Sacred Love

Paris, FR
Olympiawith Nelly McKay
Antiseptic melodies from rock star...

It's been a long time since Sting surprised us. No longer very bohemian and more notable for middle-class rock, the former leader of The Police polishes his records and tours his antiseptic melodies, rhythms and emotions with professionalism. The 'Sacred Love' Tour, that sold out the Olympia from May 25-30, does not break this rule. These concerts are part of the promotion of a weak record, 'Sacred Love', written in the wake of September 11th, and an autobiography, 'Broken Music' (Ed. Robert Laffont, 300 pages, 20 euros), in which the singer-bassist tells the intriguing story of a Newcastle working man's son who reached the top of show-business.

Unquestionably, this man in his fifties has style. A suave good-looking man with wearing his hair longer, he has kept intact the powerful charm of his voice. Heir to a line of powerful singers from the Northern England - Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood - with a dark and veiled voice, Sting opted like them to exchange the ardour of youth for the comfort of international maturity. His band for this tour produce tints of jazz, funk, folk and ''world music'' with the clinical efficiency of studio musicians.

The efficacy of the old hits - 'Fragile', 'Englishman in New York', 'Fields of Gold' - still works and contrast with the heaviness of the last album. The Police catalogue still provides enough to animate the crowd: both an amusing jazzy version of 'Walking on the Moon' and an orthodox version of 'Roxanne' - ''Le mont Blanc de ma carrière'' (in French during the show). The backdrops which featuring spectacular videos will certainly make some pretty footage for the next live DVD.

The only true surprise of this Sting concert was its opening act. The crowd was slowly taking its seats when she appeared, alone in front of a straight piano, a blonde kid harking back from the pre-rock years of Broadway. With her retro looks of Doris Day or Peggy Lee, one thinks that Nelly McKay, only 20 years old, is going to be sold to us as a blond Norah Jones. But, after a few chords, one can tell that she is of another calibre. A student of a jazz school, this New York girl with the face of a young starlet draws briskly in the Tin Pan Alley standards, but, trained as well in the gay bars of Manhattan, she enhances this classicism with vivacity and irreverancy.

Driven by a satirical liveliness and multiple political references, songs like 'The Dog Song', 'I Wanna Get Married' or the irresistible rap corrosion of 'Sari' (taken from her first album, 'Get Away From Me'), combine the universes of Cole Porter and Michael Moore with Mirna Loy's exhuberance and Eminem's sharpness in a surprising way.

(c) Le Monde very kindly translated by Martin Vauchel