Soul Cages
Columbia, USMerriweather Post Pavilion

Sting's second swing through the area includes little new material...

The good news for the Sting fans who chose to return to his majesty's second area performance of 'The Soul Cages' tour was that last night's show at Merriweather Post Pavilion had a few revisions from the first stop.

The bad news is that the one problem that made his March appearance at the Capital Centre so dreadfully dull remained.

With his streamlined and immensely talented trio of backing musicians, Sting once again seemed intent on offering a pseudo-improvisational jam session at the end of every song. Songs from his new album like 'The Wild Wild Sea' and the title track, which are about five minutes in their original format, were made bigger and less better by being transformed into 10-minute epics.

Not only were these funky, overwrought demonstrations painfully rehearsed, but Sting seems to be so self-indulgent as to not realize that the crowd was falling asleep. Sure, it would have been nice to see some of Dominic Miller's riffs brought to life outside of what he did on the album, and it would have been wonderful to hear David Sancious tickle the ivories without the constraints of an old Police song, but on virtually every number? How much is too much?

Sting's stuff worked only when he kept the production value to a minimum. Quick hits like a cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze', which he also did seven months ago, and two and a half minutes of 'Fortress Around Your Heart' seemed like a breath of fresh air after 12 minutes of 'Roxanne' (crowd participation included).

The few bright spots were the spunky addition of 'Walking On The Moon'
and all-too-short snippets of 'Be Still My Beating Heart' and 'We'll Be Together' (really not more than a wink and a nod sandwiched within other songs), which gave the repeat offender something not previously offered.

But, all told, it really wasn't worth the trip out to Columbia. With the tremendous amount of brilliant material from his Police days as well as fine music from 'The Dream of The Blue Turtles' and 'Nothing Like The Sun', Sting should be drawn and quartered for the lack of variety and ambition in putting together this second leg of the tour.

There wasn't much there worth seeing to begin with, but to see it all a second time was like renewing a failed marriage just for the sake of curiosity.

(c) The Baltimore Sun by Nestor Aparicio