Summoner's Tales
Las Vegas, USSam Boyd Silver Bowl

Where better than Vegas to roll the dice with this seemingly odd combination of acts?

The risk was clear for Sting, who at this stage in his career hardly needs to take an opening-act slot, especially in front of a crowd that can be so tough. The Deadheads are a love bunch, to be sure, but they're also very parochial and selective about who gets admitted into the extended family.But the payoff proved big for all involved.

The psychedelic welcome Sting banner draped over the railings in the stands of this 40,000-seat football stadium stated upfront that there was a friend-of the-Dead-is-a-friend-of-ours attitude prevailing among Jerry's Kids toward the blond English pop star this weekend. Sting responded in kind with a loose and sometimes frisky set, light-years away from the Important Artist at Work tone of his past.

Perhaps he was a little too conscious of the crowd; his set mostly made up of old Police hits, with only three songs from his recent album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. But Sting seemed to make a quick study of how the Deadheads who like their music to ebb and flow. Halfway through the set he had it down, turning 'King Of Pain' into a monster rave-up and setting keyboardist David Sancious loose for an extended, jazzy piano solo on 'When the World Is Running Down' - drawing the biggest response from the crowd - before closing with 'Every Breath You Take', its moodiness in sharp contrast to Sting's very visible ebullience.

(c) Rolling Stone by Steve Hochman