Brand New Day
Columbus, USPolaris Amphitheatre
With Guster

Sting in Columbus...

Tonight was Columbus, Ohio. Once again, the band sounded quite good, although in my humble opinion it was almost as uneven as last night. Sting was having noticeably more difficulty with his voice tonight, using his spray bottle numerous times, but strangely his voice actually got better as the night wore on. Chris is now wearing a much better-looking grey shirt... maybe the white last night took too much attention away from Sting and Miles just couldn't stand it any longer! Kipper is walking fine; I asked him how he felt and he said, ''It's getting better.'' The last non musical thing to add is that Sting seems to be doing a lot more cheerleading in these shows than in the past. He'll walk to the edge of the stage, stare at someone and kind of chuckle if they're not into it, which immediately makes the whole section go bonkers that he noticed they existed.

On the musical side, the band sounded great. The only real big foul up was the beginning of 'Tomorrow We'll See', with each person coming in at different times. The sound was good from where I was at, but Dominic was having some amp issues. At the beginning of 'Brand New Day' his guitar made a HORRIBLE sound and everyone broke out laughing. What I'm noticing more and more is this band's incredible ability to grow and take chances on letting the music evolve. 'Roxanne' was very different from the other shows, with the sedate middle section lasting much longer than before. All of Chris's solos are 100% different every night, as are Jason's. Sting is using different bass lines in 'When the World' almost nightly, and it really sends the solos off into different directions. The more I think about it, there is a direct relationship between the length of song and its overall quality, probably because one of Sting's fortes (and the band's) is in the transitory moments from one section to another.

And one last rant about the crowd. Initially they had a lot of energy, but that was really killed about half way through. And HOLY COW, the first 15 rows must have been the crustiest, most arrogant and uninformed Sting fans (I use that term loosely) I've ever seen. All were old as heck, none of them danced, and they all looked like this concert was taking away some precious time they could have been spending trying to get the official web-site 2% as cool as Stingchronicity's. If you are reading this and were in the first 15 rows, shame on you!

(c) James Norman for

So what's all the buzz about?

Sting is no god. He confirmed that notion with a pleasant but unremarkable set that lasted nearly two hours last night in Polaris Amphitheater.

The veteran English musician led the Police before releasing a string of varied solo albums that have earned him near-worshipful adulation for their allegedly groundbreaking integration of diverse music styles.

In a buoyant and crowd-pleasing display in Columbus, he proved to be the ultimate volks-rocker. He provided something for everyone - from rock, blues, jazz and ethnic sounds to pure pop.

But heard live, all the sounds meshed as if run through a musical blender, relying on the singer, composer and bassist's trademark sound to get them across.

Frequently, he did so with spunk and imagination. 'All This Time' and the Police smash 'Magic' rang with pop economy and up-tempos. They were a nice respite from the overly textured treatment much of the other material received.

'Englishman in New York' was a rouser with its hopped-up reggae rhythm and terrific jazz break. 'Tomorrow We'll See' featured a hot blues-rock guitar solo.

But over the long haul, Sting's narrow range and straining vocals wore thin. His limited melodic sense became apparent.

From the beginning, he has donned musical styles as though changing shirts. The reggae of the Police, although never very authentic, was pumped up and vital, not to mention an essential part of the English new-wave scene of the time. Though the reggae beats have softened, last night they felt right.

Sting's other appropriations were less impressive. The much-lauded jazz direction of a few years ago was carried, in part, by the presence of ''smooth jazz'' trumpeter Chris Botti. Though he wasn't wearing the black turtleneck shirt that previously was part of his shtick, he still struck poses as though he thought he was the reincarnation of Chet Baker. Thick, annoying reverb accompanied every note; he is no equal for saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who accompanied Sting several years ago.

But the bandleader was primarily responsible for the music's stylistic flattening. 'Fill Her Up' was funny, though a hokey take on country music; 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' began with a faux Spanish guitar solo; 'Fields Of Gold' was watered-down Celtic folk. All exhibited Sting's unmistakable - and commercially foolproof - stamp.

Genius? Not last night. Pop wizard, maybe.

Massachusetts band Guster opened with a rambling but undistinguished set. With a mainly acoustic delivery, the band largely won over Sting fans.

(c) The Columbus Dispatch by Curtis Schieber