Brand New Day
London, GBRoyal Albert Hall
With Cheb Mami

Sting is currently doing an Eric Clapton...

Sting is currently doing an Eric Clapton, as we say in the trade, ie, he's playing a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. And if that conjures up images of civilised, tame evenings of tasteful pop, then so it should. On Tuesday Sting and his jazz-inflected band browsed through his back catalogue in a mild-mannered sort of way. There were no surprises or impressive special effects. Fine as the show was, it can't have exceeded any expectations.

The most emotional sequence came when Sting slipped the refrain of 'Sex And Drugs And Rock 'n' Roll' into 'Bring On The Night' as a tribute to Ian Dury, who died last week. The songs from last year's 'Brand New Day' album had a lot less resonance. 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', for instance, isn't a diary of paranoia akin to 'Every Breath You Take', but the punning confession of a jealous dog. Character songs have been part of Sting's repertoire for years, mind you, and they can be clever and amusing. But recently Gordon Sumner himself has seemed to be vanishing altogether. On 'After The Rain Has Fallen' he's an Arabian thief, on 'Tomorrow We'll See' he's a prostitute and on 'Fill Her Up' he's a Midwestern petrol pump attendant, the lyrical conceit of this country pastiche being that you can fill a car with petrol and you can also fill a person with sadness or joy. The chirping, clapping backing -vocalists ensure that no one takes the pump-boy's situation very seriously.

What next? A rap from the point of view of a kangaroo? A sea shanty sung by a jar of coffee? These songs seem increasingly like exercises Sting has set himself rather than expressions of his or anyone else's feelings. This suspicion was deepened on Tuesday by hearing him adopt a Louis Armstrong growl for 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' and seeing him turn 'Roxanne' into a calypso call-and-response. Maybe after years of being pilloried as a po-faced do-gooder simply because he worked hard for causes he believed in, Sting doesn't like to appear too solemn these days. But if his songs are now just jokey parlour games, he should shelve albums and concerts for a while and score a musical, or, considering his identification with dogs and desert princesses, a Disney cartoon. If Elton John can do The Lion King and Phil Collins can do Tarzan, then Mickey Mouse should be giving Sting a call any day.

(c) The Independent by Nicholas Barber

Still the blond babe with the extraordinary voice and thoughtful lyrics...

It's the beginning of his fourth decade in the business, and Sting is still the blond babe with the extraordinary voice and thoughtful lyrics, but his music hasn't stayed still for a minute. Despite his pop megastar status, the singer-guitarist-songwriter has always roamed far afield for his inspiration.

Now French rap (from drummer Manu Katche), Algerian singing (from Cheb Mami on 'Desert Rose') and country and western (with pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole) have strayed into the mix. Along with Chris Botti's trumpet harmonising and jazzman Jason Rebello's keyboards, these provided a fillip to some of the talkier parts of the concert; intelligent lyrics give great stereo, but heavy meaning can make for a rather static show, despite the swooping freedom of Sting's vocals.

Nevertheless, his determination to expand his stylistic repertoire means that while his oldies were greeted with ecstatic squeals, material from new album 'Brand New Day' also generated cheers. He may not go multi-platinum any more, but Sting is still the golden boy.

(c) Metro by Nina Caplan