Sting tries for divinity, but falls just a little short...
During his 1985 tour - his first post-Police solo outing - pop star Sting presented himself as a Serious Musician, mixing pop tricks with jazz licks, even though it meant keeping sheet music nearby for quick reference.
On Friday night at Masonic Temple Auditorium, however, Sting took on a different role - the pop god, a suave, good-looking and personable showman playing for the screams as much as for the applause.
And there were screams aplenty from the 4,013 fans who packed the hall. Whether it was for his tasteful but unexceptional flamenco guitar playing during 'Fragile' or his cocky reggae dance steps during 'One World' or enough call-response numbers to choke a cheerleading squad, each time the spotlight hit Sting was a chance for the audience to yell its approval.
But Sting earned most of the cheers he received during the 21-song, three-hour concert, which repeats tonight at Masonic.
Mixing Police hits with material from his 'Blue Turtles' and 'Nothing Like the Sun' albums, the British musician offered a blend of musical styles broader than most pop performers attempt, mixing jazz, pop, Latin stylings, reggae - and even heavy metal guitar lines during a version of Jimi Hendrix' 'Little Wing'.
The general excellence of the music was what allowed Sting to get away with the often heavy-handed theatrics.
His seven-piece band - featuring saxophonist Branford Marsalis and keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, both '85 tour veterans - was remarkably tight and able to handle the diverse material.
But the real highlights came when Sting mixed old and new material, and when he re-arranged some of his most familiar songs. The show-opening 'Lazarus Heart' led into the Police's 'Too Much Information', and 'Bring on the Night' segued into 'When the World Is Running Down...'
'King of Pain' benefited from a subtle re-arrangement, and his spare rendition of 'Roxanne' - accompanied by only his guitar and Marsalis' saxophone - was transcendent.
There were also a few sly moments, such as when he snuck bits of the Beatles' 'From Me to You' into 'Little Wing'.
All that proved that Sting could well drop the pop star posturing and let the natural energy of the music guide his performance. Somewhere between the Serious Musician and the pop god is a place where he could comfortably dwell - and maybe even get a few screams in the process.
(c) The Detroit Free Press by Gary Graff