Blue Turtles
Dublin, IENational Stadium

Sting at the Stadium...

On the face of it, Sting's decision to record and tour with some of the cream of America's black musicians seemed the classic example of the rich pop star spreading his cash in order to give his ego a decent massage. But in the Stadium last night - the first of two concerts at the Dublin venue - this unlikely Anglo-American combination proved to be considerable more than the mere ''idol'' fixation of the former Police man.

When that incredibly successful band opted for a sabbatical a year or two ago Sting was always the most likely candidate of the three members to remain strong in the public eye. Apart from being the main writer and singer with The Police, he was also the object of most desires and he had established himself in films, therefore it was a surprise when he teamed up some of the US's leading jazz-rockers for his first solo album, 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles'.

It was even more surprising when the team decided to tour. With a very interesting but flawed album behind them they set out on the road with critics predicting that neither the singer nor his band could be true to themselves in the arrangements.

What has happened since then has proved the doubters wrong. The music during this long (two hours and 15 minutes including deserved encores) set occasionally was breathtaking and was always on a level rarely seen on a rock'n'roll stage. The rhythm section of Omar Hakim (drums) and Darryl Jones (bass) powered waves of sweeping sound, while Kenny Kirkland (keyboards) and Branford Marsalis (saxophones) - brother of the famous Wynton - embellished the music with distinguished solos - though they could have been given more room to express themselves. To their left stood and swayed the figures of superb backing vocalist, Dolette McDonald and Janice Pendarvis, and in front of them was Sting, guitar in hand.

But this was not an ego trip. True, all the material was his and he is central to the whole performance, but this was a band performance. They could be sensitive or powerful as the situation demanded and although Sting's voice was showing the rigours of touring it still carried the same feeling.

The material mixed all the tracks from the solo set with some Police favourites, including 'Roxanne', 'Every Breath You Take', and 'Message In A Bottle'. All received honours, except a rather indifferent 'Black Seam', Sting's moving song about the miners strike last year. I also would not have missed the drums and bass solos. These were brilliant, but a little boring. But these are very small cribs about what was a mighty night's music.

(c) The Irish Times by Joe Breen