Summoner's Tales
New Orleans, USLakefront Arena

Concert another victory for Sting...

Sting is one funky, gifted Englishman. And at the relatively advanced age of 41, he's a sex symbol, too.

If Sting were the type to gloat, he'd have plenty to gloat about. His stellar new album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', finds the former Police man in prime creative form. A good bet at next year's Grammy Awards, 'Tales' may bring Sting an Eric Clapton-style sweep.

In addition to having a great album on the charts, Sting has a killer concert on the road. His powerful, no-nonsense show - which played to a nearly sold-out house of 7,000 at the UNO Lakefront Arena Tuesday night - offers a heavy dose of songs from 'Tales' as well as earlier solo material and several Police numbers.

In a case of less is more, Sting is performing with the same stripped-down lineup that accompanied him during his 'Soul Cages' tour and helped him make 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. The bass-playing Sting, guitarist Dominic Miller, keyboard player David Sancious and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta form the sharpest of bands. It's a partnership that leaves elbow room for jazzy solos from Sancious and polished Spanish guitar from Miller.

The lean strength of Sting's ensemble was echoed in his elegantly simple set and sparingly used but effective lighting (both designed by Nick Sholem).

Unlike so many arena and stadium-status artists, the creatively vital Sting needn't rely on his old hits. He had the relative luxury of opening Tuesday's show with his latest hit, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'. Like the balance of 'Ten Summoner's Tales', 'Faith' is stylish pop, accessible yet sophisticated. Following 'Faith', Sting confidently unleashed more new songs. Although he got around to older stuff, too, he'd played most of the songs from 'Tales' before the evening's end.

Sting's writing and arranging skills are in magnificent full bloom. The swampy funk of 'Heavy Cloud No Rain' was most appropriate for Sting's Louisiana listeners and the state's famous humidity. 'Love is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)' mixes a drastically changing meter, country and western shuffle with more of Sting's steely English funk. The song, including its jazz improvisation from Sancious, not only worked, it soared.

Despite his penchant for new songs, Sting offered fierce renditions of Police tunes 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Roxanne'. Without condescension or regret, he relived other past glories throughout the show, including the Police blockbuster 'King of Pain' and his classy solo tune, 'An Englishman in New York'.

Three songs into his set, a teasing Sting took time to say hello. ''It's always nice to come back to New Orleans,'' he said. ''I like it when your shirt sticks to your body - it's kind of sexy.''

The singer, incidentally, was wearing the flared-sleeved, Byronic white shirt he donned for a recent ''Tonight Show'' appearance. The broadcast, viewers surely will recall, included actress Marilu Henner's unbridled fawning over the embarrassed Englishmen. To the added delight of his female fans at the Lakefront Arena, Sting went topless during his encores.

Dada, a promising trio from Los Angeles, opened the show. When dada isn't sounding like a stereotypical college rock band or its guitarist like a Guitar Institute graduate, dada is well above average.

(c) The Advocate by John Wirt

Sting scores a hit at the arena...

A Renaissance man who connects the past to the present, pop fluff to high art, Sting is the kind of performer who can invoke St. Augustine and the Beatles and make them seem like natural allies. He is smart, skilled and confident. But at the Lakefront Arena Tuesday night, the British pop auteur avoided the showman's excess that made him such a charismatic frontman for the Police in the '80s. And although he sang 'King of Pain', he doesn't even play that role any more - having exchanged the mournful black costume of his previous tour for the billowing white sleeves of an Arthurian squire.

Leading an expert quartet that was understated but forceful when necessary, Sting served a healthy dollop of the thoughtful material from his latest album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. Pianist David Sancious helped the songs become a kind of Monk-meets-the-Police poprockjazz amalgam. He gave a nod to pop mastery by doing the Beatles' 'A Day In the Life'. And as he has in the past, Sting roused the crowd with a string of Police hits. Thus satisfied, the audience happily indulged Sting's additional forays into more esoteric material.

Sidestepping the environmental agenda he followed in the mid-'80s, Sting emphasised his earnestness and search for a private truth. ''He doesn't play for the money he wins, he doesn't play for respect,'' he sang. ''He deals the cards to find the answer.''

(c) The Times-Picayune by Scott Aiges