Brand New Day
Louisville, USLouisville Palace Theatre
With Willy Porter

Sting's show lacked binding element, but fans loved it...

As a founding member of the influential rock band The Police, and as the mind and voice behind a solo career that has been as successful critically as it has been commercially, Sting has become something of a rock icon. Last night's performance was cloaked in high expectations - not in small part due to the lofty ticket prices.

The opening act was Willy Porter, an outstanding guitarist who did more in 30 minutes than some performers do in an entire evening. Porter is greatly influenced by the late Michael Hedges, who made huge innovations in the realm of finger-style acoustic guitar. Porter's dexterity and elegance are on par with that of his mentor, and are accentuated by his strong, Lyle Lovett-flavoured voice. This was one of the best acoustic performances Louisville has seen in a long time.

Sting then took to the stage, wrapped in leather (looking something like the character he played in the movie 'Dune'), and immediately set the audience on its feet. His voice sounded a bit road-weary in places (he had trouble hitting the high notes in 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'), but he sounded great for most of the show.

If there's a complaint to be made about the live show, it's the same one that must be made about some of his recent albums: In an effort to incorporate so many different styles and sounds into his music, he sometimes neglects to flesh them together fully. Last night, for instance, rock gave way to jazz, which gave way to French rap (yes, French rap) which gave way to bad country ('Fill Her Up' - Sting is many things, but he is definitely not a country singer). What was missing was a sense of flow, a continuity to tie these elements together somehow.

But, of course, it is extraordinarily difficult to make music that is this multifaceted, and Sting does it better than most.

During some of the mellower, jazzier moments, an outstanding vibe was produced, due primarily to the interplay of Sting's vocals and trumpeter Chris Botti's smoky, emotive playing.

So, was the show worth the high ticket price? For a Sting devotee, unquestionably. For a casual listener, perhaps. But no matter: There clearly are enough passionate Sting fans in Louisville to pack a theater, and all of them last night seemed to feel that they got their money's worth.

(c) The Louisville Courier-Journal by James Bickers