Mar
27
2000

London, GB (Royal Albert Hall)

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With Cheb Mami

SHOW REVIEW

Sting at the Royal Albert Hall...

It's the beginning of his fourth decade in the business, and Sting is still the blond babe with his extraordinary voice and thoughtful lyrics, but his music hasn't stayed still for a minute. Despite his pop megastar status, the singer-guitarist-songwriter has always roamed far afield for his inspiration.

Now French rap (from drummer Manu Katche), Algerian singing (from Cheb Mami, on 'Desert Rose') and country and western (with pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole) have strayed into the mix. Along with Chris Botti's trumpet harmonising and jazz man Jason Rebello's keyboards. These provided a fillip to some of the talkier parts of the concert; intelligent lyrics give great stereo, but heavy meaning can make for a rather static show, despite the swooping freedom of Sting's vocals.

Nevertheless, his determination to expand his stylistic repertoire means that while the oldies were greeted with ecstatic squeals, material from new album Brand New Day also generated cheers. He may not go multi-platinum any more, but Sting is still the golden boy.

(c) Metro by Nina Caplan



Locked into the Albert Hall for a 10-night run...

Locked into the Albert Hall for a 10-night run, more than 60,000 fans have come to worship at their Stingdom. At 8.40, on bounces the man, to be greeted rapturously by a swarm of fans clustered proprietorially at the foot of the stage. The sound is perfect, and Sting's voice - smoky and sultry - just right for the venue.

He makes good use of the Hall during the two hour show, peppering the auditorium with lights and decorating the space with plenty of colourful backdrops to keep those in the cheap seats visually occupied. Fronting a seven piece band, Sting is playing the serious musician, which he does very well; but, by the second number, the jacket's off and that rippling physique was exposed - to audible gasps.

Musically too, the evening keeps you on your toes. 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free' is an early crowd-pleaser, and the ostensible purpose of the evening - to remind the devoted audience of Sting's new album, 'Brand New Day' - is never allowed to dominate. The title track is, anyway, already cemented as a standard, while 'Fill Her Up' finds Sting cruising amiably in Chuck Berry territory.

The bulk of the evening is spent trawling through the post-Police years - 'Seven Days'; the still-haunting 'Fields Of Gold'; and 'Englishman In New York'. The highlight, though, is a brilliant 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', a sensuous jazz spin, with Sting doing Satchmo - suggesting that next time out he should contemplate a jazz album, so suitable is his voice.

There are even a couple of possible rock'n'roll firsts - the first onstage use of deodorant between songs, and a marriage proposal... Kerry proposes to Caroline (via Sting), she says ''yeah'', and Sting delivers an inspired 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' to seal the deal.

In Nashville, Sting is known as 'Stang'; but despite wonderful pedal-steel, the country & western 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' highlighted one of the evening's shortcomings: the rockers lacked a hard enough edge, while the ballads were never quite as lush as they could have been.

Otherwise, Sting delivers a great night out. The brakes come off for a joyous 'Roxanne', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' and 'Every Breath You Take'; but most impressive of all is a solo 'Message In A Bottle' - that unmistakable voice, buoyed by everyone in the place joining in the chorus makes for a touching and memorable sing along.

It's an evening of slick professionalism, well played and sung, in a comfortable venue. 21st century rock'n'roll, with Sting as one of it's most adept practitioners.

(c) Music365 web-site by Patrick Humphries



An evening of slick professionalism...

Locked into the Albert Hall for a 10-night run, more than 60,000 fans have come to worship at their Stingdom. At 8.40, on bounces the man, to be greeted rapturously by a swarm of fans clustered proprietorially at the foot of the stage. The sound is perfect, and Sting's voice - smoky and sultry - just right for the venue.

He makes good use of the Hall during the two hour show, peppering the auditorium with lights and decorating the space with plenty of colourful backdrops to keep those in the cheap seats visually occupied. Fronting a seven piece band, Sting is playing the serious musician, which he does very well; but, by the second number, the jacket's off and that rippling physique was exposed - to audible gasps.

Musically too, the evening keeps you on your toes. 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free' is an early crowd-pleaser, and the ostensible purpose of the evening - to remind the devoted audience of Sting's new album, 'Brand New Day' - is never allowed to dominate. The title track is, anyway, already cemented as a standard, while 'Fill Her Up' finds Sting cruising amiably in Chuck Berry territory.

The bulk of the evening is spent trawling through the post-Police years - 'Seven Days'; the still-haunting 'Fields Of Gold'; and 'Englishman In New York. The highlight, though, is a brilliant 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', a sensuous jazz spin, with Sting doing Satchmo - suggesting that next time out he should contemplate a jazz album, so suitable is his voice.

There are even a couple of possible rock'n'roll firsts - the first onstage use of deodorant between songs, and a marriage proposal... Kerry proposes to Caroline (via Sting), she says ''yeah'', and Sting delivers an inspired 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' to seal the deal.

In Nashville, Sting is known as 'Stang'; but despite wonderful pedal-steel, the country & western 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' highlighted one of the evening's shortcomings: the rockers lacked a hard enough edge, while the ballads were never quite as lush as they could have been.

Otherwise, Sting delivers a great night out. The brakes come off for a joyous 'Roxanne', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' and 'Every Breath You Take'; but most impressive of all is a solo 'Message In A Bottle' - that unmistakable voice, buoyed by everyone in the place joining in the chorus makes for a touching and memorable sing along.

It's an evening of slick professionalism, well played and sung, in a comfortable venue. 21st century rock'n'roll, with Sting as one of it's most adept practitioners.

(c) The Music365 web-site, by Patrick Humphries

Police man still on the beat...

When Sting begins his 10-night stint at the Albert with 'A Thousand Years', from his current album 'Brand New Day', cynics might start to mutter about Groundhog Day. Like Eric Clapton before him, the esteemed Sting views a long sojourn on Kensington Gore as his divine right, but to his credit he comes up with something different to alleviate the situation and generate a much needed excitement.

This time around, bass man Sting has revamped his band and stuck in yet more Police favourites, alongside increasingly jazz rock fusion versions of more modern work. So, following an amiable 'If You Love Somebody' and a wistful 'After The Rain Has Fallen', and just when the hardened Sting watcher is beginning to mutter about old-school musicianship or Steely Dan-lite with added sweeteners, up pops drummer Manu Katche to deliver a cheeky French rap for 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong'.

Hurrah for the modish Sting. Yet at least he realises that for all the wide-eyed fans worshipping at his feet there are just as many people in the house who require some sort of challenge. Musically this coincides with the announcement of special guest BJ Cole on pedal steel guitar, for the ornate country number 'I'm So Happy'. The Southgate-born native then hangs around to add his mournful twang to 'Fill Her Up', in which Nashville grapples with African High Life.

Sting's own forte is to be the star turn with the benevolent demeanour. He's in better voice than ever and knows when to switch on the charm. So, a couple of people want to propose? Fine. He stops the show, reads out the appropriate letter and then plays them 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. Cue massed ''aahs'' and raised glasses.

Back in the real world, the evening is enlivened by vocalist Cheb Mami's superb dervish addition to 'Desert Rose', another example of the eclectic Sting at his nonchalant best. Chuck in a rather laborious 'Roxanne' and a crowd-pleasing 'Every Breath You Take' and it's a case of business as usual, but suave and accomplished business nevertheless.

(c) The Evening Standard by Max Bell



Coach party heaven...

Sting vexes variously, from his tantrically toned thighs to his annual presence as Our Man at the Grammys, where he recently picked up a trophy for the album 'Brand New Day' to add to his groaning mantelpiece. But where he might be expected to cause the most irritation, live performance - 90 minutes of sub-jazz diddling punctuated by stuff about the rainforest, right? - is his strongest suit.

Maybe it's because, as he starts a 10-night Albert Hall run, he's found an identity that suits him. He's abandoned all pretence of musical exploration and settled into amiable croonerhood, allowing his voice and charm to carry the show. And they do, definitively. It's a long set, with too many solo ''hits'' ('I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', say, which soared to number 54 in 1996) and too few Police ones, but his insinuating drawl, still one of this country's most distinctive, and cocktail-lounge backing lull you into woozy contentment.

Sting's brought in the best talent around, including pianist Jason Rebello, pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole and a striking French rapper, who sketch melancholy fills that complement the dusky back-lighting. All very romantic, which is why we stop after 'Fields of Gold' (properly known as Discs of Gold) to let a fan in the balcony pop the question to his girl friend. When she accepts, Sting breaks into a congratulatory 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' that has the place throbbing in communal mistiness. ''I think they've mistaken me for Cilla Black,'' he says. What a good egg. Mick Hucknall would never have done it.

It helps that he's held on to his hair and figure, presenting a comely bit of eye candy to the ladies clustered up front, who seem to have come on a package tour, free black-and-yellow scarves thrown in. He sings 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' directly to them in Satchmo tones dredged up from some rogue vocal repository he doesn't often visit. Winding up with 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take' - one can only imagine Puff Daddy's reaction to this desecration of his rap masterpiece - he sends you home feeling benignly entertained. Sting's ascent to good-egghood may put paid to any lingering memory of him in his sexpot prime, but there are worse ways to spend an evening.

(c) The Guardian by Caroline Sullivan

SET LIST

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