Soul Cages
Calgary, CASaddledome
With Crash Test Dummies, Vinx

Sting goes for the gusto...

You have to hand it to Sting.

He's a wry master of the bread 'n' circuses world of popular music.

Just when you thought he'd show up causes in hand and performing those soft 'n' sensitive tunes from his solo soapbox until sleepiness set in, Sting showed up instead with a three-piece backup band at the Saddledome Thursday night that took even the most navel-gazing song and gave it amazing creative muscle.

It was just drums, electric guitar, keyboards and the ex-Police man on bass, and yet the music possessed an energy, an enthusiasm, and excitement that Sting hasn't shown on stage since the days when when he was keeping company with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers atop the pop world.

Providing punch'n'passion to Sting's songs, guitarist Domenic Miller and keyboardist David Sancious would trade wicked solos, Miller in a rock vein and Sancious in a fiery jazz vein. And it worked. Brilliantly so.

This wasn't Sting a la David Bowie's Tin Machine either, bashing you over the head to create artificial excitement. This was an intelligent and innovative reworking of his material that made it come all the more alive.

Meanwhile, Sting seemed to delight in cleverly restructuring his own tunes as well as inserting some oldies, such as a bit of 'If I Were A Carpenter' during 'Why Should I Cry For You'.

Needless to say, old Police tunes like 'Roxanne' drew the loudest cheers but Sting proved that he's far from being a relic or turning into some armchair preacher. He was very much alive and kicking Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Calgary's adopted band, the Crash Test Dummies, received a standing ovation from a partisan crowd for their plodding but friendly pop-rock, including the all-too popular 'Superman's Song'. And Vinx, a Sting discovery, put on a lively short set singing to his own percussive accompaniment, a kind of Bobby McFerrin with a beat.

(c) The Calgary Herald by James Muretich