Mercury Falling

Scranton, PA, US
Montage Mountainwith The Cowboy Junkies
Sting proves in Montage show that every little thing is still magic...

Live on stage, rock star Sting appears distinguished, yet grounded. Imposing, yet approachable. Vibrant, yet relaxed. He also appears to be one of the most talented musicians in rock.

Touring in support of his latest LP, 'Mercury Falling', Sting strolled onto stage at the Montage Mountain Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night, delighting the crowd of 5,800 with his unique brand of sophisticated pop/rock. He opened the show with 'The Hounds of Winter', then followed with two more new numbers, 'I Hung My Head' and 'I Was Brought To My Senses'.

Considering the dark themes in much of his music, the singer/musician has a much warmer stage presence than a casual fan might expect. ''It's very nice to be back in Pennsylvania,'' Sting said with a genuine tone. ''It's a beautiful state... just a beautiful state.''

Backed by a five piece band, Sting changed the arrangement of several songs throughout the performance. His 1985 solo hit, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', was delivered in a slightly different manner, and a funked-up rendition of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' was the first indication that the former Police chief hasn't completely turned in his badge.

The staging was simple, with modest lighting and backdrops. Sting's music which encompasses elements of jazz, rock, pop, and Latin sounds - sounded perfect. 'Seven Days', from 1993's 'Ten Summoner's Tales', and 'Mad About You', from 1991's 'Soul Cages', both showcased the darker, more intense side of Sting's songwriting, and also showed that he wouldn't be doing a big-hits-only show.

A group of fans carrying a banner were invited on stage to sing 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', and the beautiful performance of 'Fields Of Gold', was one of the evening's highlights. A performance of The Police's 'Synchronicity II' was the set's most upbeat number, and Sting's quest for musical perfection was shown when he removed his bass in mid-song to have it tuned.

The Police classic 'Roxanne' offered a trombone solo and again a slightly changed arrangement, and an extended version of the Police nugget, 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around', was a pleasant surprise. The set ended with the reggae-fuelled 'Englishman In New York'.

Sting returned for encores, including 1993's 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', then the Police's 1983 number-one smash 'Every Breath You Take'. He closed the show with 'Fragile'.

Clearly one of the finest show's to ever grace the stage at the Montage Venue, Sting offered a 19-song listen to all that can be great about pop music. His singing is wonderful, his songs are melodic, and his lyrics are insightful. After the final number, the audience responded with a standing ovation, and Sting - after a series of bows - promised they'd be back. Hope so.

(c) The Times Leader by Alan K. Stout