Brand New Day
Santa Barbara, USArlington Theatre
With Aswad

Sumner shines at the Arlington...

Sting took Santa Barbara by storm Saturday night at the Arlington Theatre. He brought with him the usual suspects - Dominic Miller on guitar and Jason Rebello on piano and has recently added Manu Katche on drums, Kipper on keyboards and the extremely talented Chris Botti on trumpet. Three soulful back-up singers were the cornerstone of this very talented nine-piece band. As Sting once put it, ''I gather great musicians from different areas and bring them together to form a common language.''

He also brought, probably, the most elaborate set, sound and lighting design the Arlington has ever seen. Sweeping curtain-like banners crisscross behind the multi-level stage creating a three-dimensional look.

Back-up singers and guitar on the right with keyboards and trumpet on the left. Massive columns of speakers stand like two enormous bookends. The high-tech, computerized-lighting equipment might have been the reason Sting played the Arlington instead of the Santa Barbara Bowl.

Sting sauntered on stage to the appreciative roar of the crowd. He was dressed casually in baggy flight pants, tailored leather coat and a black-with-white Fender guitar. He opened with 'A Thousand Years', a haunting love song and the first track from his new CD 'Brand New Day'.

The sound was too loud at first, but the crew soon had things under control. By the end of the first song, the stage had come alive with lights of every hue and prisms projecting geometrical shapes on the draped material and the Arlington's walls. Sting switched to his signature Fender bass and followed with the uplifting hit from his debut solo effort, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', and the audience was immediately on its feet and dancing.

Sting played an extensive 22-song, two-hour set with a song list that included something for everyone: ballads, jazzed-up versions of old favorites and complex jams that would please any hard-core Police fan.

He rarely stopped between songs except to reveal his charming personality by telling a song's story or of a recent experience. At one point, he spoke of being able to relate to folks from this area and of ''losing his virginity'' referring to his first earthquake - on the 34th floor of a hotel in Las Vegas during the recent 7.1 quake.

The set showcased styles ranging from Algerian music with acclaimed vocalist, Cheb Mami, to jazz, pop, Western, gospel and rock. A new stage design seemed to appear every other song, sometimes fitting the song theme as in the umbrella shapes used during a great rendition of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.

Sting played eight of the 10 tracks from his latest, including the uplifting title track, 'Brand New Day', 'After the Rain Has Fallen', and 'Fill Her Up', a Sting staple - an eclectic Western-style tune - this one about a devious petrol attendant that evolves into a gospel-driven song of his salvation. Other show highlights included (picking a few was nearly impossible) a soulful 'We'll Be Together', 'Englishman in New York', 'Fields of Gold', and an extended version of 'Roxanne', complete with scat and jazz jam. Sting finished the set with the Police hit When the 'World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around' in a 'Synchronicity' - style jam reminiscent of the old Police days.

Sting's first encore included from 'Ten Summoner's Tales', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', 'Every Breath You Take', and a fun mix of 'Twist and Shout' into 'Lithium Sunset' back into 'Twist and Shout'.

A sign of great entertainers is their ability to leave an audience in awe, to play that last note to complete satisfaction. Sting finished his show on just such a note. A new stage set indicated that there had been anticipation of a second encore. Four ballroom-type banners unfolded from above the set and thousands of pinpoints of light gave the illusion of a starry night. Sting donned a classical guitar and played a perfect, note-for-note version of 'Fragile', a beautiful song reminding us of the fragility of humanity. As he played, each note seemed to ring out and on the last note the banners dramatically dropped to the stage.

Gathering his band for a group bow, Sting bid Santa Barbara good night.

(c) The Newspress Website by Andrew J. Schuette