Sting in Denver...
Watching Sting attempt to seduce a jammed-to-the-gills Fillmore Auditorium on Thursday night, it was hard not to be reminded of David Bowie's visit to the same venue less than three weeks ago.
The two famed entertainers each are stately pop stars who've been singing for decades, yet have managed to age gracefully, both musically and physically. Each started his career-spanning show with a reworked oldie (Bowie pulled out 'Rebel Rebel', while Sting jazzed up the Police classic 'Walking on the Moon') before diving into a stretch of new material.
And each musician proved that graying rockers can still elicit wild squeals from middle-aged women simply by removing their jackets.
There was, however, one key difference: At Thursday's sold-out show, Sting's fans were given chairs to sit in, an oddity for a Fillmore concert, and a detail that shouldn't have gone unnoticed by fans who attended both performances.
Whereas Bowie's show was full of wild energy, both on stage and in the sweaty throng that filled the Fillmore's ballroom floor, Sting's set suffered, for a good part of the nearly two-hour concert, from sluggish pacing and, on much of the audience's part, inaction.
Granted, Sting, 52, has mellowed considerably with age, trading the post-punk vigor of his days with the Police for the jazzy, new-age stew that's bogged down much of his recent work. And it didn't help that Thursday night's show got off to an awkward start as scores of fans scurried about looking for their seats - many still pressing cell phones to their faces - while Sting and his seven-piece band took the stage and worked up a loose version of 'Walking on the Moon'.
Aside from a few stridently up-tempo numbers ' such as 'Send Your Love', a techno- like rave-up from last year's 'Sacred Lov' and the Police's 'Synchronicity II' - much of the concert's first hour was too tame, leading most of the audience members to stay planted in their seats. Some fans even jeered those who dared stand, and applauded when they sat down.
To his credit, Sting, like Bowie, isn't a nostalgia act, and he played nearly all of his new album, although that record's unexceptional material - like the preachy 'This War' - is what dulled down the set. It's also impressive that Sting still plays bass or guitar on nearly every song; he remains a deft instrumentalist, even though he could get by on his distinctive voice alone.
The tempo finally began picking up toward the show's end, as Sting trotted out more and more solo hits and Police classics, from 'Fields of Gold' and 'Englishman in New York' to 'Desert Rose', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Every Breath You Take'. The high point, no doubt, was a limber take on 'Roxanne' that returned the Police classic to its reggae roots with a guest toast by Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul.
That spark, though, came a little too late. Even the jazzed-up Police numbers sounded diluted, stripped of their punch by overinstrumentation. Sting and his band delivered a solid, capable performance that, ultimately, lacked any kind of aural fireworks - a reflection, perhaps not surprisingly, of the star's recent output.
(c) The Daily Camera by Matt Sebastian
Concertgoers feel Sting in a blend of old and new...
What do you do when the brash music you made in your youth doesn't quite meld with the more sophisticated tunes you make nowadays?
Rather than recast all of his work a la Bob Dylan or pretend he's still 19 like Mick Jagger, Sting managed to find a nice middle ground. He took his old Police hits and mellowed them out just a touch. He took his newer, jazzier work and actually infused it with Police-like energy. And for the most part, it worked.
He walked to center stage with an upright acoustic bass at the Fillmore to kick off his two-hour show with a jazzy version of the Police standard 'Walking on the Moon', neatly dovetailing into his latest hit, the Grammy-nominated 'Send Your Love'.
That set the tone; after that it was for the most part all very new or all very old songs. Police chestnuts like 'Hole in My Life' were juxtaposed with newer material from his 'Sacred Love' album. Only a few songs from his '80s solo peak - including a rousing 'Englishman In New York' - made it into his set.
In the studio Sting can tend to get too precious with his material. It's almost always better live. The aforementioned 'Send Your Love' was vastly more edgy and enjoyable; the album track 'Dead Man's Rope' also revealed itself as a great, thoughtful ballad, easily some of Sting's better latter-day work.
For the most part it was a well-paced set, with some new material and the occasional reward in the form of 'Synchronicity II' (slowed a half-step but still the most powerful song in the Police canon) or 'Roxanne' (delivered with gusto and featuring a surprise appearance by Sean Paul, who like Sting is being honored at the Grammy Awards on Sunday).
The set was spiced with good song selections - 'Fields of Gold', Fragile - but got bogged down in midtempo hell about halfway through, as Sting indulged the unrepentant jazzbo inside him.
It regained momentum as singer Joy Rose took Mary J. Blige's parts on the hit 'Whenever I Say Your Name'.
It was a rare reserved-seat show at the Fillmore, which had its drawbacks - primarily rows that were so close together you felt like you were flying in coach with the guy in front of you fully reclined.
And like Paul Simon's Fillmore show a few years back, Sting's was marred by the there-to-be-seen crowd, chatting obliviously away during some of the best moments of the concert.
Kudos to the Fillmore security, which handled some really drunk people - I'm talkin' Jimmy Buffett concert drunk - with far more finesse and patience than they probably deserved.
Trumpet virtuoso and sometimes Sting sideman Chris Botti opened the show with affable charm and electrifying trumpet lines.
(c) Rocky Mountain News by Mark Brown
Sting's stylized melodies woo fans...
Sting could not have found a more appropriate opening act for his sold-out Thursday night show at the Fillmore Auditorium than smooth jazz trumpeter Chris Botti.
The fusion front-runner is known for his highbrow style, not unlike the show's illustrious headliner.
Botti took the stage just after 7:30 p.m.
He began with a sweet rendition of 'When I Fall In Love', followed by an explanation of the way Colorado's altitude might affect his generally powerful pipes. The crowd was especially fond of his take on 'My Funny Valentine', a tribute to jazz master Miles Davis, who taught Botti that ''music can express both sadness and joy at the same time.''
That was only the beginning of the sonic thrill Sting had in store for Denver fans.
The Fillmore's house lights went dark at the beginning of this musical sojourn. It was one indication that the man's adoring fans were in store for a concert in which not a single note would be played out of tune.
When the lights came up, the slight yet enigmatic performer that some onlookers paid more than $100 to see was doused in a dramatic spotlight while warm blue washed over the stage. His elegant black suit, white-cuffed black dress shirt and maroon tie enhanced the theatrics during a jazzed-up interpretation of 'Walking on the Moon'.
Thatfavorite was followed by song two, 'Send Your Love', from Sting's new album, 'Sacred Love'; the song featured more upbeat, stylized rhythms than the recorded version.
This was also the point in the show when throngs of female followers squealed in delight as Sting peeled off his suit jacket and unbuttoned his dress shirt to reveal the slight, sculpted chest of a 52-year-old man known for his study of Tantric sex.
Yes, ladies, yoga pants were included with the usual T-shirt and CD swag at the back of the venue.
Despite the fact that the career of this worldly and spiritual entertainer has produced a body of mature and eclectic yet fairly similar music since he parted from the Police in 1984, Sting is clearly a production perfectionist. He enthralled the crowd with tight, layered listening from his new album, along with old favorites, and a second surprise appearance by Sean Paul.
The dancehall superstar turned up toward the end of the show during a medley of classics that included the Police standard 'Roxanne'.
But given the lull during the middle of this concert, one can't help but wonder whether it's the Tantric tidbit that's helping to keep Sting's career vibrant - especially since the singer was all-too-happy to remind the crowd of his personal explorations.
''Most of you look like you just had sex,'' Sting said, ''or you're about to have sex.''
(c) The Denver Post by Elana Ashanti Jefferson