Blue Turtles

Melbourne, VIC, AU
Festival Hall
The thinking man's rock star, Sting's jazz-rock experiment has paid off handsomely...

The 34-year-old English pop star has taken time off from the Police to tour the world with four of the world's best jazz musicians.

Tuesday night's flawless and breathtaking performance, the first of a series of six in Melbourne, could not be dampened even by the poor acoustics of Festival Hall. Wearing white baggy pants and snake-print jacket, Sting sang tracks from his hit solo album, the 'Dream of the Blue Turtles'.

The tracks included 'Children's Crusade', 'We Work the Black Seam', 'Shadows in the Rain', 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'Fortress Around Your Heart'.

But as a concession to the Police fans, about half of the night was made up of Police classics including 'Walking on the Moon', 'Roxanne', 'Driven to Tears' and one of the highlights, a lengthened version of 'Bring On the Night'.

Another highlight was one of Sting's best songs, 'I'll Burn For You' from the movie, 'Brimstone & Treacle' and in the second encore Sting sang a haunting solo rendition of 'Message in a Bottle'.

Sting could do no wrong to the excitable crowd. The four polished black American jazz musicians and two stunning back-up singers, are an experienced and formidable combination.

And as they danced across the stage the good-natured teasing and fraternising lightened up the usually serious demeanor of Sting.The saxophonist, Branford Marsalis, could not be matched. The nimble-fingered keyboard player is Kenny Kirkland and the drummer, Omar Hakim, must have had an extra pair of arms. Bassist Darryl Jones played effortlessly and on back-ups, Dolette McDonald and Janice Pendarvis added strength and resonance to the vocals.

Sting approaches his music, like his acting, as a perfectionist continually searching for new vehicles for his talents and he has successfully used pop as a medium to explore subjects beyond rock's usual forte. 'We Work the Black Seam', written about Sting's home mining town, Newcastle, displays perfectly the restraint of the seasoned jazz musicians, who complimented each other perfectly. The former English teacher's song about World War 3, 'Russians', drove home the relevance of the US retaliation in Libya.

Sting succumbed to the audience's demand for 'Roxanne', which is without a doubt his best song, written early in the Police's history. If there is one criticism, it is that some of the songs were too long and slightly indulgent.

(c) The Herald Sun by B Parsons

Sting and his formidable band...

They called it fusion a decade or so ago, when jazz musicians flirted with rock, but the music served up last night by British rock musician Sting and his formidable band of jazzmen to a packed, sweltering Festival Hall crowd was anchored firmly in funky rhythm and blues.Sting's fans crowded the aisles screamed at each song, waving their arms 'Countdown' style, clapping to the rhythm and singing along to Police favourites that included 'Roxanne', 'Every Breath You Take' and a solo finale of 'Message In A Bottle'.

Sting, strumming his guitar, moved confidently up and down the central staircase, one of the few props on the stage. He exuded good-natured charisma as he exhorted the audience and danced with his colleagues to the music.

But this was 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' tour, the chance to air songs from the album and unleash the power of an elite quartet: keyboard player Kenny Kirkland, who moved effortlessly on piano through grinding rhythm and blues, and chopping salsa, to spacy synthesiser effects; Branford Marsalis on saxophones, particularly the sinuous soprano instrument, blended distinctively with Sting's keening voice; bassist Darryl Jones, slick-fingered and light-footed; and drummer Omar Hakim, who unleashed an explosive solo on 'Bring On The Night' - one of the concert's highlights.

It is the best band a Melbourne rock audience has heard, whether many of the fans realised it or not: the solos were restricted, with Marsalis suffering most from having to compete with the amplified band sound.

Sting did little talking, apart from introducing the band and a few songs, but his words, at the end of a day of US brinkmanship became highly-charged when during, 'Russians', he sang: ''Mr Reagan says he will protect you / I don't subscribe to that point of view''.

There were other highlights: the lilting Caribbean 'Love Is The Seventh Wave', the poignant 'Children's Crusade', and the urgent 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', with fast-riffing choruses, led by backup singers Janice Pendarvis and Dollette McDonald.

Sting and his band are at Festival Hall tonight and tomorrow night, returning on 21 and 22 April.

(c) The Age by Mike Daly

The music is definitely worth hearing...

When Sting whipped off his jacket on the Festival Hall stage to reveal his taut pectorals the audience began shrieking.

No exactly the usual response a mature jazz/rock outfit would expect, but then Sting is a musician in transition. And for his opening Melbourne show, he drew an odd assortment to Festival Hall: screeching girls, adult fans and children.

By some miracle he managed to thrill them all.The evening began gently with a string quartet. After they took their leave an anonymous voice warned people not to rush down the aisles when Sting cam on. Fifteen minutes later Sting came on and everyone rushed the stage.

He looked totally relaxed, called the audience ''darlin's'', played singing games with them and made corny Melbourne/Sydney jokes. They loved him, every leg waggle.But the band stole the evening: four jazzmen featuring brilliant solos from Kenny Kirkland on keyboards and Branford Marsalis on saxophones.

Drummer Omar Hakim looked like a joyful muppet and slashed his way through an incredible drum solo. Companion rhythmist Darryl Jones on bass was so funky, sinuous and hot the instrument seemed to melt into him.

Backing vocalists Janis Pendarvis and Dollette McDonald went through their choreographed routines and beamed at band and audience alike.The music was mainly from the 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' album, including 'Love Is The Seventh Wave', 'If You Love Somebody' and the disturbingly appropriate 'Russians'.

But there were also songs from Sting's Police days ('Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take') and they were greeted ecstatically. There were three encores: the final one just Sting, an acoustic electric guitar and 'Message In A Bottle'.

Even if you're not interested in Sting's torso, the music is definitely worth hearing.

(c) The Herald by Jane Freeman