Brand New Day
Cologne, DEArena

Better than ever...

Cologne. Rock-pop with an intellectual profile: With astonishing self-assuredness, Sting delivered a two-hour masterpiece to 17,000 fans in the Kolnarena. Without any frills, he presented 22 songs of his nine solo albums and earlier Police releases. In terms of light and stage architecture, the former English teacher leaves out any pomp; everything is reduced to the essential - the songs.

An unusually transparent PA system carries Stings husky timbre through the giant arena. He himself is planted in front of the microphone stand and lets his right hand slide lazily over the body of his bass. Already at the second tune, Set Them Free, the audience raise their hands in the air rhythmically, celebrate the singer and song writer, who radiates a charming mixture of grandness and pure playing fun even in his sleeveless black T-shirt. An exceptional musician in the third decade of his career, in which he sold more than 60 million albums as a solo artist.

With passion, the Englishman stages ballads like 'Englishman in New York', 'Brand New Day' and 'Roxanne'. Five excellent musicians and two background vocalists help to keep together Sting's unusual mix of styles, consisting of pop, rock, reggae and folk. At times, his jazzy soul steps into the limelight, and fresh variations in his playing together with pianist Jason Rebello accentuate new aspects of his works.

After the encores 'If I Ever Lose My Faith' and 'Every Breath You Take', the former New Wave rocker returns on stage alone with an acoustic guitar. His 'Message in a Bottle' is sung with thousands of fans before the band starts playing the last tune of the program, 'Fragile'. How appropriate. At times, the delicate interweaving of these so different musical stiles appears fragile. But the man in the center of the stage lights keeps all the threads safely in his hand.

That the star applaudes his cheering audience at the finale and doesn't show any trace of arrogance should not be taken for granted with an artist of his format. The same is true for the quality of the concert. 24 years after The Police were formed, Sting is here better than ever.

(c) Aachener Zeitung by Robert Esser/translated by Michael Podvinec<

A pick from the box of musical experiments...

Sting isn't exactly your real rock'n'roll musician. On stage, he's charming, but a bit awkward and dispassionate. The black and yellow jacket that made Englishman Matthew Sumner become Sting is in the old clothes collection by now - maybe also his leather jacket from his times with the Police.

Sting, who was accompanied by seven musicians at his concert in the well-crowded Kölnarena last Saturday, focuses on quality. He treats each of his songs with earnest diligence. His repertoire is like a box of musical experiments containing equal parts rock, jazz, soul, hip hop and ethno-pop.

In his songs, one feels the endeavour of looking for the perfect arrangement. As a listener, you are dazed by all the artistry and virtuosity of the musicians assembled on stage. Manu Katché plays the drums with sleepwalking precision even in the rhythmically most intricate parts. Dominic Miller never hits a wrong note on the guitar, the same holds true for Jason Rebello on piano, and Chris Botti always hits the soft romantic trumpet timbre. Stings singing is velvety soft and a little gripping, no matter what he happens to sing about. He looks out dreamily into the audience. After all, he's a thoroughly happy man, as he made sure to tell every interviewer in the past months.

After a low-key beginning, the ethereal 'A Thousand Years', and a couple of other songs from his new CD 'Brand New Day', the crowd soon soared on cloud nine. The highlights were 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Englishman in New York' and the mood piece 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' with four artificial moons high above the stage, where Sting let loose his vocals and imitated Louis Armstrong, while Chris Botti started playing the trumpet just like Armstrong used to. A blue hour between night and day, sentimental and romantic.

The old Police hit, 'Roxanne', which we've heard before far more straightforward and stirring, started the finale. With 'Desert Rose', Sting took us to northern Africa. On his new CD, Sting performs this tune together with Rai legend Cheb Mami, in concert, he performs with his background singer. 'Bring On the Night' proves that the band certainly can let loose and rock without the need for a security net and that piano player Jason Rebello can pound the keys pretty well.

After the inevitable 'Every Breath You Take', the old Police classic 'Message in a Bottle' was played as an encore. Alone on stage, only with an acoustic guitar, Sting converted the old New Wave hit into a sacral, votive song with the audience playing the part of the heavenly choir. Now, if not earlier, with so much beauty and respectability, one wishes that Sting would again take his leather jacket out of the closet. Really good rock concerts can also be exciting spectacles.

(c) Kolnische Rundschau by Bodo Rinz/translated by Michael Podvinec