd was eating it up, cheering heartily for the reworkings of a repertoire that long ago lost its bite. Sting seemed only too willing to indulge them, wearing a pleased grin throughout the proceedings.

His mantra may have come in the second song of the evening, the clarinet-featuring 'Englishman In New York': ''Be yourself, no matter what they say.''

As conductor Steven Mercurio spun around and led the audience in handclaps, it was clear that everyone was on his side.

'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' had swing; but 'Roxanne' suffered from a sappiness that robbed the song of its vigour. Not that anyone seemed to mind.

The adult-contemporary ballad 'When We Dance' drew a roar of approval. 'Russians' was a standout, Sting's voice soaring clearly above a spare arrangement that retained both the drama and lyricism of the original.

Things faded into easy listening territory for the remainder of the first half, until a fiery version of 'Next To You'.

He picked up where he left off after intermission, Songs such as slinky jazz number 'Tomorrow We'll See' (about a transsexual prostitute) and 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' (his classic werewolf lament) showed his affection for inhabiting unusual characters. The orchestration added a cartoonish quality to the latter, which he punctuated with a howl at song's end.

It was all very pleasant, enhanced by Sting's playful between-song banter, much of it en Francais. He's a refined, gracious entertainer who has found his niche.

With the lark that was The Police reunion faded into memory, it was clear that this is Sting's late-career comfort zone.

(c) The Montreal Gazette by T'cha Dunlevy

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