Summoner's Tales
Los Angeles, USGreek Theater

The new, looser, less serious Sting...

Toward the end of this first of a four-night stand, Sting sang, ''But you still know nothin' about me.'' Not quite. We do know he seemed to really enjoy himself, charging about the stage playing bass with his vigorous, adept band, singing favorites and new numbers.

This is the new, looser, less serious Sting, they say. And while he's hardly a loquacious laugh riot, he was looser, joking about the monster bugs attacking the stage on this warm night and introducing his song written for 'Lethal Weapon 3' with ''they wanted me to write something Mel Gibson could sing to Danny Glover - or Danny Glover could sing to Mel Gibson, so the first thing I thought of was 'My Lethal Weapon Is Bigger Than Yours.' ''

Instead of the dark descent into self-examination of his last tour's 'Soul Cages', this was relatively lighter fare, though thoroughly musical, new songs from his latest A & M album, 'Ten Summoners' Tales', generally framing a handful of older numbers.

He opened with the top 10 hit 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', originally a love song, though it could've been taken as an invocation to fans as well. A magnificent seven-family story, 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice', shifted from funked-up Sergio Leone spaghetti western verses to the western beat of the chorus.

Sting's stock-in-trade has become jazzy time signatures and unusual pop melodies with a twist or two, as in 'Seven Days' or 'St. Augustine in Hell'. And while keyboardist David Sancious, guitarist Domenic Miller and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta delivered in full, most effective among these new songs were ballads like 'Shape of My Heart', the story of a gambler afraid to bet on love, and the wistful 'Fields of Gold', perhaps the prettiest song he's written.

Still, it was a barrage of Police oldies that fully stirred the audience -- 'Synchronicity', then 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', followed by 'Roxanne', for which he put on the red light and brought the full house to its feet.

All the complex polyrhythms and clever wordplay couldn't match the direct-cooking groove of 'When the World Is Running Down', featuring a dazzling piano solo of wild abandon from Sancious, or the intensity of 'King of Pain', with a near-metallic guitar wail by Miller.

Ironically, supporting act Dada is signed to the Police's original home label, IRS, and is also a trio, with a Police-like sound, though harder-core and more rocking. Though probably still best at the club level, its set had some punch, especially the catchy 'All My Life' and the local-hit novelty of sorts '(I'm Going to) Diz-knee-land.'

(c) The Hollywood Reporter by Darryl Morden

Sting: hot 'Summoner' night...

The popular line on Sting's 'Ten Summoner's Tales' album and tour has been that they offer Der Stingle in a carefree mode, sans the surplus of seriousness that was the hallmark of his more somber 'Soul Cages' outings last time around. From King of Pain to monarch of merriment in virtually one fell swoop, as it were.

To a large extent, this generalization held true Saturday, the opening night of Sting's four-show stand at the Greek Theatre. His two-hour set included not a single tune from the soul-searching 'Soul Cages' cycle of just two short years ago to bring down the mood. What it did spotlight were 10 of the 11 songs from the friskier new album (the lone absentee being the record's one really depressing number), plus half-a-dozen faithfully rendered Police oldies included for no other reason than to make a full house giddy beyond all nostalgic hopes.

All good will, dirty jokes and leaps in the air aside, though, this anything-but-casual king bee of pop fusion is not the sort of fellow to be on a lark in any endeavor undertaken. And Saturday's show proved again that Sting is nothing if not gravely sober in the pursuit of world-class musical standards.

This tour, then, is emotionally far less revealing or rewarding than the last - the new album's anti-autobiographical catch phrase, ''You'll still know nothing 'bout me,'' being an apt motto - but musically it's a lot hotter, even though Sting is using the same three-piece backup band as on the 'Soul Cages' tour.

This time, he seems more willing to give them space to cut loose, perhaps being not quite so protective of this less personal new material. Guitarist Dominic Miller in particular, the youngest player and one who didn't evidence much personality on the last tour, gets more breathing room here.

By far the most valuable player, though, is still keyboardist David Sancious, who may have left at least as endearing an impression with the crowd as the frontman. The former E Street Band member, who recorded some appealing instrumental albums on his own in the late '70s, has a feel for fusion that's unpretentious and direct, bringing the dizzier heights of jazz piano to pop.

The interplay between Sancious, bassist Sting and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta as a power trio in the breakneck 'Bring On the Night/When the World Is Running Down' gave probable cause for the night's loudest ovation.

This is a band that can handle Sting's fondness for potentially off-putting shifts between 7/8 and 4/4 time signatures - as in 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice', a musically amusing new song that's half herky-jerky prog-rock verse, half basic country chorus - and do it with enough swing to keep non-jazzbos effectively unaware of anything tricky that might be hampering their toe-tapping.

Unfortunately or not, depending on your viewpoint, Sting isn't feeling too adventurous in regard to his older material. Whereas his first couple of tours featured jazzy reinventions of some of his Police reports, this band plowed through the standards with crowd-delighting faithfulness, with only minor brush strokes - like a few Steve Winwood-style organ licks from Sancious in 'Roxanne', or the hard rock climax of 'King of Pain' - added to the recognized canvas.

The one tune rearranged to any notable degree was the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life' - covered very early in the set for no apparent purpose, but drained of its drama and remade as kind of a nifty pop song that happens to have a couple of big crescendos, which in its gall may have been purpose enough. Like the rest of the show, this choice didn't tell anyone much more about Sting, but spoke plenty about his gift for merging hard craft with magic.

The L.A. group dada opened with a well-realized set of ''alternative'' rock at its most commercial, highlighted by a post-modern rendition of 'Sweet Caroline' in tribute to Neil Diamond's 'Love at the Greek' album. The bill continues at the Greek on Tuesday and Wednesday.

(c) The Los Angeles Times by Chris Hillman