Soul Cages
Manchester, GBApollo

Sting rocks Manchester...

The Rolling Stones' 'Sympathy For The Devil' fades into the background as the lights go down. Silhouettes of Dominic, David and Vinnie hit the stage followed by a rising keyboard from David. Then suddenly Sting appears on stage looking great as ever playing a fretless black bass and wearing a yellow waistcoat and black trousers.

He thunders into 'All This Time.' Sting (recently turned 40 but looking much younger) then goes into 'Jeremiah Blues' which with its jazz-rock bass really sounds out of this world live. On bass, Sting starts playing better than ever and would have Jack Bruce and Paul McCartney wanting to throw in the towel (both were influences on Sting's bass playing).

After the blues comes 'Mad About You' sung after Sting introduces the band to everyone. The opening chords of 'Mad About You' seem to strike a chord even with those people who don't follow him. Then comes 'Ain't No Sunshine' by Bill Withers which Sting says he's going to sing: ''... Because I feel like it!'' ... which is alright by me as it is wonderful and Sting seems so at home singing it. There are no artists who can match Sting's songwriting talent so it's always a huge compliment to whoever's songs he decides to cover.

'Driven To Tears' comes next and this Police classic sounds as good in the 90's as it did in the 80's. ''... My father only gave me one piece of advice: Never get married and go to sea. This one's for my old man.'' Sting says announcing 'Why Should I Cry For You. This song always moves me, in fact the whole album means something to me, having lost my own father round about the same time as Sting's loss. He always puts everything into his vocals night after night and my admiration and love for him has no bounds.

The next few chords from Dominic have everyone moving if they weren't already as Sting yells out 'ROXANNE'! This must be Sting's most standard of songs as he can sing it in a variety of different ways and it was the first big hit record of Police. It's back to 1979 for this tour's version and the audience loves it.

The opening lines of 'Bring On The Night' are followed by 'When The World Is Running Down ...'' David shows his mastery of the keyboards in this with Sting willing him on from the opposite side of the stage. David starts off the next number with some moody and magnificent solo keyboards on 'King Of Pain.' This song always brings so many great memories of The Police flooding back.

Then bars of light pierce the darkness and the opening chords of 'Fortress Around Your Heart' from Dominic. A shortened version of the popular song from his first solo venture 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' back in 1985. After that it's all to sea as the mind blowing 'Wild Wild Sea' just sends me to another world. I think this song is one of Sting's multitude of masterpieces.

The tour title track 'The Soul Cages' comes next with its brilliant lyrics derived from an old folk tale. This is one of the many highlights of the show. Sting and band then pay tribute to the great Jimi Hendrix with 'Purple Haze.' With David joining in on guitar this really has the place moving.

'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'We'll Be Together' are then played with more lead guitar than ever before. Dominic really has caught everyone's imagination on this tour and what a brilliant guitarist be is. As Sting said earlier in the year: ''This band can play anything...''

'Walking On The Moon's' bass line rings out sending everyone into a frenzy. Slightly shorter and wonderful to hear again. Then probably Sting's most popular song to end it for the moment: 'Every Breath You Take.' Sting puts everything into what is by no doubt the best rock ballad of the 80's. The crowd screams and claps for more when Sting and band leave the stage. However, they are soon back with us for 'Message In A Bottle' with David on guitar. Vinnie' s drumming is absolutely brilliant and other than Stewart Copeland, he must be Sting's best drummer to date.

Off again they go with still ''More... more... more...'' coming from the crowd. After a short while Sting and band reappear for the closing song of the night: 'Fragile' which is dedicated at most performances to Freddie Mercury whose recent tragic death touched everyone who follows the music business. Sting on guitar ending a perfect show with Dominic standing in on bass for this last song.

Who knows when we will see him again playing live in the UK but one thing is certain. Sting has left us with plenty of great memories to pass away the time until the next occasion.

(c) Paul Shennan for Outlandos/