Summoner's Tales
Tampa, USSun Dome

Ex-Police chief Stings USF crowd...

Just when boring by-the-number bands are threatening to make arena rock concerts forever unsatisfying, along comes Sting.

The former Police chief is fighting the mediocrity endemic to such shows with the help of durable material, a willingness to experiment and sheer A- caliber musicianship.

Sting, on Sunday night at the University of South Florida Sun Dome, led an eclectic quartet on a journey from the reggae-tinged new wave of the Police to the lush pop of his solo albums.

Last year's 'Ten Summoner's Tales', of course, was the disc ju dour, as all but one of the album's 11 tracks were offered to the more than 8,000 listeners.

Big anthem 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', first up, was given straightforward treatment, its low-key verses setting up a grand, hummable chorus.

'Heavy Cloud No Rain', though, cued the evening's musical strategy, as keyboardist David Sancious led bassist Sting, guitarist Dominic Miller and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta beyond the boundaries of the tune.

Sancious, switching his sound from electric piano to Hammond organ to synthesizer, helped give the Sun Dome a nightclub effect.

He jammed like Herbie Hancock on the half-country, half-jazz 'Love is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven)' and pushed the quartet into a double-time feel on the ballad 'Seven Days'.

The band's musical muscle proved valuable, too, on such Police segments as the medley that tied 'Synchronicity II' to 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Roxanne'.

On a later passage that allied 'King of Pain' with 'Demolition Man' and 'When the World is Running Down', the jazz gave way to Miller's metallic guitar slashes and, finally, a walloping funk groove.

Sting will have a tough time assem- bling another band as muscular, inventive and spontaneous as Sancious, Colaiuta and Miller. Let's hope he keeps them around.

Melissa Etheridge opened the show with a 40-minute set of no-frills rock mostly drawn from her new 'Yes I Am' album.

Her uncluttered arrangements matched unadorned vocals and earnest lyrics on songs such as 'Come To My Window', 'I'm the Only One' and several old favorites.

The highlight was a stark tune for which Etheridge bid adieu to her three-piece band, accompanying herself only with percussive sounds made on the back of her 12-string guitar.

(c) The Tampa Tribune by Philip Booth

Sting runs his gamut in style...

Writing good songs is one thing. Actually doing something with them in concert - as Sting and his band did Sunday at the USF Sun Dome - is another.

Plenty of artists are content to perform icily professional versions of their best known material. Sting's 90-minute, double-encore set included stuff from as far back as his early days with the Police, all the way up to the recent 'Ten Summoner's Tales', which spawned a handful of Grammy nominations.

He didn't sleepwalk through his catalog at all; in fact, Sting and his band spiced things up more than a bit.

Sting opened the night with 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Heavy Cloud, No Rain' and 'Love is Stronger than Justice'. After a version of 'Fields of Gold', he doubled back to 1984 with 'Synchronicity II', and followed that with 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'.

But while raiding the Sting songbook, the 41-year old Brit and his stellar four piece band (guitarist Dominic Miller, drummer Vinny Coliuta and keyboardist David Sancious), took time out to embellish the original tunes. Which was good, since songs like 'Roxanne' are too familiar to play straight.

Sting's preference for accomplished players (like Branford Marsalis) is well-known. Take Sancious, for example. The lead soloist Sunday, Sancious is a fusion veteran, gaining note as a leader and as a sideman with people like Bruce Springsteen.

The show didn't lack for extended interplay, as on a stretched out version of 'When the World is Running Down'. 'Roxanne' got a Jimmy Smith-like organ treatment, and Miller carried 'King of Pain', which detoured into 'Demolition Man' halfway through. 'She's Too Good For Me', 'Nothing 'Bout Me' and 'Every Breath You Take' filled out the first encore.

Melissa Etheridge's set, by contrast, was straight ahead, flannel-and-jeans country-tinged rock. Her songs are as much suited to her raspy belting as Sting's jazz-inflected tunes complement his airy vocal style. Her set featured songs from her recent 'Yes I Am', which included versions of 'Come By My Window' and 'I'm The Only One'.

(c) The St. Petersburg Times by Tony Green