Brand New Day
Helsinki, FIArena

Arena audience grooves to Sting's beat...

The Sting phenomenon is an encouraging sign. Unconcerned with following trends, he creates popular music which is at its best wrought with care, vibrant and intelligent. At the same time, Sting continues to be, in spite of his superstardom, a practical musician; his bass is an essential element of the band's total sound.

All of this was made clear at Sting's Helsinki concert, which didn't offer surprises, but lots of enjoyable music. Sting has a committed following in Finland; this is already his sixth time here.

As a bassist with fusion bands coming through the band The Police to being a solo artist, Sting (Gordon Sumner) is the outstanding pop technician of the day. He combines with his pop compositional material jazz, folk, ethno and even country music.

Stings recordings are marked by an extreme care and technical polish, even to the point where at times they can seem a bit distant in their airtight perfection.

This effect wasn't much different in concert. On stage, Sting performs like a rank-and-file studio musician. He doesn't make idle chatter, doesn't act ingratiating towards his audience nor flaunt his special charisma.

Sting offers finely-crafted adult rock to which rhythm one can containedly groove, as did the nearly full house at the Arena. Previously, Sting's musical companions were young jazz musicians such as saxophonist Branford Marsalis and the late pianist Kenny Kirkland. Now jazz shadings are added to the maestro's music by Chris Botti, a self-recorded pop/jazz trumpeter who has played in Paul Simon's band.

At the Arena, Botti's trumpet gave an important extra colors and lift to the band's otherwise rather stout sound. Sting's faithful old-guard, guitarist Dominic Miller and drummer Manu Katche, played their parts with assuredness, particularly Katche, whose drumming anchored the music with an even, precision pulse.

The concert was divided, as expected, between Sting's old hits, new pieces from the 'Brand New Day' album, and a few classics from The Police.

Towards the last half there was a bit of jamming, but the most memorable moment was provided by Botti's stylish trumpet seasonings in 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' from Sting's first solo record.

(c) Helsingin Sanomat by unknown author/translated by Bill Hellberg