Summoner's Tales
Chicago, USSoldier Field

Little magic, Sting in show's opening act...

Early in his set opening for the Grateful Dead at Soldier Field Friday, Sting joked that he'd be playing a little ''lounge music'' for the crowd's entertainment.

In fact, that was a fairly accurate description of the laidback, jazzy pop he currently produces with his spare quartet of polished session pros. It was a pleasant diversion while 55,000 people took their seats, but it was hard not to think of his former group, which once electrified audiences the same size.

From a rock fan's perspective, Sting has been boring and pretentious ever since he went solo. The set included the expected tunes from the singer's latest album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', opening with the single, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'.

But it was tailored to emphasize the familiar, including mellow versions of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Roxanne' and 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' by the Police and an accomplished but sluggish cover of 'A Day in the Life' by the Beatles.

The few Deadheads who caught the performance responded best to these FM-radio staples, although some did the familiar free-form Dead dance through the extended jams that ended some of the newer songs. Sting said few words, and there was little of the pretension that mars his soggy concept albums. But neither was there any of the magic of the Police.

(c) The Chicago Sun-Times by Robert A. Davis