Soul Cages
New York City, USBeacon Theatre
With Kennedy Rose, Vinx

Sting emits a relaxed buzz...

On the night the Grammies were dished out in Manhattan's Radio City, Sting was to be found just the other side of Central Park playing the last of a six-night residency at the 2,100-capacity Beacon Theatre, an early skirmish in a global campaign that is due to reach Britain in April.

The good news is that he has gathered an altogether leaner, tougher and more aggressively-minded group around him than the lavish, quasi-jazz showband that he carted around for the 13-month 'Nothing Like The Sun' tour of 1987-88.

But even this welcome change of emphasis was not enough to breathe life into some of the duller material which mars his disappointing new album 'The Soul Cages'.

The band could be characterised as Police Mk II plus keyboards. Argentinian guitarist Dominic Miller (ex-Pretenders) revealed himself as a player of muscular finesse, while drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (ex-Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell) caned a tight, dry snare and a variety of little splash cymbals in a style that was delightfully redolent of the great Stewart Copeland. Keyboard virtuoso David Sancious (ex-Bruce Springsteen) fleshed out the sound with a majestic tone, and Sting, back playing the bass at last, lent a punchy edge to the ensemble with his economic staccato phrases.

The show was notable for its surprising choices of material. A fairly faithful recreation of Hendrix's 'Purple Haze' and a cool, jazzed-up version of Bill Withers's 'Ain't No Sunshine' juiced-up proceedings, but best of all was the way they tackled several chunks of the Police legacy.

'Roxanne', 'Bring on the Night', 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Every Breath You Take' were all rejigged, and belted out with energetic bravado. Sting, dressed in figure-hugging black from top to toe, and in an evidently relaxed mood throughout, was in fine voice and seemed positively to be enjoying himself.

Perhaps the weight of the world is beginning to shift from those slender shoulders at last.

(c) The Times by David Sinclair