Summoner's Tales
Detroit, USPine Knob Music Theater

Classic rocker Sting enchants even unlikely fans...

I have been stung, and it felt great.

I, who normally bask in Brahms and revel in Ravel and wallow in Wagner, savored rock star Sting at Pine Knob Saturday night.

Surrounded by what seemed like half the known world, I sat on one of Pine Knob pavilion's padded seats about nine rows from the stage and watched this gifted 41-year-old British rocker captivate the crowd for nearly two hours straight.

I also stood up with that mammoth crowd at what were apparently the proper times. And while I didn't flick a cigarette lighter or join in the words to the songs Sting sang, I did find myself spontaneously swaying to the rhythms (a little) and clapping my hands (a lot). I sway and clap for Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director Neeme Jarvi, too, so it was satisfying to know that some of my happiness in seeing Sting perform live for the first time was similar to the happiness I feel while watching Jarvi conduct the classics.

Both Sting and Jarvi are perfect examples of what musicians mean when they say great performers ''play.'' They clearly love the sheer act of making music. Both display unusually upbeat personalities, with faces always on the point of breaking into grins. Both know how to work crowds to their own advantage without seeming the least bit manipulative. So I wasn't surprised that Sting in person impressed me in some of the same ways Jarvi does.

What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the volume. Not that I was constantly enthralled. The opening act for Sting was a California-based group called dada. For nearly an hour they produced relentless fortissimos even Mahler never dreamed of. I really didn't know sound could be that loud, but I do know that my advice to anyone attending a rock concert dada opens could be summed up in two words: Come late.

But as soon as Sting strode onstage in his virginal white shirt and somber black slacks, the caliber of the sound volume (to say nothing of the caliber of the music) soared. As Sting began to perform, the sound was still loud enough to cause my abdominal tissue to vibrate like a drum. But the harsh edge that had infected dada's sound (perhaps a cover-up for meagre music?) was nowhere to be found. Sting's sound was powerful instead of overpowering, and it enhanced his music's impact instead of impeding it.

The result was quite different from experiencing him on CD or video, but equally intriguing. His program was varied. There were songs from the 'Ten Summoner's Tales' CD, including 'It's Probably Me', my favourite.

There were songs from his days with Police, which the crowd lapped up the way people tend to do with familiar material. There was even a modified version of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'. The rest of the musicians (Dominic Miller on guitars, Vinnie Colaiuta on percussion and David Sancious on keyboard) were as vital to Sting's success as the DSO is to Jarvi's.

Sting seemed fully aware of their contributions: At one point, following a dazzling improvisational sequence by Sancious, Sting walked over to him and genuflected.

(c) The Detroit Free Press by John Guinn