Brand New Day
Milwaukee, USRiverside Theater
With Willy Porter

Every little thing Sting does is magic in Riverside show...

The Englishman was in Milwaukee on Tuesday night, and he seemed very much at home.

Time seems to have taken some of the edgier elements in Sting's music, but it has also softened some of the old austerity of his persona. The Sting who took the stage of the Riverside Theatre on Tuesday was a more relaxed, accessible and comfortable man than we've ever seen before.

At 48, he looked almost boyish in his cropped hair. More important, he seemed at ease with himself and the crowd. There were even jokes. Alluding to his famous claims of being able to sustain intercourse for five hours, Sting said he'd given up tantric sex for tantric shopping. The idea was to be able to teach his wife to shop for five hours without buying anything. If you think about it, that's almost a Henny Youngman gag.

The current tour delivers most of the old hits, but it also delves heavily into the singer's recent album, 'Brand New Day'. Taken together, they served as a reminder of what a remarkably eclectic musician this man is.

'Moon Over Bourbon Street' is an affectionate nod to Satchmo with a bluesy trumpet solo. 'Fill Her Up' is wry country about a gas station attendant's illicit Las Vegas getaway. 'Fields of Gold' is probably his loveliest melody, a haunting reverie of pastoral beauty. Reaching back to his Police days, 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' was a warm Gulf breeze of dance fever. 'Desert Rose' is Sting's overexotic fantasy of Arabian nights.

'Perfect Love Gone Wrong' actually introduces an element of rap, French rap at that. And, of course, at the end there was 'Every Breath You Take', which is still one of the most infectious riffs in the last 20 years.

The jazz element in Sting's music seems deliberately muted. Only at the end was the band given the chance for some extended solos. The greatest jazz element in this set is really in the instrumentation.

Trumpeter Chris Botti was a nice asset in establishing the right note of midnight desolation on 'Tomorrow We'll See' - although even with his help it's still a bit hard to accept Sting in his chosen role of hooker.

That ''My skirt's too short; My tights have run; These new heels are killing me,'' verse still comes across as broad comedy.

Still, that's a small quibble on what in total was a remarkably diverse and consistently entertaining night.

It's good to have the Englishman back.

Opening for Sting was Milwaukee's own Willy Porter. Willy, as always, was witty, charming, musically deft and more likable than an early tax refund. Tuesday's set was typically bright and off-center with smart little ditties about the lurid charms of the Tilt-A-Whirl and ''all the little critters that try to come across the highway.''

(c) The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Dave Tianen