Blue Turtles
Clarkston, USPine Knob Music Theater

An evening of excellent music...

For a while Monday night, it looked like pop star Sting would indeed be sending a 'Message in a Bottle' to Pine Knob - one that said he wouldn't be coming.

While the 9,516 fans filtered into the theater early in the evening, the former leader of the Police - on his first tour as a solo act - was grounded on a runway in New York, spending four hours in the plane as pilots waited for heavy rainstorms to clear.

He finally made it to Pine Knob 15 minutes before the announced 7:30 show time, just in time for a brief but heavy storm that soaked patrons on the hill but too late to take advantage of the backstage masseuse his contract called for.

But he did make it with plenty of time to deliver a superb 22-song, two-hour and 10-minute concert that showed he had plenty to offer even outside the confines of the Police.

Fans of the superstar British trio were probably disarmed by the group of young jazz musicians that Sting - who kept some cheat-sheets on a music stand next to him on stage - used on his debut solo album, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', and subsequently took on tour.

Unlike the Police, which always had a bit of a sloppy edge in concert, Sting's solo troupe - saxophonist Branford Marsalis, drummer Omar Hakim, bassist Daryl (The Munch) Jones and keyboardist Kenny Kirkland - played precisely and accurately, whether following the songs' standard arrangements or improvising.

Sting - real name Gordon Sumner - seemed comfortable with the discipline, however, offering most of the 'Blue Turtles' album as well as a selection of re-worked Police tunes - most notably 'Roxanne', 'Every Breath You Take', 'Driven to Tears' and 'Message in a Bottle'.

Some of the most effective moments came when he paired new songs with older material. The Police's reggae-ish 'One World' segued into 'Love is the Seventh Wave', while 'Bring on the Night' slid into 'When the World is Running Down'. And the title track of the solo album was used as a launching pad for a fiery version of 'Demolition Man'.

Most of the songs from 'Blue Turtles' sounded much better than they do on the album, as the group's superior playing made up for the often verbose lyrics on numbers like 'Children's Crusade', 'We Work The Black Seam' and 'Consider Me Gone'.

'Fortress Around Your Heart' was boosted by a faster, almost danceable beat, while 'Set Them Free' became a smoothly executed crowd-pleaser. The only flaws in the evening were a too-loud sound mix that buried some of the musical subtleties and a long, indulgent treatment of 'I Burn for You' from the 'Brimstone and Treacle' soundtrack, neither of which were bad enough to put too much of a damper on an evening of excellent music.

(c) The Detroit Free Press by Gary Graff