Mercury Falling
Bristow, USNissan Pavilion
With Natalie Merchant

Sting mixing mercury...

During his performance at Nissan Pavilion Wednesday night, British rock star Sting told a capacity crowd that he was delighted to be in the Washington area on the eve of the Fourth, though, alas, he and his fellow countrymen wouldn't be taking part in the celebration.

''We'll be grumbling a lot - it's an English thing,'' he quipped. Hoisting his bass guitar up a notch, he added, ''Here's a song for (King) George III,'' and kicked off 'I Was Brought to My Senses' from the new album 'Mercury Falling'.

Given the chilly night air, the album's title took on a literal meaning. Yet its underlying themes of loss, guilt, redemption and rebirth were evident throughout the swiftly paced concert, resonating in the songs 'The Hounds of Winter', 'Hung My Head', 'You Still Touch Me' and 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying'. The last, a honky-tonk heartbreaker, could have been written by a veteran country tunesmith, though it didn't sound at all odd coming from Sting, who's made a career out of genre-bending and blending. Nothing, in fact, seemed out of place or out of reach.

While the reggae pulse that animated his work with the Police surfaced time and again, notably on a crowd-charged 'Roxanne' and an expansive, reggae-cum-rap version of 'Englishman in New York', it was only one ingredient in a heady pop brew.

Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta's rock, funk and Brazilian rhythms were an important part of the mix, as were Dominic Miller's soul-inflected guitar lines and pianist Kenny Kirkland's dashing jazz improvisations. With the help of brass and reeds - and an audience that needed no prodding on the sing-alongs - Sting had no difficulty balancing his more sophisticated songs with such sure-fire concert staples as 'Every Breath You Take' and 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.

(c) The Washington Post