Brand New Day
Manchester, GBMEN Arena
With Nitin Sawhney

Sting in Manchester...

Well, the night I had been waiting for so very long finally arrived. I hadn't seen Sting play live since 30 November 1996 so you can imagine how excited I was, and thanks to the advance ticket ordering service organised by Outlandos I managed to acquire two front row seats. After much hard work by the stage and instrument crew the stage was set and the atmosphere was exhilarating. All of a sudden there he was, looking younger than ever and full of energy. The set list was much the same as many concerts already reviewed, all the songs being performed to perfection with the whole band looking as though they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience certainly were. Sting's voice was sublime, Dominic super cool as usual, fingers flying, Manu doing an animated rap in French, Jason and Kipper both excelling on keyboard (I think Kenny would have approved) and Chris on trumpet. Chris was just something else - his contributions were elegant and even his quiet atmospheric parts were vital.

The high points for me where 'When The World Is Running Down' with a dynamic jamming session in the middle, 'Fields Of Gold' because it's my husband Mick's favourite and 'Fragile' which is absolutely exquisite. I am always thrilled and grieved at the same time when Sting performs this beautiful song - thrilled because it is one of my all time favourite pieces and grieved because it signals the conclusion to a superb evening. Can't wait till the next time!

(c) Carol Dewhurst for

Sting's fans want the oldies...

Poor Sting. He can throw every bit of musical wizardry at a crowd and they will remain rooted to their seats in polite appreciation.

Yet the minute he strikes up the perky old Police number, 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', it's as if someone has put a thousand volts through the audience. Suddenly, the M.E.N. Arena is jumping.

It has been that way throughout the eclectic Geordie's 16-year solo career. Another 16 years from now, perhaps, he will be presenting his symphony for Tibetan nose flute or a free-form jazz reinterpretation of 'Greensleeves' only to hear some philistine screaming for yet another refrain of 'Roxanne'.

It is possible to be too clever for your own good in rock music. Even Sting's most famous song, 'Every Breath You Take' - the most played song ever on American radio with five million repeats - is taken as an anthem to cosy coupledom when it was intended to convey unhealthy obsession.

But he takes it all in good part, ignoring those who accuse him of being pretentious, continuing to produce splendidly adventurous albums and, in concert, giving the crowd a little of what they fancy in among the works of genius.

He stepped out in skinny top and combat trousers, looking a good decade younger than his 48 years, with Mrs Sting, Trudie Styler, watching from block 115.

The gentle north African strains of 'A Thousand Years' came first, then Sting strapped on his ancient Fender bass for 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. This was rock at its most civilised, with the music on a stand before him along with a glass of water and a crisp folded white towel.

There was another of his superbly-crafted new songs 'After The Rain Has Fallen' from the 'Brand New Day' album, which manages to combine Algerian rai with jazz and funk. Then came the creative splurge of 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong' which has all the above plus some French rapping.

'Fill Her Up' proved to be just the kind of song for which Sting gets most stick - a strange country pastiche with an unexpected ethereal interlude and a lyric laden with hidden meaning. You wonder if he writes such stuff just to prove he can.

And then came the crowd-pleasers - the lovely 'Fields Of Gold', that ice-breaking 'Every Little Thing', the polite jazz of 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' and 'Englishman In New York'. Then it was 'Roxanne', eased slowly into life with guitarist Dominic Miller playing jazzy chords. Just as the groove had bitten, Sting perversely took it to a galloping new rhythm, stretching this exercise to the point of tedium.

In America, this intellectual of popular music would perhaps be lauded in the way of Paul Simon. But you know what they say about a prophet in his homeland. Here, Sting will forever be that smart alec who used to be in Police.

(c) The Manchester Evening News by Paul Taylor