Could Sting be reinventing himself as someone who likes a laugh?
First he performs a durt with Billy Connolly on Parkinson. Then he displays the ghost of a smile on his tour poster. False alarm. After a few minutes on stage it's pretty clear the Sting live experience couldn't take itself much more seriously if it tried.
The man may be 15 years out of The Police, but he still believes in plodding the beat. Sting thumps along his bass lines while the band plink and squeal the kind of funky jazz that wouldn't sound out of place backing a chase scene in Miami Vice.
''Do I have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days since we first met?'', the Geordie wonders, slipping a Police lyric into our funky jam. The audience's answer is a resounding ''yes!'' 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' finally gets the crowd out of their seats. This may be their 'Brand New Day' tour but it's the same old stuff they came to hear.
These days Sting surrounds himself with a seriously healthy-looking bunch. Forget sex, drugs, and rock and roll, this is more like moody jazz, mineral water, and saving yourself. ''I've given up tantric sex now,'' Sting insists. Chart-wise, he could be waiting for a while for his tantric comeback.
While 'Roxanne' and 'Message In A Bottle' mesmerised the hall, once song from Sting's solo back catalogue - 'Englishman In New York' takes on a new meaning. The words ''suffer ignorance and smile, be yourself no matter what they say'', were originally written for Quentin Crisp in the Big Apple 12 years ago. Today, they take on a new relevance in Scotland in the wake of the Keep Section 28 campaign.
(c) The Evening Times by Rab Christie
Three long years have passed since Glasgow hosted its last Sting show...
Three long years have passed since Glasgow hosted its last Sting show, and an optimistic, eager crowd of about eight thousand gathered in anticipation of the Brand New Day ensemble. Sting had earlier made a visit to the new Compaq computers service centre in Glasgow and issued free cd's to the 400 employees. He also raffled tickets for the show, and commented that ''if no one wanted the tickets they could always sell them outside to the touts''. He joked that he was once a bingo caller in Newcastle and enjoyed the experience once again. I had worked for Compaq for ten years, but left the company in December 99, talk about bad luck - I missed the chance of meeting my hero!
The support band was great - Nitin Sawhney - they played a blend of Indian, rap, pop, flamenco, funk style of music and received a great response from the Glasgow audience. At 8:40, amid cries from the audience of ''put on the red light'', Sting and friends entered the arena to a rapturous applause. Sting was wearing a black polo neck sweater, black combat trousers and black boots (perhaps he had watched ''Men In Black''?) and played a black (what else) and white Fender Stratocaster for the opening track 'A Thousand Years'. The sound was perfect and Stings voice was the best I've heard for years - no frogs in the throat at all!
The crowd was strangely slow to take to their feet, which is unusual by Glasgow audience standards - perhaps they were in awe of seeing the great man himself; or the spectacular lighting show or maybe the price of the North Face merchandise? Danny supplied the obligatory bass and Sting supplied 'Set Them Free', which was very dance orientated. Sting was smiling throughout and seemed to be having a whale of a time. Debuts from the new album followed and included 'After The Rain'/'We'll Be Together', 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong', which had a French Rap from drumbeats Manu Katché - perhaps Sting will translate at one of the shows? The new songs had a ballad type feel to them and I was particularly impressed with 'Fill Her Up'. This was not one of my favourites on the album but once hearing it
live, the song takes on a new meaning - now I play this track all the time - how Sting merges the different styles is pure class!
Sting looked pleased to see some familiar faces in the front row and said that he knew some of those sitting in the front row... He then put on a Scottish accent and said that ''he could hear the people in the front row talking about him''. In a 'Braveheart' accent he said he could hear the front row saying, ''look at Sting, he looks younger, I wonder if he's had a facelift, where did he get his trousers, what a nice looking young man he is!''
The set went into 'Mad About You', 'Seven Days', 'I'm So Happy', 'Fill Her Up' (which had a great synth middle eight before venturing into the rocky part). Dominic seemed to be enjoy playing the country and Sting accompanied him on the Western! 'Fields of Gold' had the crowd swaying and proved to be a real pleaser. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', was amazing and benefited from ''Mr Kipper's'' synth lines throughout.
'Moon Over Bourbon Street' was also greatly appreciated and had a different style from the version on the 'Blue Turtles' album. Dominic played a Stratocaster with an effect like a banjo(!?) and Sting sang in very high notes then came down to a Louis Armstrong-type vocal - it was indeed different but the new arrangement was very enjoyable. Chris Botti's trumpet was outstanding throughout, and was given a free role in 'Mad About You' and 'Bourbon Street' that was exceptional. 'Tomorrow We'll See's ending, had a duel between Sting and Chris Botti, to see who could hold the high note the longest. Stings high vocal won the day and had me wondering if he had a spare lung behind his amp? Sting said he enjoyed playing Glasgow before introducing a song about his hometown of Newcastle - 'All This
Time'. The turning point of the concert came when 'Englishmen in New York' started, everyone stood up, danced and sang the chorus, and it was a great accolade for a Scottish audience to admit they are English!
To keep up the momentum, a flawless 'Brand New Day' followed, which was my personal favourite and sounded even better live, if that is possible. 'Roxanne' capped the energetic band and audience, and reminded me of the 'Synchronicity' days when the crowd went wild at this particular number. Sting had a great ''dancey'' bass part in the middle eight of the song, and had the audience singing ''Roxanno'' for a good five minutes. Sting sang this song with enthusiasm, and it seemed as fresh with the new band as what it did with the Police.
I may add here that Dominic's guitar playing on this track was amazing. He used a variety of different delays, echo's, wah wah, flanger, which gave the song a new feel to it. It is also worth mentioning that Dominic's solos throughout the concert were very inspiring and had a real feel of raw energy throughout every bar. He is without doubt an immense guitar guru (buy 'First Touch' and be prepared to hear Heaven) and an indispensable creator of sounds to accompany Stings infallible songwriting.
'Desert Rose' proved to be an awesome track with Sting and the two backing singers, but lacked Cheb's presence - the stage set erupted in a flame style setting, and the full band kicked in to this Arabian style melody. 'Bring on the Night'/'When the World is Running Down' is - thankfully still in the set. It gives us mere mortals a chance to hear the exquisite piano playing of Jason Rebello. Sting prompted him throughout and he responded with an inspired piece of rapid keyboard playing that combined both jazz and south American influences. The full band really kicks arse on this song and it still is pleasing to hear the freshness that Kipper, Jason, Manu and the gang bring to this song. It is also worth noting that Stings bass playing on this track is stunning and you cannot fail to be
impressed by the standard he sets.
The night closes with 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Every Breath You Take', which Sting manages to reach very high notes on the outro... A solo rendition of 'Message in a Bottle' was flawless and had the crowd joining in with all the words, much to Stings appreciation. The closing number would bring a tear to a glass eye - 'Fragile'. The backdrop was star filled, so was the stage. Stings guitar playing was awesome, and I always dread to hear the ''harmonic'' as the last note of the song, as it always heralds the end of a magnificent show.
If you get the chance to attend Sting's 'Brand New Day' show, please go - you will not be disappointed. The band is the best I've ever heard, and Stings voice as with the new songs just goes from strength to strength. In fact the show was that good that the next day I booked flights down to London for the Royal Albert Hall gigs (I'm so happy that I can't stop flying, pardon the pun!) my mum accompanied me for this show and is now a completely addicted fan!!
Special thanks goes to Phil Docherty (Dominic's guitar tech) for getting me Dominic's autograph on his CD's, plectrums and set lists. If he ever returns to Scotland it'll be free booze on me!! Another special thanks goes to Tina (thanks for the tickets and the memory!) however I nearly got arrested for asking every girl wearing a denim jacket outside the Albert Hall if her name was Tina! You should have heard some of the responses I got! The two shows that I had the pleasure to attend will live long in my memory, and hope it won't be years before we hear the great man live in this country again.
(c) Drew Dudgeon for Sting.com
Renaissance Man in a mood of restraint...
Since going solo in the early 1980s, Sting has enjoyed huge global popularity but has often been maligned for his bland flirtation with world music influences. Recently, he has enjoyed a critical renaissance of sorts.
After years as the target of jibes about tree-hugging and his rock-dinosaur status, his current album 'Brand New Day' has been greeted with comparative favourable reviews. Last month he scooped two Grammy awards.
Opening the UK leg of his world tour, he strolled on stage without fanfare and led his well-drilled band through a muted introduction then straight into the first of the hits, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.
To the left, his music perched on a lectern. To the right, fresh towels and liquid refreshment stood on a small table. He stopped short of a valet to wipe his brow, but his overall bearing was one of polite restraint.
No wonder drummer Manu Katche got restless and moved out front to perform a seductive French rap.
The rest of his group, including jazz pianist Jason Rebello, played like they were waiting for permission to display emotion.
Some beautifully-mournful Chet Baker-inspired trumpet solos were as expressive as the performance got until the first animated blast of 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' loosened everyone up.
The gentle reggae rhythm of 'Englishman in New York' persuaded a few more fans onto their feet and 'Roxanne' got them dancing. The band cast off its initial reserve, and instrumental solos abounded.
For dessert, Sting served up text-book renditions of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Every Breath You Take', followed by his solo acoustic party piece 'Message in a Bottle'.
He came, he played some songs, he left -no more, no less.
(c) The Scotsman by Fiona Shepherd
Relaxed from the off...
Sting's rank as a senior statesman of rock frequently works against him. He has hardly sidestepped the limelight in more than 20 years, and while his creative endeavours continue to inspire respect - underlined by his two latest Grammy Awards last month and good reviews for his accomplished new album 'Brand New Day' - here we have become slightly bored by him.
Ahead of a Claptonesque ten-night stand at the Royal Albert Hall that begins tonight, Sting made a surefooted start to his British dates in Glasgow. Charismatic even in silhouette, he took to a stage stocked with a typically illustrious cast of players, but sadly minus Cheb Mami, the French-Algerian superstar who is opening some dates on the tour. The support slot was admirably filled instead by Nitin Sawhney, whose own band showed themselves superbly adept at everything from rap to flamenco, all colourfully shot through an Asian prism.
Sting was relaxed from the off amid the eastern promise of 'A Thousand Years', one of the new songs that stood shoulder to shoulder with the favourites. Soon he was pouring the first of several past glories with 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', but the frequent addition of fresh flavours such as 'After The Rain Has Fallen' and 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', with a French rap cameo by drummer Manu Katche, made this more than a mere greatest-hits flypast.
In any case, Sumner's tales are usually imaginatively embroidered in the retelling, the records only blueprints for some live fun, and there were loose-limbed versions of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', the latter featuring one of many starring roles for trumpeter Chris Botti. The entire band, but especially pianist Jason Rebello, shone on the set closer, a hectic jazz workout of the Police's 'When the World is Running Down'.
For afters, the sweet trolley offered 'Every Breath You Take', a solo acoustic 'Message in a Bottle' and an ensemble finale of 'Fragile'. By then, Sting was like the elegant swan paddling like crikey beneath the surface, and his expensive sweater was dabbed with the real sweat of two hours' invigorating toil.
(c) The Times by Paul Sexton
A supreme example of consummate musicianship...
The sedate 8,000-seater affair was a supreme example of consummate musicianship. Sting's eight-piece band was tight as a drum, the set tastefully dramatic, yet the man himself was oddly distanced.
The crowd lapped up his one and only piece of self-effacing blether (it was at the expense of his renowned tantric prowess) but were hungry for more. For Sting's appeal is based as much on his charisma as his music. As sinewy and lithe as his trademark voice, he strutted around with an understated air of arrogance in his skinny rib charcoal polo neck and silky combats.
Highspots included the classic 'Fields of Gold' and a couple of tough country numbers - 'I'm So Happy', a song about fatherhood after divorce, and 'Fill Her Up', which started as twangy country, merged into gospel and then tumbled into the mother of all jazz fusions.
Sting's voice won a seemingly personal contest against trumpeter Chris Botti's soulful horn, both holding the last soaring note of 'Tomorrow We'll See' for an eternity - evidence of the benefits of all that astanga breathing.
The New Orleans-honky tonk 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' was a belter, though it got a little messy as it wound down, and the extended improv on 'Roxanne' got a little lost along the way.
Among the ensemble, Jason Rebello's complex keyboard work interwove magnificently through 'Set Them Free', and Botti conjured up a great late-night jazz mood with his haunting horn on 'Seven Days'. Sting's own playing was occasionally inspired, especially on the encores. His singing voice just seems to get better and better: the lower register breathily sensual, the upper unambiguously lucid.
The finale saw the crowd wistfully echoing Sting in a solo acoustic 'Message In A Bottle', segueing into an ecstatically tender 'Fragile'. This was one of those magically hushed, intimate moments. With half the SECC's capacity, lucky Londoners at the Albert Hall should be in for many more of those.
(c) The Independent by Gabe Stewart