Summoner's Tales
Montreal, CAThe Forum

A fun time was had by all - including Sting himself...

This was Sting time: the sky full of curiously autumnal omens, the moon full to bursting, many females in a crowd of 11,000 shrieking respectably in the Forum.

Perfect for Newcastle's prince of portent.

But this was Fun Sting, the man in his element. Gordie Sumner has long since proven everything he had to. This was Sting, simplicity itself, moving a crowd about with the ebbs and surges of a hit-filled set.

After the Police picnics and blown-up seven-piece jazz-pop bands of previous tours, Sting brought a stripped-down quartet out on the road for a similarly unreverential take on his catalogue.

Through most of the new album and handfuls of the '80s best songs, Sting counterweighted his status as a musician of import with the quick-footed romping of the new lightly funky and jazzy tunes. From 'Ten Summoner's Tales' came another chapter in his reputation as a generous performer in the noblesse-oblige tradition. He came out in a white shirt with billowed sleeves, offered a deep gentleman's bow after 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'.

He hadn't, and the crowd hadn't.

They chanted along with the spare funk of 'Heavy Cloud No Rain', squealing at his modest ''aaoooooww,'' and the band charged into 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice', with the star delivering the latter.

He brought it in his band. On that naked stage, there was no place to hide, and no need to - given his confidence in personality, material and skill. The new Fun Sting material is crafted as carefully as anything from the last album, but less obviously. So was the band.

On his right, young-lion guitarist Dominic Miller. On his left, the mature sureness of keyboardist David Sancious. Behind him, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, tighter than a boxer's fist but also filling the sound out with a percussionist's sensuous touch. Rhythmically, they were terrifically matched.

With all that room, Sting allowed musicianly jamming in 'Seven Days', threw off a cover of 'A Day in the Life', then burnished the stage with 'Fields of Gold'.

The new songs, all simmer and no boil, had worked better live than expected, so it was Justice time with 'Synchronicity II'. He stoked the crowd that way all night, breaking into a big smile in 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', igniting madness 14 years on with 'Roxanne', then dropping back into his mature love-stroke with 'It's Probably Me' and 'Shape of My Heart'.

Pointedly, none of the songs from 'Soul Cages', his father's eulogy, were played. There was a cakewalk through 'King of Pain', and a medley of 'Bring on the Night/When the World Is Running Down' showed how little stock Sting puts in past icons.

The entertainer in him burst forth for a shirtless encore starting with 'She's Too Good for Me'. He charged through it, and a loosely phrased 'Every Breath You Take', but even Sting couldn't miss the drama of that one.

The opening band dada, a trio, sounded like another trio near to Sting's heart. They also sounded fine, with Sting Jr. vocals and a brooding, evocative sound.

(c) The Montreal Gazette by Mark Lepage