Soul Cages
Newcastle, GBCity Hall
With Kennedy Rose, Vinx

Electrifying Sting returns to his roots...

Any trepidation the star may have had about his homecoming was quickly dispelled last night. He even triumphed by showing he's two-faced - in the nicest possible way.

Sting returned to his roots by playing at the Buddle Arts Centre in his home town of Wallsend for the first time since pre-Police days and performing acoustically.

Then he reaffirmed his prowess with an electric - and electrifying - set at the City Hall, where he also gave fans a taste of the acoustic sounds, although in this setting it was the plugged-in playing that really raised the roof.

As well as his own solo songs such as 'Mad About You' and 'Why Should I Cry For You?', he covered Bill Withers' 'Ain't No Sunshine' and Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze'.

And Sting returned to his Police beat with rousing renditions of 'Roxanne', 'Walking On The Moon', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message In A Bottle', to the joy of a packed audience who delighted in singing along.

Northumbrian Pipes virtuoso Kathryn Tickell joined Sting and his talented, compact band on stage for 'Island Of Souls', which opened last night's acoustic section that also included 'The Soul Cages' and 'Wjen The Angels Fall'.

The contrast at 24 hours earlier could hardly have been greater: the Buddle concert room is just about the size of the City Hall's stage and the atmosphere, depsite a radio broadcast and TV video-recording was more relaxed and intimate.

Even Sting's garb heightened the difference: baggy shirt and trousers on Satrurday; a return to the American SWAT-cop pants, T-shirt and boots of Police days last night.

The acoustic playing was more free-flowing and jazzier, while there was the added delight of seeing him roll back the years to the days before Gordon Sumner - nicknamed Sting by fellow members of Last Exit because of his hooped sweater - buzzed off to find fame and fortune in London.

He was joined on stage by his old pals Gerry Richardson on piano, John Hedley playing guitar and the ebulient drummer Ronnie Pearson. At one point they even shared the spotlight with his current band - two to a piano stool and two to a drum kit - for 'When The Lights Are Low'.

It also gave Sting the chance to reminisce with to an invited audience, which included several relatives, about how Last Exit had agreed to go to London. But after a couple of weeks there waiting, he discovered the others had found pressing reasons for staying on Tyneside - what might have been.

And Sting recalled how, when they were playing on an SS Oriana cruise, the purser approached to ask him to stop singing as he was upsetting the women passengers., so Ronnie had to take over. ''There's a moral there, somewhere,'' said the star.

(c) Newcastle Evening Chronicle by Peter Kinghorn

Classic performance as Sting comes home...

Sting may be the darling of CD society but it was the rocking good classics of old that really burst the bubble at Newcastle City Hall. Never mind the mellow hometown homage of 'Soul Cages', or the equally delicate 'Fragile', the majority of fans wanted to hear the hits they knew from the days of the Police.

'Roxanne', a request screamed out by almost everybody, raised the roof. And when Argentinian guitarist Dominic Miller let rip the opening bars of 'Message In A Bottle', the capacity crowd leapt to its feet to dance. Sensing the mood, Sting and his band even blasted out a wild version of Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze', much to the initial surprise of even the die-hard fans.

It was clear from the start that Sting was not going to pussyfoot around and pretend his past was dead and buried. Dressed in jack boots, tight black trousers and black T-shirt, he led his band through their paces, passing the many milestones of his career as he did so.

There were quieter moments, however. Northumbrian pipes expert Katherine Tickell took the stage and Sting's tribute to his father, 'Why Should I Cry For You?', sent shivers down the spine. Yet it was a far cry from his previous night's performance at the Buddle Arts Centre where he played to just 140 friends and relatives in his home town of Wallsend.

(c) The Northern Echo by Nigel Vincent