Mercury Falling
Cincinnati, USRiverbend Music Center
With Lyle Lovett

Contrasting and fantastic show...

It was the Odd Couple of the concert season at Riverbend Sunday night. Lyle Lovett opened for Sting in two and a half hours of intelligent, infectious music that had the crowd of 10,984 both thinking and rocking.

Mr. Lovett's hour-long set relied on tight ensemble playing from a well- rehearsed, well-dressed band and Mr. Lovett's hook-laden but erudite lyrics. No lights or flashy visuals here; just a set of country, Western swing and pop tunes ranging from the wistful 'Road to Ensenada' to the ironic humor of 'You're Not From Texas' and 'Don't Touch My Hat'.

Mr. Lovett's set focused on love lost (L.A. County), love found (One I've Known) and love missed (Nobody Knows Me). The music was enhanced by an exceptional band. Andrea Zahn was a great fiddler. Buck Reed and pianist Mark T. Jordan added taut licks. Cellist John Higgin took off in a screeching, soaring solo in 'When It Happens to You' that was worthy of contemporary classical music.

And before it all was the impassive face - with an occasional ironic smile - of the tall Texan singing country music that didn't try to sound like country.

Sting brought on a five-piece band to play a set that included music from his entire career. The lights and volume went up as the British singer - sporting a goatee and playing a mean bass - led his group through music from the Police to selections from his latest solo album 'Mercury Falling'.

This set had a lot more energy, with Sting and guitarist Dominic Miller playing much more to the audience, and a dancing, wandering horn section bringing fans to their feet again and again. After a duet with Mr. Lovett, the band kicked into a four-song medley of Police material including screaming renditions of 'Roxanne', 'Synchronicity II' and a favorite Police tune, 'Demolition Man'.

'An Englishman in New York' wandered delightfully afield, with a brief bebop break sliding into a short rap for saxophonist Butch Thomas. Sting's singing style ran the gamut from straight-ahead to a twist of Celtic. It's too bad the set couldn't have featured more of keyboardist Kenny Kirkland. His Latin-tinged solo in 'When the World Is Runnin' Down' had the audience roaring for more. But it was a contrasting and fantastic show from two of pop music's most gifted artists.

(c) The Cincinnati Enquirer by Michael Oxley