Blue Turtles
Williamsburg, USWilliam & Mary Hall

Sting strikes a groove for fans in Willamsberg...

What do you get when British rock lyricism is backed up by a steady groove of rhythm and blues?

Sting in concert.

Last night at William and Mary Hall, Sting, the celebrated British bass guitar-playing rocker, actor and former member of the Police, packed a dynamic performance for a near-capacity crowd of 8,600.

Serving up offerings of rhythm and blues, jazz, blues and funk with just a touch of rock `n' roll, the tall, lithe performer came onstage and struck an instant groove for his screaming and cheering fans.

Sting (his real name is Gordon Sumner) couldn't miss - especially with his all-star backup jazz ensemble, which consisted of Branford Marsalis, tenor and soprano saxophone; Omar Hakim, drums; Kenny Kirkland, keyboards; and Darryl Jones on bass. Female vocalists and dancers Dolette McDonald and Janice Pendarvis, who lent some exotic moods to Sting's enticing sounds, rounded out the band.

Sting came out performing several songs from his stint with the Police before going into songs from his album 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'.

While he is not the world's greatest dancer, Sting did evoke enthusiastic response from the audience by running up and down a set of stairs, which served as the band's only decor. Flashing lights in a myriad of colors added dramatic effect to the stage and players. Drummer Kirkland nearly brought the crowd to a frenzy during a solo in which bursts of light timed to the beat of his drumming deserved only one label: incredible.

Other band members were not to be outdone. Marsalis, brother of jazz trumpeteer Wynton Marsalis, exhibited an unexpected warmth and humor when breaking from his horns. Often acting as the front man during Sting's brief respites, Marsalis engaged the crowd in a bit of rapping by shouting, ''Wave your hands in the air, shake your body like you just don't care.''

Sting, whose rasp-tinged voice at times is reminiscent of Rod Stewart, performed his hits 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', 'Roxanne', and 'Every Breath You Take'. Many of the songs' lyrics were lost because of Sting's rich British accent and the crowd's wild enthusiasm, which made hearing him next to impossible at times. Early on in his two-hour performance, the singer said he wanted to ''find the perfect audience.'' Judging by the rousing response he received, he could not have asked for more.

Neither could the audience.

(c) The Richmond Times-Dispatch by Bonnie Newman-Stanley