Soul Cages

Dallas, TX, US
Reunion Arenawith Concrete Blonde, Vinx
With Sting, a good time is had by all...

That wily Stingmeister - he sure knows how to throw a greatest hits singalong.

While Sting's two-hour show last night before a nearly sold-out Reunion Arena was perhaps less impressive musically than previous Sting and Police concerts, give the man credit. He's got a lot of great songs under his belt, and he played most of them.

The women went crazy. Everyone sang and went home happy.

After all, few things are as much fun as singing along with several thousand people on 'Roxanne', 'Every Breath You Take' and a large handful of others.

Sting has pared his backup band to three: guitarist Dominic Miller, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and former Bruce Springsteen keyboardist David Sancious. They're a decent band, nothing more. They neither rock as hard as the Police nor provide the polyrhythmic jazz/ funk of previous sidemen such as Branford Marsalis and Kenny Kirkland.

The opener, Los Angeles' Concrete Blonde, delivered a strong eight-song set that drew mainly from its latest and best CD, Bloodletting. Bassist/ vocalist Johnette Napolitano and guitarist Jim Mankey have a real find in ex-Roxy Music drummer Paul Thompson, and together the three delivered meaty, steady rock crossed with grungy guitar and a dark strain of urban brooding.

Highlights included their best-known song, 'Joey', and 'Tomorrow', 'Wendy' and Leonard Cohen's 'Everybody Knows'.

(c) Fort Worth Star-Telegram by Dave Ferman

Sting matches show to setting...

Given the tenor of his latest album, The Soul Cages, Sting's appearance at Reunion Arena Tuesday night offered an interesting opportunity to see just how serious the man is about all this soulful introspection.

Answer: He's serious - but he's not stupid about it.

In a brisk (though largely predictable) 90 minutes, the ex-Policeman covered all his bases, offering a little something for everyone while striving (a bit too hard at times) to leave no one out. It would be a disservice, certainly, to say he was simply going through the motions, but this clearly was a veteran showman familiar with the downside of arena rock, where more than a few alleged 'fans' seem to have just enough attention span to get through an MTV videoclip.

Mindful of this, no doubt, Sting played it straight and safe for a predominantly female gathering ranging from teens to fortysomething types. The minimalist approach even was reflected in his relatively austere four-piece band, though the group had no trouble delivering a rich, full sound.

Still, the delicate new material from 'The Soul Cages', - a work inspired by the death of his father - was tricky business, but Sting managed to present it in a manner that kept the less-attentive in the near-sellout crowd from getting completely lost.

He skilfully blended in some of the old hits from The Police days, plus the more familiar material from his first solo album, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'. As such, the pace was lively, and the new songs held up well.

He opened with 'Jeremiah Blues (Part I)' from 'The Soul Cages', and followed with the uptempo 'All This Time'. Early in his set, he offered a surprising rendition of Bill Wither's 'Ain't No Sunshine'.

But that was about as experimental as Sting was willing to get. Just as quickly, he dipped back into older material, pulling 'Roxanne' from the Police blotter, a change of pace that brought the crowd to its feet for the first time (and probably reaffirmed his own ideas of how to keep people happy).

One misfire was a forgettable cover of 'Purple Haze', which was ill-placed and wasteful considering the relative brevity of the show. That song was a segue into the stretch run, which carried through the once-ubiquitous 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message in a Bottle'. One of the show's few surprises was the choice of encore - the plaintive 'Fragile', from 'Nothing Like the Sun', which acknowledged his quieter, more jazz-influenced second album for the only time of the evening.

It proved a captivating moment, but the promise was lost when Sting deemed this a good time to call it a night. All in all, this was a mixed bag. While it was hardly a show that would leave many fans unsatisfied, a genuine admirer might have wished for a more intimate setting for one of rock's more ambitious lyricists.

An arena, obviously, is not the ideal spot to perform the sort of introspective songs that make up much of 'The Soul Cages', a reality that Sting handled as best he could. Given the limitations, it wasn't a bad show. Nor was it quite what it might have been.

(c) The Dallas Morning News by Bill Sullivan