Blue Turtles
Lexington, USMemorial Coliseum

Band gives Sting new dimension...

Gordon Sumner had a few tricks up the sleeves of his loose-fitting white suit Sunday night as he walked onstage at Memorial Coliseum.

Sumner - better known to the rock music world at large as Sting, the chief of The Police, part-time movie star and now a solo act sensation - spent the better part of his two and a half hour concert toying with the expectations of the eager crowd of 5,000.

On holiday from the Police, Sting brought a crackerjack quartet of jazz musicians plus two singers to town Sunday to run through the bulk of his current solo album, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', plus a handful of favourites from all five Police albums.

At times, the crowd connected directly with the melodies Sting and his new band provided, while at other times the audience seemed to be out in left field. But regardless of its reactions, ol' Mr. Sting's new act is a hot one.

Opening with 'Shadows in the Rain' - a 5-year-old Police song that was redone for the 'Blue Turtles' album - Sting was off and running, backed by the thunderous backbeat of drummer Omar Hakim, an instrumentalist whose expert timing and unstoppable energy was one of the strongest points of the evening.

Much of Sting's newer music was fleshed out by the band, while Police standards were given a second life. On 'Driven to Tears', Sting's band helped acclimate the crowd, thanks to Kenny Kirkland's gentle, swinging piano lead and Branford Marsalis' airy soprano sax solos. Kirkland guided the tune, switching the rhythm at the finish with a powerful run on the synthesizer that mimicked a church organ.

Sometimes Sting's newer compositions seemed to get a bit weighty for the audience, which seemed uncomfortable when more than two or three unfamiliar songs went by together. 'Children's Crusade' - which centres on a parallel story line of World War I orphans and present-day heroin addicts - and 'We Work the Black Seam' - a song about the coal mining strike in England a year ago - employed slow, brooding, and at times, ponderous rhythms that seemed to try the attention span of much of the crowd.

But Sting could still connect his thoughts to his feet when he was so inclined. A medley of 'Love Is the Seventh Wave' and 'One World' brought a jittery reggae beat into action, while a reworking of the Police's 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' featured the plump bass backing of Darryl Jones and even a funky, off-the-wall rap by Marsalis.

Marsalis seems to be a man of many moods. His soprano sax gave a swift New Orleans flavour to the ghost story 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', but he was also content to dance madly around the stage during 'One World'. It's amusing to see the change in this young artist, over his straight man, suit-and-tie appearance here last winter with his brother's band, the Wynton Marsalis Quintet.

Sting closed his set with a funked-up version of 'When You Love Somebody Set Them Free' but returned for three encores, which included Police classics like 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take', plus a surprisingly solid version of Little Willie John's blues standard 'Need Your Love So Bad'.

(c) The Lexington Herald Leader by Walter Tunis