Brand New Day
Indianapolis, USMurat Centre
With Willy Porter

Sting's show at the Murat uninspired...

A tremendous asset to Downtown, the Murat Theatre deserves its reputation for being an intimate venue for stargazing.

The close proximity of audience and performer often spurs giddiness on both sides of the equation. During the past year, seasoned artists Elvis Costello and John Mellencamp electrified the 2,500-seat room with remarkable passion and power.

Sting played the Murat Wednesday night, but brought a regrettably low-watt performance.

It's easy to direct blame at the singer's current album, 'Brand New Day'. It's a rudderless batch of uninspired tunes, and the sold-out crowd heard almost all of it.

The former voice of the Police trotted out honky-tonk vamp 'Fill Her Up' with a certain amount of pride, but the song is a shallow pretender when compared to Sting's earlier C&W foray, 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying'.

The low-key 'A Thousand Years' opened the concert, and the pace seemed to quicken only during visits to Sting's back catalog.

Police favorite 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' brought the sedentary audience to its feet and even voice during the sing-along outro. 'Fields of Gold' wasn't fast, but was performed with conviction by Sting and guitarist Dominic Miller.

And 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' was memorable for its prop - a black hat pulled down to Sting's eyes - and the vocalist's Louis Armstrong impression.

Little else was shared with the crowd, as the 48-year-old heartthrob glanced at notes positioned on a music stand during an obviously rehearsed (and often performed) monologue of self-deprecation. He unnerved further by shooting his eyes repeatedly toward the notes during 'All This Time'.

Trumpet player Chris Botti, an alumnus of Indiana University, was given few opportunities to shine. Aside from punctuating 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' with an extended closing note, Botti mostly wandered his corner of the stage looking as if he had somewhere better to be. 'Perfect Love', a track from 'Brand New Day', needed Botti's rescue after Manu Katche stepped out from his drum kit to deliver an incongruous rap... in French.

Mellencamp followers have grown accustomed to hip-hop interludes from keyboard player Moe Z MD. While Moe's segues aren't always seamless, he adds texture and context to Mellencamp's rural anthems.

Katche's rhymes (?) were simply baffling.

Elsewhere in Sting's supporting cast, his backup singers - a trio known as Scream - distinguished themselves as the most stylish and tightly choreographed to visit Indianapolis since Lauryn Hill's entertaining troupe of stunt vocalists.

Willy Porter was magnanimous and assured during his support-act performance. His protest song 'People Need Food' flew as a wry, insightful dart when offered to Wednesday's well-heeled audience. During 'Moonbeam' and 'Road Bone', Porter's acoustic guitar work was so flashy that one might have forgotten that Sting was on deck.

(c) The Indianapolis Star by David Lindquist