SHOW REVIEW

Rocker's intensity losing its sting...

It is time for rock icon Sting to realize that his own career has reached the point of ''diminishing returns.''

Sting's performance on Wednesday night at the Meadows Music Theater reeked of complacency, a feeling that seemed to seep into the relatively large crowd, estimated at under 10,000.

Sting was recently quoted as saying his seminal band The Police broke up because they had reached the pinnacle of stardom and would suffer ''diminishing returns'' from that point forward. Um...Sting...hello...

There was a soothing sterility to Sting's sound on this night. It numbed the impact of the songs he played from 1987's 'Dream of the Blue Turtles', and the seven songs he played from his latest release 'Brand New Day'.

Sting opened with 'A Thousand Years', and the crowd stood to greet him. They returned to the seated position while the six-piece band meandered through the song at an amazingly relaxed pace. The intensity level kicked up with 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.

A synthetic, soullessness pervaded 'After the Rain Has Fallen', which segued immediately into 'We'll Be Together'. Sting failed to personalize any of the songs as he said little more than ''thank you'' during the performance.

Sting's music has always had world beat influences and 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong', reflected those influences as it wavered between reggae and jazz while his drummer rapped in French. 'All This Time', threatened edginess, but fell victim to clean guitar sounds and dual keyboard backdrop.

The set nearly fell apart with the pseudo-country number 'Fill Her Up', which was too musically intricate to be fun, yet too lyrically contrived to be taken seriously. Thankfully, Sting's serene version of 'Fields of Gold', reversed the downward spiral.

He seemed to hit his stride as he delved into The Police catalogue (is that the last rock reunion worth waiting for?) with 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', and the crowd was up and dancing again. 'Roxanne', continued the momentum.

'Desert Rose', was one of the few successful forays into new music, coming at the end of the 17-song set. Sting offered two encores, delivering 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', and 'Every Breath You Take', the first time out and returning again with 'Fragile'.

Shawn Colvin's acoustic set opened the show and the singer-songwriter was quick to point out her preference of Hartford over the New Jersey audience from the previous night. Her solid set included a Steve Earle cover, the somber 'Shotgun Down the Avalanche', and her hit 'Sunny Came Home'.

(c) The Union-News by Donnie Moorhouse



O Sting, Where Is Thy Zing?

In one of the stranger marketing moves, they were passing out bandages to people leaving the Sting show at the Meadows Music Theatre in Hartford on Wednesday.

This is not to imply that the performance cut particularly deep.

On the contrary, the former Gordon Sumner had been soothing the alcohol-free audience with his own soft gauze all evening. The once vital leader of the Police has since become leader of a lite jazz outfit that dished out pleasant but not particularly memorable songs to his most loyal fans.

He's been touring nonstop since he last played Connecticut in November. But scarcely a thing changed in the set list; his band didn't play things any differently or more inventively, and the pacing was still plodding. Playing to a partly outdoor crowd at the amphitheater didn't bring a different mood or inflection than when he played an indoor theater last Thanksgiving Eve.

It may be worth noting that the top ticket price of the November show was $125, compared with $85 at the Meadows, where he played one less song. So if anyone asks what $40 buys these days, the answer is a fifth Police song (Message in a Bottle) in the encores.

Oh, Sting was competent enough and his band was fine. But they suffered from comparisons of previous touring bands. And for the length of his solo career and its occasional highlights (Field of Gold, All This Time), it was still only the Police songs that stirred the crowd Thursday, whether it was an energetic 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' or the inevitable 'Roxanne'.

Having his drummer Manu Katche come out to do French rap during 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong' may add a continental touch, but why not have him also do a line of Puff Daddy - in French if he has to - during 'Every Breath You Take' as an attempt to make a bridge to the late '90s?

Sting, who was once quite the master of the soapbox, had next to nothing to say Wednesday on any topic and showed no indication he even knew where he was.

Everybody in the audience knew where they were because alcohol sales were suspended for one night - as a penalty to Meadows for two counts of sales to a minor and one count of selling to an intoxicated person at a Goo Goo Dolls show last year.

In contrast to the headliner, Shawn Colvin was present in her opening set, chatting up the crowd, comparing it favourably to New Jersey and presenting a set she seemed to be making up as she went along - including her own hit 'Sonny Came Home' and surprise covers of Steve Earle's 'Someday' and Donovan's 'Catch the Wind'.

(c) Hartford Courant by Roger Catlin

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