Brand New Day
Cincinnati, USRiverbend Music Center
With Tracy Chapman

Jazzy Stings falls short of Police...

The most talked-about difference in Sting as a member of the Police and as a solo artist is one of style. The Police were new wave power-poppers; solo Sting explores his jazzy side.

That difference was negligible at his concert at Riverbend Sunday night. The handful of Police songs Sting mixed into his set were washed over with that ''jazzy'' feel - the newer version just didn't rock as hard as the original records.

The most striking difference turned out to be one of songwriting. There seems to be a connection between how much drier his songwriting well becomes the richer he gets. (On a related note, good pavilion seats were priced at $85.25.)

He closed his 1? hour set with the Police's When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around, a somewhat edgy laundry list concerning, as the title implies, getting by on hard times. It's written in a way that would suggest Sting had once lived that way.

Solo Sting now must role-play when singing of the plight of the common man, and it can be a tad condescending. Who wants to hear a rich musician sing from the point of view of a gas-station worker (Fill Her Up) or a prostitute (Tomorrow We'll See)?

His second hooker song of the night, the Police's Roxanne, is a great tale of desperation - some hopeless guy falls for a call girl. Again, Police Sting trumps solo Sting. In Tomorrow We'll See, the hook phrase was ''Don't judge me''. Talk about your heavy-handed messages. Whatever you say, Sting, and we won't judge you for selling tickets at 85 bucks a pop, either.

He played several hits from the past decade-and-a-half, showing that, if his solo work doesn't touch the Police's work, at least it's as commercially successful.

In fact, the best Sting song wasn't on a par with the other Police songs he played, not Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, especially not Every Breath You Take, and not even the tiresome Message in a Bottle.

Here's hoping for the Police reunion that never comes. After all, who'd want to split 85 bucks three ways?

(c) The Cincinnatti Enquirer by Chris Varias