Mercury Falling
Caen, FRLe Zenith

Sting in Caen...

Sting began his tour of France here last night with a near two-hour set of old and recent material.

Opening act Natalie Merchant, former frontperson for 10,000 Maniacs, charmed the Normandy crowd with a sultry 45 minute set, closing with an excellent cover version of 'You Give me Fever'.

Sting and his band took the stage at 9:30 with 'The Hounds of Winter'. Acoustically, Ie Zenith is a notoriously bad venue, as evident in the opening moments when the sound was tinny and dissonant, Sting's voice clearly struggling. The sound man got things under control for 'I Hung my Head', 'Let Your Soul be Your Pilot' and 'I Was Brought To My Senses' with Sting often employing help from throat spray and a bottle of spring water.

After this rough start, Sting, clad in a black blazer and leather trousers, eased the band into 'Set Them Free' and an animated 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. From there Sting played two new numbers from 'Mercury Falling'; 'All Four Seasons' and 'You Still Touch Me', before returning to older material with 'Seven Days' and 'Mad About You'.

The material was in many ways arranged to showcase Sting's new two-piece brass section, coming to life on '25 to Midnight', the most lively tune of the evening. From there followed an impressive section compromised mostly of old Police hits. 'Synchronicity', 'Roxanne', 'Englishman in New York', 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' (featuring added vocals by a bouncing Kenny Kirkland) and finally 'When the World is Running Down' closed the main set.

Returning for an encore, Sting lead the band through 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'She's Too Good For Me', 'Nothing 'Bout Me', and 'Lithium Sunset'. True to form, Sting's final encore, 'Fragile', eased the audience gently homeward.

Overall, an enjoyable concert, the disappointing element being the inclusion of several songs carried-over from 1993's 'Ten Summoner's Tales' which engaged little response from the crowd and might have been left out in favour of new material or older classics.

Guitarist Dominic Miller was clearly frustrated with the sound. Often changing guitars in mid-song, his playing failed to make its usual impression, submerged beneath Vinnie Colaiuta's heavy cymbals and the recently introduced horn section.

From here Sting moves on to Rennes before playing two nights at the PaIais de Bercy in Paris on 14 and 15 April, also making an appearance on the widely-seen TV program TaraIata along the way.

(c) Adrian Quinn for Outlandos/