Brand New Day
Birmingham, USOak Mountain Amphitheatre
With Jonny Lang

Sting, never better, gives complex mesh...

A summer heat wave stung the audience on Tuesday night at Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. The ticket prices pinched, too.

But the Gordon Sumner septet sluiced a mighty cool wave of music over its listeners, flowing from song to song in an intelligent and jazzy pop style.

The 9 p.m. show was eagerly anticipated by fans who revere the performer known as Sting - former frontman of The Police, now a respected solo artist. And, to be honest, the 48-year-old singer and bass player hasn't reverted to his birth name.

Still, a unified and skillful septet is what Sting presented to the crowd of 7,500-8,000 people who paid $34-$74 so they could cheer him on at Oak Mountain.

While he operated as the star centerpiece, Sting takes his cues from jazz greats who keep grandstanding to a minimum, preferring instead to create a fine, complex mesh of sound. In that classy goal, he certainly succeeded.

Relying on a ''one for me, one for you'' set list, Sting led his six member band through intricate numbers from his latest CD, 'Brand New Day', alternating these with older solo tunes and a handful of Police smashes.

Anyone who expected an all Police deluge was disappointed, yet Sting's slo-mo or internationally spiced versions of 'Roxanne', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Message in a Bottle' were treats just the same - more precious, perhaps, for their rarity.

Sting's distinctive wail of a voice has never sounded better; if we're lucky, he'll keep that chilling tenor intact until he's 80.

He bopped with energy - a fine physical specimen, by the way - through the upbeat songs (If You Love Somebody Set Them Free, Englishman in New York, We'll Be Together, Fill Her Up) and silkily caressed the downers (Fields of Gold, After the Rain Has Fallen, A Thousand Years).

Like most of Sting's post-Police output, the stuff from 'Brand New Day' takes time to grow on you, so these selections earned lesser bursts of applause on Tuesday. That's understandable; solo Sting sometimes veers into territory that's too moody, abstract, dark or pompous.

You've got to give the guy credit, though, for taking chances and constantly pushing his musical envelope. We might love to hear more of those Police hits, but Sting is unlikely to confine his talent to the prison of a nostalgia act.

(c) The Birmingham News by Mary Colurso


TVA January 06,2013
Heat Wave Indeed
Having been born & raised in Alabama, you'd think I'd be used to the summers down here. I thought I was until the night of this particular Sting concert. Whenever I look back on this show one of the first things I think about is how hot it was. Apparently the journalist for the Birmingham News isn't as much of a fan of Sting's solo work as this guy is. Brand New Day, however, did have to grow on me, or at least some of it did. One of the few disadvantages of things like the internet, televised concerts, concert dvds, and the like is that when you go to a show like this you can almost predict what's going to be played and how. Call it performance leaks. Of course, if you're not a big fan at all or if you never log onto the internet, watch concerts on tv, or buy concert dvds, then you would've been surprised at pretty much every turn. Maybe it's because I'm a musician and I'm a bit picky. Sometimes I wish I weren't that way. Sometimes I wish I could go to a show and hear the music and watch the musicians like a non-musician. I think I might enjoy it more. Then again, having the knowledge of a musician makes watching a consummate musician like Sting all the more enjoyable.