Blue Turtles
East Troy, USAlpine Valley Music Theater

Sting's solo tour shows he doesn't need Police...

Much like the guy in the Police hit, 'Every Breath You Take', who warns ''I'll be watching you,'' Sting seems to be just about every place these days. He's on the movie screen, on the tube, on the radio and on the road.

On hiatus from the Police - for whom he serves as frontman, bassist and sex symbol - the blond, singer-songwriter-guitarist has garnered decidedly mixed reviews for his starring role in the film 'The Bride' (his next film, with Meryl Streep, is due out soon). But his solo debut album, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', has fared far better. At the moment it's the second-best selling album in the country, right behind Dire Straits' 'Brothers in Arms' (which Sting helped produce and plays on).

Now he has hit the road on his first solo tour, which brought him to Alpine Valley Music Theater Thursday and will include a show Saturday at Poplar Creek, and it's clear that whatever the future holds for the Police, Sting can, if he chooses, do quite nicely without them. Like Phil Collins, whose popularity transcends that of his band, Genesis, Sting is now very much a star on his own. His Thursday show at Alpine Valley was a dynamic delight that lasted more than two hours and held the crowd's attention every minute despite the fact that some of the songs were unfamiliar - and there wasn't that much Police material.

For the tour, Sting is accompanied by the musicians who backed him on his solo album - sax player Branford Marsalis, keyboard player Kenny Kirkland, bassist Darryl Jones and drummer Omar Hakim. Together they turn out a fluid, catchy sound that combines pop, reggae and fusion, and comes off a bit jazzier than the Police's Club-Med style of blue-eyed reggae pop. Two female vocalists complete the line-up as Sting himself plays guitar and very occasionally synthesises.

The star of the show, dressed in baggy white pants, baggy shirt and a blue denim jacket, ambled out on stage with no introduction. Joined by the rest of the band, he began singing 'Shadows in the Rain', a song from Dream of the 'Blue Turtles'. He paused a song or two later to introduce the musicians, then continued with more Turtles material - the anti-war songs 'Children's Crusade' and 'Love is the Seventh Wave', 'We Work the Black Seam', and 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', a ballad about a conscience-stricken vampire.

'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', the hit single from the new album, ended the set, which also included a couple of old Police songs and 'I Burn For You', from an earlier Sting film ('Brimstone and Treacle'). Returning for what would be a lengthy encore, Sting asked the crowd what they wanted to hear, then did the Police song Roxanne accompanied by Marsalis, before being joined by the rest of the band for a string of other encores, including 'Every Breath You Take'.

It's a show long on music and relatively short on special effects and staging. Fog billows from the back of the utilitarian battleship-gray set during one extended instrumental segment. Sting and the band members occasionally kick up their heels and shake their hips and that's about it. But Sting is a likeable, compelling performer whose first solo tour finds him in fine form, and the show bristles with energy, excitement and plenty of good music.

(c) The Chicago Tribune by Lynn Van Matre