Sting, never better, gives complex mesh...
A summer heat wave stung the audience on Tuesday night at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. The ticket prices pinched, too.
But the Gordon Sumner septet sluiced a mighty cool wave of music over its listeners, flowing from song to song in an intelligent and jazzy pop style.
The 9 p.m. show was eagerly anticipated by fans who revere the performer known as Sting - former frontman of The Police, now a respected solo artist. And, to be honest, the 48-year-old singer and bass player hasn't reverted to his birth name.
Still, a unified and skillful septet is what Sting presented to the crowd of 7,500-8,000 people who paid $34-$74 so they could cheer him on at Oak Mountain.
While he operated as the star centerpiece, Sting takes his cues from jazz greats who keep grandstanding to a minimum, preferring instead to create a fine, complex mesh of sound. In that classy goal, he certainly succeeded.
Relying on a ''one for me, one for you'' set list, Sting led his six member band through intricate numbers from his latest CD, 'Brand New Day', alternating these with older solo tunes and a handful of Police smashes.
Anyone who expected an all Police deluge was disappointed, yet Sting's slo-mo or internationally spiced versions of 'Roxanne', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Message in a Bottle' were treats just the same - more precious, perhaps, for their rarity.
Sting's distinctive wail of a voice has never sounded better; if we're lucky, he'll keep that chilling tenor intact until he's 80.
He bopped with energy - a fine physical specimen, by the way - through the upbeat songs (If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Englishman in New York, We'll Be Together, Fill Her Up) and silkily caressed the downers (Fields of Gold, After the Rain Has Fallen, A Thousand Years).
Like most of Sting's post-Police output, the stuff from 'Brand New Day' takes time to grow on you, so these selections earned lesser bursts of applause on Tuesday. That's understandable; solo Sting sometimes veers into territory that's too moody, abstract, dark or pompous.
You've got to give the guy credit, though, for taking chances and constantly pushing his musical envelope. We might love to hear more of those Police hits, but Sting is unlikely to confine his talent to the prison of a nostalgia act.
(c) The Birmingham News by Mary Colurso