Brand New Day
West Palm Beach, USMars Music Amphitheatre
With Jonny Lang

No sound could have been more perfect...

An evening with Sting is like going to an elegant pool party: Listening to the smooth music he's been making lately, you half expect somebody to walk up and offer you hors d'oeuvres.

At the semi-catered venue he played on Sunday night, no sound could have been more perfect.

Sting, 48 and fit as ever, brought a six-piece band and songs from two eras to Mars Music Amphitheatre near West Palm Beach.

The Briton who made his bones playing jittery reggae-pop in the Police put some of those new-wave classics in nouveau garb - the better to blend them with his post-Police adult contemporary work.

'Roxanne' sounded like the girl going through phases: It started as a gentle strum, built to a mellow Bob Marley vibe and then broke into a mildly exuberant chorus. 'When the World Is Running Down acquired an erudite jazz-piano sheen. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' - well, that was the Police signaling their exit from new wave into crossover country, so it bridged easily to solo pieces such as 'Englishman in New York' and the r&b blush of 'Brand New Day'.

About 14,000 patrons were treated to a pleasant retrospective. Sting's bandmates were consummate players. He was a personable host, and his voice retains the vigor, if not the dog-whistle range, of his early days.

But energy and precision don't always equal combustion. Sting produced a few hot sparks here and there. But he and the band were so busy minding their complex time signatures and global influences, they never quite rocked. The former Gordon Sumner still looks like the wiry, bratty Police-man, but musically he plays the quiet statesman.

(c) The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel by Sean Piccoli

Sting's popular formula tends to limit his creativity...

Sting is one of a handful of aging pop artists who has managed to remain just that - popular.

Granted, his core audience isn't much younger than he is, judging from the crowd of better than 12,000 that showed up at the MARS Music Amphitheatre Sunday night to hear him perform.

But he still appeals to them - and unlike other artists of his generation, he still makes hit records.

Some of these recent hits, including 'Brand New Day' and 'Desert Rose', were part of Sting's 90-plus-minute set, a performance that found the artist relaxed and in relatively good voice.

But a little Sting goes a long way - and the very things that make the ex-Police man so likable are what limit him creatively.

Sting sells a brand of pop that's semi-sophisticated, blending bits of jazz, reggae and world music into ear-grabbing songs that speak of life's lessons and love's labors.

In his live show, he tries to wed these tunes into a telling whole, often shifting from one song to the next without pause. His six-piece band emphasizes the refined textures of the music, rarely letting a solo call too much attention to itself. But there's a point when all this smoothness starts to turn into staleness, when Sting seems closer akin to Kenny G than to such inventive songwriters as Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen.

Perhaps that's the price of wanting to stay popular - rather than growing artistically, Sting is grabbing whatever share of the market he can find. In the process, he's become what record execs label an ''adult contemporary'' artist. The horror, the horror, indeed.

Not that the evening didn't have its highlights. Sting didn't cheat the crowd of any of his hits from his Police era - and his version of 'Roxanne' was tailor-made to a large venue, replete with the audience being asked to sing along.

Of his solo material, a plaintive version of 'Fields of Gold' - truly one of the best songs of the last decade - topped the list. And the song he uses to hawk luxury cars, the Middle Eastern-influenced 'Desert Rose', was given a rocking take, especially with a half-naked belly dancer on stage.

Opening for Sting was the young bluesman Jonny Lang, who delivered a lively hour of music. He tries a little too hard to convince audiences he's got an older artist's bite, but his talent as a guitarist and singer is most obvious. Unlike Sting, he would be better served if he just learned to mellow out.

(c) Palm Beach Post by Charles Passy