Sacred Love
London, GBRoyal Albert Hall
With Joss Stone

Not pretentious, just serious...

There is a school of thought that suggests we shouldn't be so beastly to Sting CBE. He does have a sense of humour after all. He wrote a jolly good autobiography, 'Broken Music'. And he isn't really pretentious, just serious.

All of which may be true, but it still means that Sting's live performances are skilful, tasteful, carefully varied and a trifle dull. The audience was lucky to see him at all, since he'd had to cancel a string of dates thanks to a persistent throat infection, and he kept squirting anaesthetic spray into his mouth.

Much of the show comprised songs from the recent album 'Sacred Love' that mix observations about war and geopolitics with various takes on love and spirituality. He opened with the brisk and danceable 'Send Your Love', a kind of mystical overview of the past, present and future of the universe (Sting never being one to shirk a challenge), then rattled through 'Inside', 'Forget About the Future' and 'Dead Man's Rope'. Since his band contains Dominic Miller on guitar and Jason Rebello on keyboards, the level of expertise is unnervingly high, textures ebbing and flowing effortlessly between bumping R&B, episodes of sleek semi-acoustic introspection and Sting's version of rock, which is more like jazz with the volume turned up a bit.

He must get sick of people saying they still like the old hits best, but despite the funk-ish groove of 'Sacred Love' (complete with screen projections of a girl dancing in her underwear) and the vigorous anti-militarist tirade of 'This War', the newer stuff comes out of a different drawer than the likes of 'Roxanne' or 'Walking On the Moon'. In fact, the cunning yet rampantly commercial construction of the latter will probably prove a more durable advertisement for Sting's pop craftsmanship than any number of experiments with jazz, world music and mystic trance.

(c) The Guardian by Adam Sweeting