Soul Cages
Chicago, USArie Crown Theater
With Kennedy Rose, Vinx

Sting mixes self-analysis, good nature in tuneful show...

Throughout his solo career, Sting has been accused of wallowing in his own sorrow and apparently enjoying it. But Tuesday night at the Arie Crown Theatre, the former lead singer for the Police showed why nobody is better at expressing inner pain as an art form.

In the first of two concerts, the enigmatic musician led his three-man band through a set that started with songs from his current album, 'The Soul Cages', backtracked to the Police's first hit single, 'Roxanne', and crescendoed with a cover of 'Purple Haze' that would have made Jimi Hendrix proud.

Sting gently eased into the show, performing his new single, 'All This Time'. The song is trademark Sting: reedy vocals, melodic bass and gently understated guitars. So when he followed that with the purposefully off-key 'Mad About You', the audience knew the concert would show all sides of the complicated singer.

He was backed by musicians who earned their turns in the spotlight. Keyboardist David Sancious' adroit touch was invaluable, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta's steady style meshed well with Sting's relentless bass. But perhaps the brightest musician was guitarist Dominic Miller, who unobtrusively got in guitar-hero licks without resorting to hackneyed playing or posturing.

Halfway through the show, Sting dug into an introspective five-song set that included 'Island of Souls' and the ethereally dirgelike 'When the Angels Fall'. He quickly followed up with 'Purple Haze' and 'Message in a Bottle' from his beat with the Police.

He's been accused of exploiting his own emotions for the sake of selling his art, but that's really not fair. For Sting, self-examination is a part of his life. A product of Jungian analysis, Sting adheres to the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung's advice that men accept the feminine characteristics within themselves. Sting shows that in his music, letting his emotions drive his syncopated musical style. When he sang, 'Why Should I Cry for You', his whispered delivery made it clear it was a rhetorical question that didn't need an answer.

For all the perceived self-importance surrounding Sting, he is a good-natured performer. He doesn't seem to have forgotten that one of his earliest jobs with the Police required the musicians to dye their hair blond for a gum commercial. That look became their trademark.

Sting proved a gracious host as well as headliner. Fans who arrived in time to see the opening acts were treated to Sting's introductions of the two bands, who are signed to his own label, Pangaea.

Until last year, Mary Ann Kennedy and Pam Rose - the duo known as Kennedy Rose - were better known as songwriters than as recording artists. They penned the Grammy nominated 'Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands' for Lee Greenwood and 'I'll Still Be Loving You' for Restless Heart.

Performing songs from their debut album 'Hai Ku', the women exhibited both stunning vocal ranges and harmony. The resonance of their acoustic guitars perfectly complemented their voices, particularly Rose's crystalline vocals on 'Born to Give My Love'. And if the new song they debuted, 'Iron Horse', is indicative of the material they have in store for their next album, they'll make Sting an even richer man.

Vinx was just as captivating with his 15-minute set. Standing onstage with just his baby-dreadlocks and drums, he charmed the audience with his slightly blue humor and his deep, soulful voice.

On one track, he sang, ''Tell my feet I made it home,'' which was appropriate, coming from a former international triple jump champ. He was on the 1980 Olympic team and now is ready to climb up the rock charts.

(c) The Chicago Sun-Times by Jae-Ha Kim