Brand New Day
Mannheim, DEMaimarkthalle

Where has the sting gone?

World star and rock musician Sting presented his new album 'Brand New Day' in the Maimarkthalle in Mannheim.

There are critics who consider Sting as a kind of ''god''. Others are only a little bit more conservative and call him a ''creature of light''. In principle, the euphoria behind such a glorification should be welcome in a world that has become so emotionally cold and deterministic and disillusioned. If, yes if that joy would be brought by someone whose energy would brim over in life and in music.

But Sting, who attracted about 8000 guests to the Mannheimer Maimarkthalle to present them his new album 'Brand New Day' live, well, he wears his inevitable muscle T-shirt, but neither he nor his music really shows muscles.

The 48 year old singer and bass player makes do without a warm-up act, and with a delay, he kicks off. Well, he doesn't really kick off, because that wouldn't be gentlemanlike: He just starts. Mellow, softly, very neat. About as neat and well-trimmed as an English golf lawn, where you would never dare to step on with heavy shoes. His new work, 'Brand New Day', came out even softer than his earlier works. His pop-rock, which sounds so laid back and reserved and has been called ''demanding'', now contains even more jazzy allusions.

Big feelings or pathos aren't his things. Gordon Matthew Sumner, as Sting is officially called (he owes his nickname to a bee-like striped sweater that he used to wear as a young guy) is more interested in aesthetics and educated thoughts and - mind you - he's not a rebel.

He used to be one almost 25 years ago, when he and his group The Police jumped in the middle of England's No Future movement and excited razorblade-armed punks, rockers wearing leather jackets and grown-up Beatles fans with nearly revolutionary sounds at his concerts. But that's so long ago that it's almost not true anymore.
Since long, Sting has become a musical master of the tasteful, sublime, elected and accomplished. This is called ''advancement'' - but why does progression have to be synonymous with well-mannered boredom so often? Why must a rock star age and improve by losing verve?

Many others have demonstrated that you can become an older rock star and still retain punch and bite. Sting, where is your sting? The noble pop that he spreads out for two hours is presented in clean sound (that's also possible in the Maimarkthalle, if only you bring in capable professionals at the mixing console) and is played without flaw by a perfect band.

Nicely illuminated, the concerts look and sound is without any fail. If only he could give us more tunes of the kind of 'Englishman in New York' with an animating rhythmic groove. Instead, his music is best described as ''nice'' for long stretches of the concert, and only with the old Police tunes like 'Every Breath You Take', fans feel reconciled that wouldn't consider buying a Sting record anymore.

But even those center pieces like 'Roxanne' are lacking the punch this time, they don't captivate anymore, because the singer, whose hair used to stand on end like stings, has become a softie. Nothing could illustrate that more clearly than his encore, 'Message in a Bottle', played solo and on acoustic guitar.

(c) Mannheimer Morgen by Mike Seifert/translated by Michael Podvinec