Mercury Falling
Noblesville, USDeer Creek Music Center
With Lyle Lovett

This was Sting?

People who criticize Sting for being ultra-serious (and I admit to being in that lot) should have seen what more than 14,000 of his fans witnessed Friday night at Deer Creek Music Center - the veteran singer/bassist delving playfully into his repertoire and delivering an hour and 45 minutes of bright, expertly performed songs.

He even showed off a sense of humour, quipping that ''people here are very friendly. I haven't paid for a meal yet. Two restaurants, no bills. Thank you very much. They also gave me the Mike Tyson suite in the hotel.''

This was Sting?

Musically, there was no doubt that it was. Sting has never restricted himself to one genre. In his earliest days, with the Police, he mixed rock and reggae. Now, it may be dreamy pop with jazz, Latin rhythm used to underpin arrangements that have the feel of Big Band music.

The song 'Seven Days', the best and most fascinating number in the set, worked its way from a stop-start show tune with jazzy saxophone into a swinging number that Frank Sinatra could perform. On 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', he brought out opening act Lyle Lovett for a country duet. Their voices and delivery are nearly opposite - Lovett low-key and subtle, Sting strong-willed and almost herniated in pitch - but together, they managed to create an intriguing blend.

Remarkably, for the most part, the influences and sounds Sting melded together weren't obvious. Sting and his five-piece band blended them seamlessly into songs that were pretty but aggressive, moody but friendly. He gave the same care to the set list, which went from older hits such as 'Roxanne' (complete with a quirky, twisted trombone solo) and the bubbly 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' to five songs from his latest disc, 'Mercury Falling'.

The songs on the record are generally tepid and uninviting, but they got a big boost here from the lively horn section of Clark Gayton and Butch Thomas.

Opening act Lyle Lovett is too talented to be anyone's Tonto, and in his hourlong opening set, the crowd got only a small sampling of how good he can be. Lovett leaned mightily on his country repertoire, most of which came from his latest disc, 'The Road to Ensenada'. With an eight-piece backing band, he showed off some sweet Texas swing - 'That's Right (You're Not From Texas)' as well as weepy country like 'Who Loves You Better'.

At times, like on the gentle ballad 'Nobody Knows Me', he could barely be heard over the talking in the audience. Backstage, Lovett said he expects to be headlining his own tour in the fall. That'll be the time to see him, not as someone else's warm-up act.

(c) The Indianapolis Star by Marc D. Allan