A satisfying meal that left no room for dessert...
Both Natalie Merchant and Sting began their respective sets at the Orlando Arena Sunday night the same way they started their latest albums - with tracks one and two.
Merchant, with a six-piece band behind her, opened her set with 'San Andreas Fault' and 'Wonder', the first two tracks on her first solo album, 'Tigerlily'. The singer/songwriter danced continuously, mostly with her back to the audience, as she performed six songs from 'Tigerlily' and only two from her 10,000 Maniacs days. She sandwiched 'Jealousy', her third single from 'Tigerlily', between two 10,000 Maniacs hits, 'Don't Talk' from 'In My Tribe' and 'These Are Days' from 'Our Time In Eden', which got fans out of their seats.
Fans stayed on their feet as they recognized the haunting guitar solo opening the next song, Merchant's first top-10 single, 'Carnival'. Merchant closed the set with 'I May Know The Word' and 'Seven Years', both from 'Tigerlily', before doing an encore remake of 'Fever' to finish her 55-minute opening performance. Her voice seemed more powerful live than on her album despite backstage rumors that she had a cold.
After an intermission of just 25 minutes, Sting fans greeted him with a standing ovation as he opened with tracks one and two, 'The Hounds Of Winter' and 'I Hung My Head', from his new album, 'Mercury Falling'.
There wasn't a Generation Xer in sight as Sting performed with a five-piece band in front of eight big screens, which flashed images throughout the show ranging from geometric patterns to scantily-clad women. Sting sang 20 Summoner's tales from nine Sumner (his real name is Gordon Sumner) albums, including four Police albums and five solo efforts.
Seven of the 20 songs were from 'Mercury Falling', including a song he said was about divorce, 'I'm So Happy, I Can't Stop Crying'. But the biggest cheers from the audience came when he performed hits from his days with The Police, including 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' from 'Ghost In The Machine' and 'Roxanne' from 'Outlandos d'Amour'.
'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' from 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' and 'Synchronicity' from the album of the same name also had fans dancing in the aisles.
''It's nice to be back in the USA, particularly in Florida'' Sting proclaimed between songs. ''If I wasn't married, I would move to Florida.''
He finished with two encores, including 'Every Breath You Take' from 'Synchronicity', which was written on a lighting technicians' set list as ''Every Cake You Bake.''
The one-hour, 45-minute performance gave Sting fans a nibble of every era of his storied career - a satisfying meal that left no room for dessert.
(c) The Ledger by Scott Wheeler
Sting's older stuff draws most applause...
Sting has enjoyed an extraordinarily successful solo career. His 1993 album 'Ten Summoner's Tales' is more than octuple-platinum. The new 'Mercury Falling', his seventh solo album, is also a hit. Still, at the Orlando Arena Sunday night, what really got the crowd going was Roxanne, a song dating to Sting's early days with the Police. Not that the crowd failed to show appreciation for Sting's newer material.
They rewarded the singer-bassist's rather brave decision to open with the first two tracks of 'Mercury Falling'. Both the brooding 'The Hounds of Winter' and the Celtic-tinged, rather repetitious 'I Hung My Head' offer more in the way of atmosphere than pop hooks.
However, Sting's considerable charisma ensured rapt attention. The carefully thought-out arrangements and first-rate band (including stalwarts Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, Dominic Miller on guitar and Kenny Kirkland on keyboards) rewarded that attention.
Over the years, Sting's style has grown markedly more temperate. These days, it's not surprising to hear him on the same stations as Kenny G or Celine Dion. Most of the newer material was politely mid-tempo and smooth-textured. But although Sting no longer has what you could call an edge, jazz-influenced chord progressions and harmonies keep his work from getting too bland. And he deftly incorporates elements of Celtic, reggae and Latin music.
'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' even showed a subtle country influence. Songs such as 'Fields of Gold', 'Seven Days', 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free' and 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' were easily digestible but not without flavour.
Still, it was the tense, tightly-wound 'Roxanne' that brought the most fans to their feet, and Sting was able to elicit a call-and-response sing-along on the chorus. He kept the energy level near that peak with another Police number, 'When the World Is Running Down', which featured a forceful, extended solo by Kirkland. The sound could have been a bit clearer but a certain amount of echo was probably unavoidable, given that the upper deck had some empty spots.
The mix was even less favourable to opening act Natalie Merchant, who nevertheless managed to connect beautifully with the audience in her hour-long set. Her more rock-oriented songs, including old 10,000 Maniacs numbers 'Don't Talk' and 'These Are Days', unfortunately worked better than some of the more subtle, delicate material from her hit album 'Tigerlily'.
(c) The Orlando Sentinel by Parry Gettelman