Full range of Sting shows in a largely deft display...
Subtle sexiness and songs of intellectual observation have immortalized Sting as one of rock's most enduring craftsmen. His stint with The Police created a lovably cocky persona that further soared when the band self-destructed in 1985, steering Sting into a hugely successful solo career that continued with the release last month of 'Brand New Day'.
At a sold-out Landmark Theater Wednesday night - his only Virginia appearance - Sting unveiled his many shades for a very loud and appreciative crowd.
With billowing white drapes stretched behind him, Sting unassumingly stepped on stage to the mellow strains of 'A Thousand Years', an aching song of romantic yearning that dovetailed perfectly with its resolution, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.
His voice - in fine, warm form - has only ripened with age. Whether adopting a grouchy Louis Armstrong-esque warble for the murky 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' or leaning into the swooping chorus of 'After the Rain Has Fallen', Sting's vocal growth is marked.
Although he adroitly alternated newer, stiffer material with crowd favorites, it was often difficult to appreciate some of the esoteric experimentations from 'Brand New Day'.
Chris Botti's weeping trumpet on 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' created an appropriately creepy atmosphere, but the midsong rap in the otherwise gentle tune jarred uncomfortably. Likewise, the wrangler-boy ditty, 'Fill Her Up', which, despite its nifty rhythm couldn't compare to 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', Sting's last foray into country.
The unlikely highlight of the two-hour show came with 'Seven Days', an overlooked song from 'Ten Summoner's Tales' that simply floated through shifting time signatures and whimsical keyboard strokes.
The beatitude-filled 'All This Time' and cheekily arrogant 'Englishman in New York' also thrilled, particularly when, on the latter, Sting turned the song's ''be yourself, no matter what they say'' credo into a sing-along.
One could surmise that lyric has adopted many meanings to Sting, 48, throughout his career.
Despite a reputation for an aloof onstage demeanor, Sting, while not exactly loquacious, appeared relaxed and friendly. He even joked about his oft-yapped-about dedication to tantric sex, stating with a grin, ''I'm trying to get my wife involved in tantric shopping... That's when you shop for five hours and don't buy anything.''
An obligatory 'Roxanne' - perhaps the most overrated song in rock history - brought the crowd to its feet and kept it there. When Sting and his fabulous quintet launched into 'When the World in Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', few could have expected the finger-burning jam that ensued, complete with Sting's trademark knee-knocking strut.
Encores of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message in a Bottle' capped an often invigorating show.
Opener MeShell Ndegéocello, however, didn't have as enjoyable an evening. Midway through a brief 30-minute appearance that included 'Wasted Time' and 'Satisfy', from her 'Bitter' offering, the singer/bassist tossed her microphone down in apparent anger and walked offstage. A muddy mix was the likely culprit.
(c) The Richmond Times-Dispatch by Melissa Ruggieri