Brand New Day
Tampa, USTampa Bay Performing Arts Center
With Lili Haydn

Sting show silences the doubters...

''He looks younger. He must have had something done.''

''I don't like that jacket.''

''He was better with the Police.''

''Can he really do it for five hours?''

Those were the ''overheard'' comments Sting facetiously threw out to the audience when his new band took a break, four songs into its set. And, by deftly defusing any doubts the fans may have had about his abilities, the bassist/singer/songwriter/actor allowed the music to take center stage.

The 'Brand New Day' tour has the former Police bassist leading a new band but, more importantly, returning to his old instrument. With the exception of playing guitar on the opening number ('A Thousand Years', which also opens the new album) and on a wonderful sing-and-call encore of 'Message in a Bottle', Sting grounded the band with his trusty Fender bass while belying claims that his voice has grown brittle at age 48.

Of course, despite wonderful throwbacks to his past (an extended dub version of 'Roxanne', Police staples 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'When the World is Running Down'), Sting is not as aggressive as he was 20 years ago. The passion and energy have mellowed, being replaced with a higher level of musicianship, flawless production and the excellent acoustics of the theater.

Even without as much spike to his hair, however, Sting showed that he can still play circles around most on the bass, taking the band on extended jams during 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Fragile'. He and his band kept the focus on music, with only two or three short comments to the crowd during the 100-minute, 20-song show.

Guitarist Dominic Miller, drummer Manu Katche, keyboardists Kipper and Jason Rebello, and trumpeter Chris Botti held together well enough and certainly are world-class musicians. But the show could have used a little less professional polish, and a little more spontaneity.

Nonetheless, the concert did show that, even if the music is quieter and jazzier, Sting can still move a crowd. The collective scream that announced his return to the stage for the first encore was resounding.

Although he has changed, good lyrics and solid playing combined with the other tools in the current Sting arsenal add up to an incredible show.

(c) The Sarasota Herald Tribune by Dwayne Fatherree

Sting's new sound resonates with arts center's full house...

Sting's sound has moved miles away from its origins two decades ago.

The songs he wrote for the Police were filled with punky energy and rough reggae beats.

His current sound doesn't seem out of place on adult contemporary or smooth jazz radio formats. Great for cruising in the Lexus, but how does it hold up on the concert stage?

Quite well, actually, thanks to a crack band, an enthusiastic performance from the headliner himself and an adoring, sold-out, Saturday night crowd of 2,559 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Carol Morsani Hall.

Sting's close-cropped hair and leather jacket wouldn't have been out of place with the Police. And he did offer rearrangements of five Police songs.

But the focus, naturally, was on solo Sting, and particularly on his latest album, this year's 'Brand New Day'.

He occasionally paired tunes from the new disc with vintage material, segueing from 'After the Rain Has Fallen' into 'We'll Be Together' from 1987's 'Nothing Like the Sun'. Later, the new 'Tomorrow We'll See', a prostitute's monologue, was followed by the thematically-similar 'Roxanne', the Police's first hit.

Sting allowed plenty of space for his band's soloists. Guitarist Dominic Miller and trumpeter Chris Botti were featured throughout the show. Jason Rebello shone on extended jazzy excursions, particularly during 'Englishman in New York'. Drummer Manu Katche rapped (in French) on the playful 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong'.

The audience was willing to follow Sting down adventurous paths, even if the odd time signature of 'Seven Days' signaled a lobby break for some.

Sting has an infectious stage presence and a good sense of comic timing - between-song patter was funny and brief.

But it was Sting's way with a pop song that brought the biggest reaction, whether on the Police tunes or solo hits such as 'All This Time' or 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'.

(c) The Tampa Tribune by Curtis Ross