Soul Cages
London, GBWembley Arena
With John O'Kane, Vinx

Sting's return to UK...

Sting's return to UK touring is complemented by the release of Live In Newcastle, a special edition CD-and-book set. The book begs a few questions: what artist but Sting would deem his lyrics worthy of 90 pages of 'visual interpretation'?

What about the slice of rainforest that gave its life to 'interpret' 'Spread A Little Happiness'? How did Sting get this way?

Perhaps it is inadvisable to accuse him of pomposity. Criticism only seems to goad him on. His current show seems positively custom-designed to tweak his critics' noses. How else to account for bizarre aberrations such as jazz-fusion re-creations of old Police hits?

Sting's five-year flirtation with Jazz Lite has become a full-fledged obsession that dominates his music. His commercial sensibilities may constrain him on LP, but live there's no stopping him. He went to town on 'Roxanne' and 'King Of Pain', et al pop classics that had no business turning up as 12-minute muso improvisations.

Selections from this year's 'Soul Cages' album fared better, built as they are for that sort of treatment. They went on and on, though. The luscious, liquid fills of David Sancious (keyboardist to the gentry) extended songs to unconscionable length.

Couldn't all that virtuosity have been compressed into songbites?

Someone really ought to have reminded them of the adage 'Less is more'.

At least there was a visual distraction in the star himself. Wearing bee-esque yellow and black (a pun on his name?), he looked fit and much younger than his 40 years. His voice, too, remains one of pop's most alluring. Husky and wood-smoked, it turned the brooding 'Mad About You' into a true torchsong - until the tune dissipated into an elongated jazz jam session.

(c) The Guardian by Caroline Sullivan