Brand New Day
Strasbourg, FRHall Rhenus

Sting's comfortable pop...

Disappointing on disk, Sting remains interesting in concert. Without any big surprises, he delighted the 4,000 people who came to hear him last night at the Rhenus Hall.

Sting is a reassuring artist: listening to the last albums of the Newcastle resident, one knows invariably what the contents will be, tasteful music fluctuating between silky pop and tranquil jazz rock. And his new songs are no exceptions to the rule. Gordon Summer (sic) a.k.a. Sting plays on territory which he has carefully staked over a number of years through a steady flow of hits. In live performance, one comes back to this impression of comfort, of security where, whatever happens, the landmarks will scarcely change. And this is really a shame, when one knows so well how inventive the man can be.

Surrounded by the faithful, Dominic Miller on guitar, Manu Katche on drums and Kipper on keyboards, plus three other musicians, the ex-Police chief displays his ability to hold a theatre and an audience breathless. Launching into the set, the musicians despatch the songs of 'Brand New Day', the album out for a few months, 'Big Lie Small World', 'Fill Her Up'. Manu Katche will transform himself into something resembling a rapper to perform 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong'. Not stinting in its approval, the public will applaud twice as hard the classics 'Englishman in New York' or 'Every Breath You Take'. And in the end, one would say that with such pieces Sting had attained a musical near-perfection that, ever since, he has had trouble rediscovering, contenting himself nowadays with being an ordinary singer.

(c) Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace by J.I./translated by Diane Villani

Sting, Englishman in Strasbourg...

Forced to cancel several dates because of illness, Sting still made it on stage in Strasbourg on Friday, 11 February for a concert at the Rhenus Hall. His guests on the album - Stevie Wonder, Cheb Mami, Branford Marsalis - did not grace with their presence a show that was straightforward and unsurprising.

Who said that the stars were going to make an appearance? Scheduled for 8.30 pm at the Rhenus Hall in Strasbourg, Sting's concert began on the dot. Dressed all in black, the blond man arrives with his musicians: guitar, keyboards, percussion, drums, trumpet for the jazz touch, and two vocalists to complete the ensemble. Sting strikes up with 'A Thousand Years', one of the tranquil songs from his last album.

As it happens, tranquillity will be the key-note of this concert. The tranquillity of Sting, only just recovered from his illness and who has had to cancel the preceding dates because of flu. Reserved to the point of shyness, the singer smiles but does not move, does not dance, contents himself with 'Thank you' and 'You are kind' murmured in the language of Moliere.

Tranquillity of the repertoire, in the manner of his latest album, with moderate tempos and sweet sonorities. The songs from 'Brand New Day' make up half the show, supplemented by Sting classics. Tranquillity of the audience, comprising mostly young adults, of whom a good number came from Germany. The crowd will get excited only now and then, in the nostalgia of the four Police revivals for example ('Roxanne', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Every Breath You Take' and Message in a Bottle') or on the best-known hits ('Fields of Gold', 'Englishman in New York').

As regards decor, the lighting alternates between kitsch pink and fawn colours, interspersed with blue and white. The hanging cloths of the opening transform into Asian fans on 'Fields of Gold' and into round moons for 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'. A big red curtain in music-hall style will dress up the last songs of the show. From time to time some slides are projected to illustrate the titles.

In front the musicians, dressed simply, and Sting - who dropped his leather vest - make scarcely any attempt at movement. The only surprise: Manu Katche, the renowned drummer, suddenly leaves his instrument to rap in French on 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', his cap on backwards and the speaking effective, like the real thing.

Sting admits that he has deliberately distanced himself from the rock of the Police. His pop flirts alternately with world music, reggae, jazz...Those who were looking forward to an appearance by Cheb Mami on 'Desert Rose' will be disappointed: the rai star will not repeat on stage his contribution to 'Brand New Day'. For its part, the jazz stands out in the keyboard solos, sometimes to the boundary of free jazz, and in the beautiful interventions of the trumpet.

With the exception of a few eccentricities (a long drawn-out 'Roxanne', 'After the Rain has Fallen' mixed with 'We'll Be Together'), the concert versions of the pieces frankly don't stray too far from the original. Except for the gem of the night - the most moving moment of a rambling concert - as an encore, a fully acoustic 'Message in a Bottle'. Sting sings all alone with his guitar. All alone, but accompanied by several thousand spectators!

After this brilliant piece, the stars twinkling on the rose curtain have a Mariah Carey aspect, and the song they illustrate - Fragile - a slight flavour of marshmallow. It's with this number that the concert closes. Sting presses his hands together in an Indian salute, the musicians bow as in the theatre. The concert lasted two hours. The audience leaves the hall, tranquil...

(c) Music 365 by Ombeline Marchon/translated by Diane Villani