May
05
2001

Washington, DC, US (MCI Center)

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With Dominic Miller

SHOW REVIEW

Sting plays with new sounds but doesn't tamper with old classics...

Sting effortlessly trots through a cowboy-style Western ditty, swoons a blues number interrupted by French rap and still knows how to strip down to pure form the songs of the group that made him a legend.

On tour to promote his album 'Brand New Day', the former Police frontman uses that distinct, throaty voice to sow together his eclectic musical endeavors. 'Fill Her Up' from his latest record, a song which is about as close as the poised Englishman comes to singing in a country twang, glides almost seamlessly into 'Fields of Gold', one of his most melodic solo ballads.

Heavy guitar riffs string together in quick succession the upbeat new release 'After the Rain Has Fallen' with an old favourite, 'We'll Be Together'.

Even without the vocal accompaniment of Algerian singer Cheb Mami, Sting, surrounded by orange flames of tissue, performs a rich version of the Arabic-Western duet 'Desert Rose'. The jazzy swoon of 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' gets a jolt in the middle from an energetic French rap, performed by drummer, Manu Katche. In one of the concert's few moments of playfulness, Katche bounds across stage and dances behind Sting.

Die-hard Police fans, well-represented among the masses at Saturday night's show kicking off of a U.S. tour, probably craved to hear a few more of the band's favorites during the nearly two-hour set. But what they got cleansed their ears from the remixed and sampled versions of Police classics that crowd the airwaves - like 'Every Breath You Take' - to remind them what those songs really sound like. As part of his encore, Sting performed 'Message in a Bottle' with only his guitar and lots of help from the audience. His voice soared through the MCI Center, the large downtown venue here.

His rendition of 'Roxanne' started off slow, went into a musical free-form midway through, and ended back up to speed. And his energetic 'Every Little Thing' was one of the biggest audience-pleasers of the night, propelling a mellow crowd to its feet.

Sting, clad in a pair of camouflage pants and a black tank top, made his romp through the various styles and genres of his own music look effortless. He benefits from an ensemble of musicians that can keep pace.

Chris Botti's trumpeting adds texture and depth to a number of Sting classics, such as 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. And guitarist Dominic Miller got a chance to display his own solo talents, after opening act Jill Scott canceled because of illness. A publicist for Scott said she was suffering from a lung infection and a high fever. She is expected to join the tour after a few days, when Sting performs in Greensboro, N.C.

(c) Associated Press by Kalpana Srinivasan



Sting at MCI: nobody de do do does it better...

Sting has New Wave bona fides and cool jazz credibility. He's pale and he's funky. He's almost 50 but could pass for a thirty-something. He's macho and he speaks French.

A lot of guys loathe him for any or all of those attributes. Sting knows that. And revels in the knowledge. Why not?

''You can't sue me for looking at your girlfriend - that's my job,'' Sting tauntingly told the dragged-along males Saturday at MCI Center, where he opened a world concert tour for his 'Brand New Day' album.

The concert - amid his ''Ally McBeal'' appearances and commercial endorsements, Sting sometimes does do music - did nothing to bridge the gender gap or to reduce his enviability. With a mix of old and new material, he revved the crowd, a diverse and devoted group heavy in the soccer mom demographic.

It was certainly a momentous night for Sting. At a dinner before the concert, he was presented with the Arab American Institute Foundation's 2001 Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity award.

The MCI concert got off to a rough start. Scheduled opener Jill Scott cancelled, for what was announced as health reasons. As several hundred disappointed Scott fans gathered outside the arena and waited for refunds, Sting's longtime guitarist, Dominic Miller, dutifully filled in with a brief solo set. The headliner came from the wings to apologize for Scott's cancellation and to help his band mate on 'Shape of My Heart', a spare ballad from 'Ten Summoner's Tales'.

Spareness vanished as Sting's prearranged set commenced. The two-hour performance touched on all periods of his wide-ranging career, now in its fourth decade. Yet it skewed toward the more recent, more elaborate portions of his songbook, which seem more the work of a Gordon Sumner, his birth name, than a Sting. Trumpet fills, for example, have grown far more important to his art than guitar solos.

He kicked off with 'A Thousand Years', a tune as grandiose - and, in this setting, as plodding - as 'Dune', the Ridley Scott film that starred the Renaissance rocker. Arena crowds always want a repetitious hook to grab onto or an anthemic chorus to chant, neither of which can be found in 'A Thousand Years'. The same malady plagued his unnecessarily complex renderings of 'Mad About You' and 'Brand New Day'. Despite the best efforts of trumpeter Chris Botti, 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' never took off.

But, on the whole, Sting and his six-piece backing combo gave fans plenty of occasions to pump their fists and recite lines. 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', from his solo debut, 'Dream of the Blue Turtles', and 'We'll Be Together', got the audience up and dancing. 'Fill Her Up', also off the 1999 'Brand New Day', Sting's latest CD, didn't have the pedal steel guitar that is so prominent in the recorded version, but rocked nonetheless. 'Desert Rose', the irresistible, unavoidable commercial soundtrack, appears to show that Sting is more into championing Jaguars - the car, not the cat - than saving the world, but it kept fans' motors running.

Anything to please Sting, who looked buff as ever in a dark tank top and baggy trousers and danced lithely from first note to last. He also showed a willingness to give fans what they wanted by dipping into his days with New Wave's transcendent trio the Police. Even the slightly tarted-up versions of the old nuggets made for the most warmly received offerings of the show. A hail of ee-yo-oh/ee-yo-ohs rained down from the cheap seats during 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'. During the reggaefied rendition of 'Roxanne', fans yelled ''Put on the red light!'' with the same abandon as Eddie Murphy in ''48 Hours.''

Sting had the stage all to himself for his encore offering of an unplugged 'Message in a Bottle', but, as was the case throughout the show, less was more.

(c) The Washington Post by Dave McKenna



Sting Offers Diverse Set In Washington DC at Tour Kickoff...

It's not always easy being Sting.

First there was that little diplomatic snafu at the Great Pyramid. Then, last week, his private plane skidded off a runaway in Italy, leaving him unharmed but shaken. And on Saturday (May 5) night, as the latest edition of his 'Brand New Day' tour began in Washington, D.C., opening act Jill Scott suddenly became ill and cancelled her set; disappointed fans seeking refunds were visible at the box office.

But let's face it - Sting's worst days are better than most people's best. There was a well-stocked MCI Center to greet him as he appeared, still dressed in a tux and holding the Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award he received earlier in the evening. The dapper Brit repeated the bad news of Scott's absence, related how he asked his band ''Which one of you is gonna bail us out?,'' and introduced guitarist Dominic Miller to fill the gap with five fleet-fingered acoustic numbers. After changing into casual clothes, Sting returned to finish the brief interlude by singing 'Shape of My Heart', which he wrote with Miller, the evening's MVP.

And that was probably the last spontaneous moment of the night. After intermission, when Sting reclaimed the stage to open with a decorous but dragging version of 'A Thousand Years', it was clear the audience had arrived in Smooth Arena Pop Land.

Granted, it wasn't a horrible place to visit. Sting's latest forays into ever-so-tasteful, yet ever-so-safe mid-tempo rock, with jazz pretensions and world music accents, is easy listening in the truest sense of the word. The movie/rock star's cultivated musical tastes, intense craftsmanship, and world-class sidemen - a six-piece band including Chris Botti's fine, but rather ubiquitous trumpet - promise no less than a class act.

But oh, how one longed for the days when Stewart Copeland might throw a drumstick at the supremely self-confident frontman and tell him to get over himself. Like on the once-haunting 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', where Sting went for a campy growl that destroyed the song's original melancholia. Or 'Fill Her Up', a seriously misguided attempt at good ole boy southern soul (honestly, can you believe Sting singing, ''I was lucky getting a job at this gas station...''?).

Though undeniably catchy, 'Desert Rose' suffered from its lack of companion vocalist - instead, some cheesy fake paper flames burst from stage pots. In general, the staging had a surprisingly low-budget feel. Backdrop projections were random and uninspired, the lighting more interesting, but often shot directly into the audience's eyes. Combined with a sometimes harsh, brittle sound mix, the effect was often downright discomforting. The best visual effects, in fact, were Sting's incredibly buff upper arms, thoughtfully displayed in a black tank top.

Luckily, while skewed to promote Sting's latest CD, the set nonetheless had a diverse sampling from his prolific solo career and five classics from his days on the beat with the Police. To say that those songs were the highlight of the night is not to wax nostalgic for times past, but for tempos that pack a punch. It took the charged rhythms of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'When the World Is Running Down...' to give the boomer hipsters in the crowd something to really cheer about.

At top ticket prices of $78 per, it's difficult to say whether every fan got his/her money's worth from the nearly two-hour show. If it had ended after the first song of the second encore, a solo acoustic performance of 'Message in a Bottle', audience singing along with a moving intimacy, one could have left with a sense of real connection to the artist onstage. Instead, the band returned for a drifting take on 'Fragile', and the crowd exited to the PA playing a dance mix of 'Desert Rose'. Rather than a final musical statement, it felt like a commercial reminder to pick up the album - or a new Jaguar - on the way home.

(c) CDNow by Marianne Meyer

SET LIST

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