There's an adage about opening acts and headliners...
Don't let someone precede you if you're not prepared to follow them.
Sting was the closer Wednesday night at the music bowl in Bonner Springs, but he wasn't necessarily the person everyone came to see. For many, the main course was Annie Lennox. And though Sting had more material, more hits and a better visual show, in the end his show didn't outshine hers.
Lennox is a rejuvenated performer these days, obviously happy to be out of self-imposed exile and back on stage. Her one-hour show included some of her better known solo material, much of it the kind of brassy, disco/soul anthems that have made her a dance club diva. Most of the set list was drawn from her 'Diva' album, including 'Walking on Broken Glass' and 'Legend in My Living Room', her opening number.
Her decade away from the music scene has re-energized Lennox, but she hasn't completely shaken off all the rust. After 'Living Room', she knocked over her own microphone, and she had to restart 'Here Comes the Rain Again' after fumbling the intro on the piano (a muff that gave her a spell of the giggles).
She'll turn 50 on Christmas Day, but Lennox is still as lithe and gangly as a teenager. During 'Missionary Man', one of her best numbers this evening, she executed a high karate kick. She ended with 'Sweet Dreams', the Eurythmics' biggest hit, and then her solo hit 'Why', but she would return later to co-star in the highlight of Sting's set.
Sting emerged about 20 minutes after Lennox departed. (It was his third appearance: He performed with opener Dominic Miller, his guitarist, and then reappeared to introduce Lennox.) Like Lennox, he brought a full band and backup singers. He would stick a few Police songs in his set, but none of those bore the crackle and punch of their original versions.
Now wealthy and established enough to start his own country, Sting has evolved into something of an adult-contemporary Vegas act. Songs like 'This War' had a numbing smooth rock-jazz feel - a Jeff Lorber song with words. Even 'Roxanne', which started out in old-school form, evolved into a big showy number, like something you'd see on the Jerry Lewis telethon.
The stage was equipped with video screens that projected images through large steel-gray mesh. During 'Sacred Love', they showed leggy supermodels in various stages of undress - a virtual burlesque. That was about as dynamic as the visuals got.
There were several highlights, like 'Synchronicity II'. Lennox came out for a rocking version of 'We'll Be Together', and 'Fragile' sounded as pretty as ever. He and the band gave 'Every Breath You Take' a bright punchy-pop flavor, making it sound like a new Nada Surf tune. Despite the upbeat tempo and the subject matter (stalking), the song had couples cuddling in their seats and slow dancing in the aisles.
He ended with an anti-climax: 'A Thousand Years', another solo tune that sounds like so many of his others. By then a good portion of the crowd had left for the parking lots (they started flowing out after 'Roxanne'), having had their fill before the meal was over. That's what happens when you eat dessert first.
(c) The Kansas City Star