Blue Turtles

Hollywood, FL, US
Hollywood Sportatorium
Sting Dazzles, Rouses 10,000 Concertgoers at the Sportatorium...

Gordon Sumner, the Policeman known as Sting, along with a band of some of the coolest musical cats in the business set the Sportatorium ablaze Thursday night with one of the tastiest and most musically compelling concerts performed in South Florida in some time.

Most of the crowd of about 10,000 was on its feet from Sting's opening bow to the end of his encore more than two hours later.

The show opener, 'Shadows in the Rain', from Sting's current solo album 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', conjured up ghosts of Sting's last South Florida visit when he appeared with the Police at the Orange Bowl two years ago. The Police opened with 'Synchronicity II'. Like Shadows, both are intense signature songs of sorts that set the pace and tempo of the evenings. Aside from performing 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take' during his encore, that was the only resemblence the two shows had to one another.

That high, haunting voice also may have sounded familiar, but Sting's solo act is more musically diverse and daring than his Police outings.

A stellar quartet of jazz musicians adds both muscle and innovation to Sting's work.

Sax player Branford Marsalis was remarkable blowing leaping, twisting, dashing riffs from his arsenal of horns. Drummer Omar Hakim played like bull and butterfly and worked some aural magic with a battery of cymbals.

Bassist Darryl Jones happily coaxed rolling, loping bass lines from his instrument and keyboard player Kenny Kirkland was classy whether playing along with the rhythm section or flying off on solo.

In fact, Sting, who plays guitar in this ensemble, seemed to be in heaven watching this unit perform his songs.

Though the foursome are highly regarded as jazz musicians, this was a classic example of fusing styles.

Sting and company laid down rock, reggae, Chicago blues, even some boogie woogie and a funk-filled rap, compliments of Marsalis.

But it was the players' faultless rhythmic foundation and musical improvisation combined with Sting's intelligent and incisive songwriting and passionate singing that made this show one to remember.

This concert was a wonderful example of how a live performance can be so much more than just a playback of an album.

Sting and cohorts, in fact, performed a lush, emotional version of 'We Work the Black Seam', that far surpassed the recorded version.

The high point of the show, however, came from neither the album nor Sting's Police collection.

A song called 'I Burn For You', something of a lover's vow, began as a quiet fire and built into a burning rage with Marsalis' sax playing and exploded into a volcano of sound highlighed by Omar Hakim's eye- and ear-popping drum solo.

The only disappointment came during the moody 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', a song that cried for quiet, but got the disruptive shrieks and screams of teenage girls who haven't yet learned how to listen to music.

Aside from that, and hall acoustics that frustrated some of the ensemble playing, Sting set the crowd abuzzing with a honey of show.

(c) The Sun-Sentinel by Scott Benarde

Sting's night at the Sportatorium...

It has been said that Beethoven and many other classical composers were constantly in the process of revision, forever searching and probing the limits of their themes. The same thing is now happening in rock.

Take Sting, the popular rock songwriter of Police fame. He has undertaken the task of reshaping some of his best-known hit-song material, and has enlisted five talented young jazz musicians and two background vocalists to do it with him.

The results are dramatic.

Thursday night at the Hollywood Sportatorium, the Sting band delivered an a cappella, doo-wop version of The Police's formerly reggae 'One World', a haunting, slinky reading of 'Driven to Tears', and even introduced a Branford Marsalis rap during 'When the World Is Running Down'.

Sometimes Sting declined wholesale make-overs, as on 'We Work the Black Seam' and other material from 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles' LP, but still everything rang fresh, spacious, and primed for spontaneous flourishes of interpretation.

With his jazz entourage, Sting has arrived at something close to a true fusion of musical styles. There is the gritty edge of rock'n'roll - exemplified by Sting's blunt, ever-rhythmic guitar lines (much more present live than on the record) - underneath which lies a multi-dimensional rhythmic background that speaks jazz as well as the languages of reggae, calypso and African music.

The Sting band extended compositions like 'I Burn for You', and 'When the World Is Running Down', in each case filling up the expansive structural space with melodically sensitive themes and focused improvisations.

'I Burn for You' peaked more than once, as the driving pulse was reinforced by drummer Omar Hakim's riveting, theatrical solo.

There was a sense of theater surrounding the entire show: Sting patiently attempted to quiet the crowd for 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', danced liquidly through the R&B-tinged chorus of 'Bring on the Night', and ignited long call and response vocal exchanges with the audience on 'When the World Is Running Down'.

That song was among the show's highlights, as keyboardist Kenny Kirkland played a long, pan-stylistic piano solo while the rhythm section and vocalists Janice Pendarvis and Dollete McDonald formed a synchronous, dancing front line. Kirkland took the simple theme to a variety of limits, then handed off to saxophonist Marsalis, who closed the piece with a barrage of well-connected tenor saxophone phrases.

The encore found Sting returning to The Police: Following a rendition of 'Roxanne', decorated by Marsalis' sparse soprano, the band worked through 'Demolition Man', 'Every Breath You Take', and the chilling set-closer 'Message in a Bottle'.

(c) The Miami Herald by Tom Moon