Brand New Day
Wilkes Barre, USFirst Union Arena
With Jill Scott

Sting shows top form at arena...

Artists in rock 'n' roll carry the reputation of being a musician first and a rock star second.

One of those artists is Sting.

Rock's former Police chief and accomplished solo craftsman performed Tuesday at The First Union Arena, and despite his arsenal of hits and charismatic stage presence, it was Sting and his band's polished musicianship that shined brightest before the crowd of 6,700.

Sting opened the whopping 25-song show with 'A Thousand Years' and followed with 1985's exceptional 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. He then took the band through an inspired performance of 'After The Rain Has Fallen' and seamlessly segued into a soulful rendition of 'We'll Be Together'.

''Good evening, everyone!'' said Sting to a warm cheer. ''It's very nice to be in Wilkes-Barre. I've never been here before... What a nice welcome.''

'All This Time' followed, and the rhythmic 'Seven Days' and the passionate 'Mad About You' also served as highlights. 'Fields of Gold' brought a roar from the crowd, and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' - the first Police number of the set - also energized the receptive and extremely attentive audience.

Other gems such as 'Englishman In New York' and the inspiring 'Brand New Day' were delivered with precision, and Sting showed that he hasn't lost a thing vocally with a performance of The Police classic 'Roxanne'. He also connected with the crowd by pulling a female belly-dancer from the crowd to playfully dance on stage during 'Desert Rose'.

''You people are wild,'' he said with a smile at the conclusion of the number.

Although Sting has won Grammy awards as a solo artist and has sold millions of albums on his own, he has never forsaken his days with The Police. Even the set's final number - an re-arranged jammy rendition of 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best of What's Still Around' - served as a clever nod and wink to his days with one of rock's all-time greatest bands.

Sting was called back for two encores, first offering 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', and then 'Every Breath You Take'. His second curtain call featured a crisp acoustic performance of 'Message In A Bottle' and the show concluded with his traditional closing number, 1987's 'Fragile'.

What's so special about seeing Sting in concert is watching his attention to the music itself. He constantly surrounds himself with talented players, and he himself still plays some very impressive bass. He also frequently reworks his songs - apparently to make them more musically challenging - yet he never strays too far off course to a point at which they lose their familiarity.

Simply put: Sting always appears to be striving to be better. And although he has consistently set his own musical bar pretty high, he's almost always able to raise his game.

On Tuesday night at the arena, he again did just that.

(c) The Wilkes Barre Times Leader by Alan K. Stout