Blue Turtles
Dallas, USReunion Arena

Sting brings all that jazz to Reunion...

Sting's escalating involvement in all things jazz represents not a bored rock star's flight of fancy, but an earnest attempt to break through the traditional confines of rock'n'roll. The Police - with its reggae and jazz undertones - seemed to have the same thing in mind.

Sting brought the idea to fruition on his LP 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'. He assembled a most impressive line-up of non-rock musicians to assist, and they pulled it off - the album as well as Wednesday's concert at Reunion Arena - with intelligence, restraint and impeccable taste.

Obviously, this was not a rock concert, but an amazingly even-paced two and a half hour set that made certain concessions to rock without compromising the overall jazz flavour of the proceedings.

The band that made it all possible includes, on saxophone and assorted percussion, Branford Marsalis; former Weather Report drummer Omar Hakim; Kenny Kirkland on keyboards; Miles Davis bassist Darryl Jones, and backup singers Janice Pendarvis and Dollette McDonald.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of Wednesday's show came from 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', beginning with 'Shadows in the Rain'. 'After Consider Me Gone', Sting introduced the bleak 'Children's Crusade' as ''a cheerful song,' but the sound at that point was none too good and the ridiculously heavy bass distracting.

'Love Is the Seventh Wave' materialised as a long jam, and singers Pendarvis and McDonald injected appropriate measures of soul into another downbeat composition, 'We Work the Black Seam'.

'Bring on the Night' - with its more insistent rock rhythms - picked up the pace at exactly the right moment and recalled happy memories of Steely Dan, the eclectic twosome that forged the same jazzy territory in the '70s.

Marsalis then took care of the obligatory band introductions with an entertaining rap bit.

Sting proved to be in fine voice for 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', a haunting New Orleans tale fashioned in classic style and inspired, Sting says, by the Anne Rice novel 'Interview With a Vampire'. But he was flat as hell on the very next song, 'Fortress Around Your Heart'.

The concert stalled a bit around 'I Burn For You' and a too-long drum solo from Hakim, but 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' revived the crowd's somewhat flagging interest.

Sting rolled out a subdued rendition of 'Roxanne' to begin the first encore. And, in the prelude to a blues foray, it was at least interesting to hear an arena full of suburban white kids repeating the chant, ''Hey, hey, the blues is all right.'

During the second encore, Sting sandwiched another not particularly effective blues number between 'Every Breath You Take' and a rough-and-tumble version of 'Demolition Man'. For those who stuck it out all the way to the third encore, Sting finally stripped down to his black T-shirt and sent his familiar ''S.O.S. to the world' with 'Message in a Bottle'.

There were few of the thrills and chills - the strutting and the grandstanding - obligatory in most rock concerts, and it's to Sting's credit that he had the courage to walk away, even if temporarily, from the sure thing he had with the Police.

(c) The Dallas Morning News by Russell Smith