Soul Cages
London, GBHammersmith Odeon
With Kennedy Rose, Vinx

Sting at Hammersmith...

It seems unlikely that Sting has been paying attention to his critics, but with his new stripped-down band and a show sprinkled with The Police's greatest hits, he has gone some way to making himself more sceptic-friendly. Not a mention of General Pinochet, and no Amazon tribesmen with plates in their lips.

He also has a knack for picking musicians. In his current trio, guitarist Dominic Miller and E-Street Band keyboards veteran David Sancious slot in neatly around Vinnie Coliuta's immense percussion, with the leader on bass. Miller's pinging, resonant lines sometimes recall John Scofield, while the nimble-fingered Sancious mostly avoids fusion-overload.

This lot allow Sting to travel light across potentially quagmire-ish material. 'Jeremiah Blues' and 'I'm Mad About You' slipped past agreeably, and the combo waxed reflective in 'Why Should I Cry For You', Sting's psyche-baring about his dead father notwithstanding.

One advantage of live performances is that you can't hear the words too clearly. Sting is probably aware of the chief problem of revisiting The Police material. It's much better than his later stuff, basically, featuring unforgettable hooks and crafty manipulation of simple ingredients.

Frugging in the aisles broke out during 'Roxanne' (Sting sang it as though he'd been listening to Eddie Murphy's version in 48 Hours), and later, 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Every Breath You Take' woke the punters from a mild stupor caused by that thing about Billy and the shipyards, and the terminally soporific 'Soul Cages'.

Still, Sting nearly stole all his own thunder with a totally unexpected roar through 'Purple Haze', with Sancious grabbing a guitar to stoke up extra heat under the jagged riff. Perhaps even Sting is beginning to find his music too mushy and New Aged.

(c) The Guardian by Adam Sweeting