Brand New Day
Boston, USOrpheum Theatre
With Me'Shell NdegeOcello

Every little thing Sting does is still magic...

Early in Sunday's sold-out show at the Orpheum in Boston, Sting said he enjoyed playing the hall, citing the chance to be close to the audience. The drawback, though, was he could hear what people were saying.

Comments to the effect that he ''looks good, must have had a face lift or two;'' or, ''He was better with the Police;'' or ''Can he really make love for five hours?'' were just a few of the humourous asides. The real question fans should have been asking is whether as Sting, at 48, remains capable of making relevant music in an age when rap, metal and hip hop rule. And the answer is that while he may not play to the audience that's enamored of Limp Bizkit, he is a commanding music maker.

At least, that's what he showed in the second of his two shows in Boston. He mixed things up musically, ranging through pop, jazz, reggae and even one country song (Fill Her Up) during the two hour and 15-minute concert, proving he's adept at all the genres he tackled.

He performed most of the 10 songs on his new album, 'Brand New Day'. That wasn't particularly taxing for the audience - even if they were unfamiliar with the new songs - because Sting's music is accessible without necessarily being overtly commercial. The new 'A Thousand Years', with its slow tempo, may not have been the wisest choice to open the show, but the follow-up of 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free', from his first solo album, put him back on the right track.

Reaching way back into his past, Sting later trotted out songs from The Police: Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Roxanne', 'Bring on the Night' and an acoustic 'Message In a Bottle' on which the crowd sang long and hard.

He didn't just repeat past nuggets but offered changes here and there in the songs to freshen them up. And the crowd gave strong response to some of the new material as well as the old, clapping along to the title cut of the new album.

The backing band was superb, particularly Chris Botti on trumpet - who time and again gave a jazzy feel to the songs with his muted instrument - and Jason Rebello on keyboards. Sting gave the band freedom to stretch and push the songs in different directions from the recorded versions.

His distinctive voice has aged a bit, and isn't quite capable of hitting the high notes, but his backup singers, a female trio known as Scream, helped cover up. A clearly appreciative Sting underscored the fact that song craft, good musicians and a good delivery make for an artist who still should receive attention.

Opener Me'Shell NdegeOcello performed a generally subdued half-hour set. Playing bass, NdegeOcello mixed mid-tempo, jazz-tinged meanderings - a la Sade - with funk. The music, while competent, never really took off until the closer, 'Loyalty'.

(c) The Patriot Ledger by Jeffrey B Remz