Brand New Day

Cuyahoga Falls, OH, US
Blossom Music Centerwith Tracy Chapman
Sting at Blossom Music Center...

Not too much new to report after Europe. The crowd was quite lame, but maybe I'm just saying that because I've been spoiled from being at the Albert Hall so much, where everyone is dancing and having a great time.

It was a beautiful night. Security was unbelievable, not even allowing us to get within a 100 foot radius of the tour buses or back entrance. To top it off, all of these ''security guards'' were 14 year old girls. I had never been to an outdoor Sting concert before, and there were some really cool moments - 'Bring on the Night' started right when it got really dark, for example.

The band sounded quite tired. One song would sound great, then the next would be completely flat. The new ''bossa'' intro to 'Brand New Day' sounded great, but after that it flatlined. A big surprise was 'Desert Rose' which was horrible without Cheb and some other sounds, as it turns into something you'd hear on a ''light'' radio station. 'Fill Her Up' returned to a 7/4 towards the end, only going into 4/4 in the last few verses. In Europe he was doing all 4/4 at the end. This song also sounded like sh*t, I think because there was only one backup singer.

Overall Sting was in good spirits, waving to the crowd to get louder and softer at his command. Dominic looked tired, and Chris is now wearing a white shirt (a crowd favourite with the ladies too). Finally, as soon as the last E was played in 'Fragile', the whole band walked right off the stage to their vans... and Sting was wearing a big black cloak!! It was surreal. Maybe he's taking the line ''Or wear this pilgrim's cloak'' literally!

(c) James Norman for

Despite high cost, Sting show is worth it...

The best seats for last night's Sting concert at Blossom Music Center cost $101.50.

Now, I realize this shouldn't matter, and some folks might actually be offended by the concept of looking at art through the context of economics. But doesn't this seem like a ridiculous amount of money to pay for music you can't actually take home with you? Isn't this simply insanity?

It's hard to understand why it's suddenly so common for rock shows to cost this much. (The ''cheaper'' pavilion seats last night were still $91.50).

Of course, Sting is one of those guys who finance the Rainforest Foundation and is constantly trying to save the Amazon jungle, so I suppose some of that money is being allocated to homeless spider monkeys. Personally, I'd be far more willing to pay $100 if it guaranteed I would never have to hear another rock star whine about the Amazon for the rest of my lifetime, but that's neither here nor there.

Last night's show was opened by Tracy Chapman, and when she started her one-hour set there were fewer than 300 people in the pavilion and not a whole lot more on the lawn. This was a bit strange, since Chapman is from Cleveland. But her music was fragile and complex, and by the time she played the legitimately sad song 'Fast Car', there were enough clapping people to make it seem like an actual concert.

As for Sting: Well, what can you say? He's obviously smart and obviously clever and obviously handsome and insultingly cool. He came out wearing a sleeveless black T-shirt and played a relatively straight show (not much talk and few theatrics), and all the songs sounded great - maybe not ''$101.50 great,'' but still pretty impressive.

Granted, Sting's solo material lacks a certain edge and doesn't really electrify the listener like his work with The Police, but that's not so much his fault as it is a credit to Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. Moreover, Sting is 48 years old, and he's one of the few artists who seems to honestly write about themes that accurately reflect the current stage of his life.

Musically, it's very atmospheric; he excels at painting the emotive timbre of any given moment. The crowd was most affected by 'An Englishmen in New York', a pleasant rendition of All This Time, and two old classics: 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and a heavy, mostly reggae-free version of 'Roxanne'.

What's interesting about Sting is that his lyrics are more complicated than they appear on the surface; ideas such as ''If you love someone set them free'' and ''Be yourself no matter what they say'' seem simple, but they're actually semi-profound if honestly deconstructed.

So maybe I'm crazy for complaining about Sting's asking price. Maybe in rock'n'roll, you get what you pay for.

(c) The Akron Beacon Journal by Chuck Klosterman

Sting offers full range, manages to remain classy...

Sting's music is so classy and tasteful that it sometimes can feel bland and bloodless. But the former Police bassist/vocalist largely sidestepped that fate last night at Blossom Music Center.

A crowd of about 6,000 to 7,000 was treated to over an hour and a half of music that spanned the length of his solo career. The music touched as well on a few Police highlights such as 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take'.

Sting and his six-piece ensemble (drums, guitars, two keyboards, trumpet and back-up vocals) started off mildly with 'Thousand Years' from his latest release, last year's 'Brand New Day'. He followed with 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', whose lush, edgeless sound set the tone for much of the set. 'After the Rain has Fallen' also sounded busy and distracting.

Fortunately, Sting proved to be a master of pacing, bringing the excitement level up and down at will, thickening and thinning out the arrangements and segueing seamlessly between songs. The ornate, midtempo, synth-dominated sound was tempered by heavier rock on tunes like 'Perfect Love... Gone Wrong', which also featured a Jamaican-style toast by the drummer.

On many of the other tunes, the arrangements were stripped down, with the trumpeter's intros, outros and melodic counterpoint to Sting's vocals giving the songs a feel that suggested jazz without actually being jazz. This worked particularly well on 'Moon over Bourbon Street'.

With the trumpet and the lanterns hanging behind the stage setting the mood, Sting here and there glided from his normally smooth, clear vocals into a gravelly rasp clearly intended to evoke Louis Armstrong, which it did.

Sting's adult pop still often features the reggae-inflected beats that the Police were known for; they showed up on songs like the easygoing 'Englishman in New York'. On the rollicking, country-style 'Fill Her Up', he went in an atypical direction, although the lush, baroque treatment it was given didn't feel terribly down home.

Other highlights included a serene, blissful version of 'Fields of Gold', a reworking of 'Roxanne', that opened with Sting's singing upfront over a faint beat and ended with a protracted call-and-response section between Sting and the audience, and a version of his current single 'Desert Rose', on which the stage was filled with pots of ''fire.'' In reality, they were bunches of blowing red and yellow cloth lit up, but the look was remarkably flame-like and dramatic.

Former Clevelander Tracy Chapman provided an hourlong opening set, parts of which showcased her burnished alto better than others. In fact, she's strongest when she's closest to her folk roots.

She sang the opening section of 'Fast Car' accompanied only by her guitar, which allowed the emotion underneath her flat delivery to show through. But when her five-piece band was playing full tilt as it often was, the subtle emotional flutters in her voice were swamped by sound.

Luckily, Chapman seems more comfortable on stage than she used to, but her true milieu is a smaller, intimate venue.

(c) The Cleveland Plain Dealer by Anastasia Pantsios