Sting takes Orpheum crowd around world...
Take away the world beat funk textures he seems to favor of late, and Sting's music would fit in seamlessly with the classics of Tin Pan Alley.
That was the inescapable impression last night as Sting regaled a sold-out house at the Orpheum Theater with two hours of steamy, jazzy pop with flavors from around the globe.
Most of the night focused on tunes from Sting's latest album, 'Sacred Love', but the set list also included popular hits from every phase of his solo career, as well as a couple of nuggets from The Police.
Looking slim and dapper in a black jacket and matching slacks, Sting began the evening playing stand-up acoustic bass on 'Waiting for the Moon', but soon switched to electric bass. Sting's band included seven other musicians, including two keyboardists, two backup vocalists, a drummer, percussionist and guitarist. Behind the stage, three rectangular screens played videos keyed to each song, with dancers or abstract designs adding color and a hint of mystery.
The overall sound mix was good, but the bass end did tend to overpower the vocals on some of the heavier numbers. That was most obvious early on, when 'Send Your Love' and its vibrant Latin-tinged vibe became a thumping disco flashback because of the booming bass.
'Forget About the Future' was another lively, funky, not-quite-ballad from the new CD, and the song might've been a cleverly updated Cole Porter ditty except for the sizzling world beat framework. 'Dead Man's Rope' took the mood into Elvis Costello wistful-regret territory, with Sting playing exquisitely on a scaled-down acoustic guitar.
The majority of the 30 and 40 something crowd got to their feet for the familiar strains of 'Synchronicity'. Many of them stayed right there for the rest of the night. Backup singer Joy Rose came down front to sing a duet with her boss on 'Whenever I Say Your Name' and her sultry blues dynamics gave the song a potent dose of unvarnished soul.
The lyrics to 'This Is War' seem to refer more to domestic strife, but as the dramatic, sweeping ballad was delivered last night, the images on the screens were unmistakably tied to world war. Sting ended the song by repeating the final chorus, as its words stood in stark relief on the screens; 'Don't do nothing'.
Sting's best vocal of the night came on the intimate acoustic guitar rendition of 'Fields of Gold', his hushed whisper melting every heart. The frenetic Latin rhythms of 'Stolen Car', with its steel drums undertones, suggested Gloria Estefan on a caffeine binge. 'An Englishman in New York' bounced along on a jaunty electric piano line, the perfect vehicle for this lighthearted self-parody.
'Roxanne' is one of the biggest of all the hits by The Police, and Sting, 53, still belts it out with verve. Last night's version was big band funk, a torrid, tempo-chasing finish.
The encores kept the crowd entranced, with a fiery 'Desert Rose', a powerful rendition of the torch song 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', and a brightly chugging 'Every Breath You Take'. The night ended with the hypnotic Middle Eastern accents of the simmering ballad 'A Thousand Years'.
Sting noted he'd first played the Orpheum 24 years ago after The Police had played several gigs at the old Rathskellar in Kenmore Square. ''Playing the Orpheum was making the big time,'' he chuckled.
(c) The Patriot Ledger by Jay N. Miller