Soul Cages
Kansas City, USMunicipal Auditorium
With Concrete Blonde, Vinx

Sting sings praises of Vinx...

Sting, a celebrity of many causes, mentioned just one during a relatively straightforward concert that included several well-executed Police oldies that did the trick for 7,378 fans Tuesday night at Municipal Auditorium.

Sting's cause wasn't the Amazon rain forest or Amnesty International, but a more personal one: former Kansas City area vocalist and percussionist Vinx, whom Sting discovered in Los Angeles and whose decent debut album he produced before inviting him along on a world tour. ''This city gave the world Charlie Parker,'' Sting gushed in introducing his special charge. ''A major, major talent tonight - Vinx!''

Although Vinx sang with spirit and energetically played two West African hand drums for 10 minutes before Sting's quartet appeared, the reference to Parker's titanic jazz talent was at best superfluous. Regardless, Vinx displayed a natural melodic quality and passion for his rhythmic music, as well as a risky sense of humour that addressed racial stereotypes.

Vinx, who is black, announced that he would perform an African Christmas carol, adding: ''And it ain't 'Jungle Bells,' either.'' Then he sang: ''I'm dreaming of a white girlfriend.'' Many in the audience laughed and seemed to take an immediate liking to this talented, relaxed performer who entertained on his own terms.

Speaking of talented and relaxed performers who entertain in their own way, Sting's more than 90-minute show leaned a little farther away from the influences of jazz and island music evident in past tours and a little closer to the accessibility of the pop singles chart. Sting, playing bass, sang most of the tunes from his largely subdued and contemplative new hit album 'The Soul Cages', including the moody Jeremiah Blues (Part 1) and 'Why Should I Cry for You'. They sounded spunkier done live, but sooner or later their reflective natures made you drift off into your own thoughts.

The driving 'All This Time' and the album's title track better maintained a head of steam. The biggest fan reaction was reserved for numbers Sting first sang with the Police, whose last live performance was in 1985.

Sting has done Police songs on previous solo tours, but usually in a low-key acoustic manner different from the original recordings. This time he and a well-traveled band of spangly guitarist Dominic Miller (Pretenders, World Party), lead-playing keyboardist David Sancious (Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel) and flexible drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell) whipped up fairly faithful rock versions of 'Roxanne', 'When the World Is Running Down', 'King of Pain', 'Walking on the Moon', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message in a Bottle'. Vinx joined the band for the last three.

The infectious 'Fortress Around Your Heart' from Sting's 1985 solo debut, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', also stood out. Unexpected treats were lively versions of Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze', and Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine', which swept the crowd into their familiar refrains.

Getting the evening off to a strong start was a powerful 40-minute set by the rock trio Concrete Blonde. Wide-open singer Johnette Napolitano was by turns theatrical, sinister, exuberant, dreamy and explosive. But, with the help of thunderously steady ex-Roxy Music drummer Paul Thompson and the serpentine guitar work of Jim Mankey, she became chillingly poignant in 'Tomorrow, Wendy'. ''It's about a woman with AIDS,'' was how Napolitano introduced the song that combined frank lyrics, shotgun bass-drum kicks and a simple, yet unforgettable chorus. The more I think about it, the more I suspect I'll never forget it.

(c) The Kansas City Star by Brian McTavish