Sacred Love

Milwaukee, WI, US
Milwaukee Theaterwith Chris Botti
Sting's music still gold...

Few rock stars make it past the half-century mark with grace. Consider the tottering, doddering parody that is Ozzy Osbourne, or Steven Tyler's sad spectacle of strutting, chest-puffing and other cliched primate rituals during Sunday's Super Bowl pregame show.

Then there's Sting, who at 52 is not only lean, clear-eyed and in full command of his musical faculties, but also has the good sense to let his older material mellow and meld with his current creative interests.

Must be all that yoga.

The Blond One played to a capacity crowd of more than 4,000 on Monday night at the Milwaukee Theatre, in a two-hour show that stretched to include 'A Thousand Years' as a second encore.

After opening the show beside his upright bass with a laid-back rendition of 'Walking on the Moon', Sting focused on his most recent album. 'Send Your Love', 'Inside' and 'Let's Forget About the Future' came in quick succession, just the first three of nine 'Sacred Love' songs, including a passionate, amped-up version of the title track, performed Monday.

Avoiding the traps of both self-indulgence and hammy nostalgia, Sting reworked a number of fan favorites, stretching all the way back to his early MTV hunk days. 'Roxanne' retained its classic riff but lost the punk edge that would have been at odds with the elegant man in pinstripe trousers onstage - instead, Sting fused it with another early Police tune, 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', and then broke the medley down in a jazzy midsection that let both band and front man stretch a little musically.

Sting's high-caliber backing band included singer Joy Rose, who arguably outdid Mary J. Blige's studio contribution to the duet 'Whenever I Say Your Name', and renown session guitarist Dominic Miller - born in Argentina but raised just a kringle's toss away in Racine - whose deft finger work stood out in 'Fields of Gold' and the haunting new 'Dead Man's Rope'.

Trumpeter Chris Botti - who joined Sting onstage for 'I Was Brought to My Senses' and 'Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)' - worked the crowd with both smooth jazz and jokes during his half-hour set. In between songs, Botti cracked about Sting's line of yoga outfits and threatened to re-create the notorious Super Bowl overexposure moment using a band member as a stand-in for Janet Jackson.

(c) The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Gemma Tarlach