Denver, USRed Rocks Amphitheatre
With None

Sting on Royal wavelength at masterful Red Rocks stop...

At the first of his two Red Rocks concerts with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Sting was a consummate showman and a wilful storyteller Wednesday night.

Dressed in black and holding court at the centre of Red Rocks' mammoth stage, the rock artist made sure the sold-out audience felt special at this showcase stop of his 'Symphonicity' tour.

Touring with 40-plus musicians from one of the world's most respected philharmonics, he kicked the evening off with an 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' that took full advantage of his mammoth backing band - strings, brass, timpani, harp and all. Cable network A&E was in the house with obnoxiously glaring audience lights and plenty of cameras for a later broadcast.

Pairing Sting with the orchestra is brilliant synchronicity on multiple levels. Sure, it sounds great. But the aesthetics of Sting in 2010 backed by a vaunted symphony is a brilliant way to please his audience, which has aged along with him. It also helps justify the ticket cost - $50.50 to $180.50, before fees.

The many Sting fans in the house were treated to a show that impressively covered his hits along with some unexpected album tracks. Outside of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', his first set was front-loaded with ballads - understandably, given the presentation.

'Englishman In New York' had a gorgeous clarinet throughline and a beguiling, song-ending, amphitheatre wide sing-along of ''Be yourself no matter what they say.'' 'Roxanne' had Sting on acoustic guitar, and the pop hit sounded like a minor-key lounge dirge. Sting didn't flex his upper register too much in the familiar song, but the arrangement - by Rob Mathes, who handled many of the evening's orchestrations - was understated, nuanced and quite pretty.

''There's a reason they're called the Royal Philharmonic,'' Sting quipped early in the night, acknowledging the musicians behind him. ''I borrowed them off the queen.''

The orchestra added a certain class to the joint. Sometimes Sting would step aside and into the dark, giving the players a deserved spotlight.

'Russians' took advantage of the bombastic percussion section. 'When We Dance', an overwrought ballad already, didn't benefit much from the orchestra's presence. But 'I Hung My Head' was a stunning study in contrasts with a more traditional Sting-drummer-guitarist moment blooming into a full-blown symphonic bash.

(c) The Denver Post by Ricardo Baca