Sting tries out his new sound...
On the opening night of his U.S. tour in January, Sting confessed that he had come not only to entertain but perhaps to educate his audience.
So, as percussionist Minu Cinelu slapped open the beat of 'Straight to My Heart' in 7/4 time, the singer said that some considered this meter ''dance-proof'' - then coaxed his fans to their feet with this exotic beat anyway.
This was a night when Sting's every musical venture succeeded well beyond expectations. No other music lesson could be as exhilarating as the show the former Police leader gave for about 9,000 fans at the Sun Dome in Tampa.
Sting and his band played with a degree of improvisation, sophistication, swing and grace too rarely heard in an arena concert. The generous 20-song show ran nearly three hours, including an intermission. It featured primarily songs from Sting's new LP, '...Nothing Like the Sun', as well as Police hits such as 'Roxanne', in a lovely guitar and sax arrangement, and the slow-tempo version of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me'.
Going well beyond the broad-brushed canvas of basic rock, his exceptional seven-piece ensemble fashioned a colourful mosaic of rock, reggae, jazz, blues and more. Borrowing songs or riffs, the group paid tribute to predecessors including Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Lennon and McCartney and - in Branford Marsalis' quote from 'It Ain't Necessarily So' during 'Sister Moon' - even the Gershwins.
Marsalis, who along with keyboardist Kenny Kirkland form the jazz core of Sting's band, played mostly sweet soprano sax lines. He opted for loose, lyrical solos instead of the bebop fluency he has shown with brother Wynton.
The concert's thematic unity gave it even more impact. Much of the set featured the same sequence of songs as on Sting's LP. Beginning with 'The Lazarus Heart', a meditation on mother-son relationships that opened the show, to the Police hit 'Message in a Bottle', which closed it, the songs dwelt on mysteries of intimacy and communication.
And in one of the concert's most poignant moments, Sting dedicated his song 'Fragile' to Florida's Jaco Pastorius, the renowned bassist who died last year a homeless derelict. It also was a reminder that Sting's sound today builds upon the music made by Pastorius and other jazz-rock pioneers of the late '60s and early '70s.
The question that lingered over Sting's career recently was would the tour collapse under the weight of his artistic ambitions - would his new sound translate to a pop concert setting?
His debut removed all doubt.
(c) The Orlando Sentinel by Thom Duffy
Sting's sophisticated sound pleases Sun Dome crowd...
It was heartening to realize that the heady, sophisticated music Sting and his band played at the Sun Dome Wednesday night could still make a hit with an arena-sized audience in 1988.
The ex-Policeman and his seven-piece group put on a two-hour-plus show, split by a 20-minute intermission, that featured the kind of superb musicianship not often found within a pop context. The 8,300 fans on hand were aware that it was in their best interest to listen instead of scream and shout.
That's not to say that people sat on their hands. To the contrary, there was plenty of audience enthusiasm when the situation called for it. In fact, Sting's mere presence elicited gleeful cheers: He walked on stage with a regal stroll, his shoulders squared and head cocked back. With his hair shoulder-length and fly-away, and dressed in a cream-colored jacket and black baggy slacks, Sting adeptly combined the charismatic swagger of a rock star with the heightened musical sensibility that his backing ensemble represents with such aplomb. He danced around a bit and struck a few poses, but clearly the music was the first priority.
The band was tremendous. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis snaked parts around and through the tunes - his soprano meshed beautifully with Sting's voice. Keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, one of the best jazz piano players on the planet, played a number of sizzling solos. His best moment came just before the intermission when he cut loose on a ripping improvisation to the Police song 'When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around'.
The rhythm section played with telepathic precision and verve, swinging mightily on 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', coolly on 'Consider Me Gone'.
Sting concentrated on songs from his current solo album, '...Nothing Like the Sun'. Surprisingly, he did not play anything from his first solo album, 1985's 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', until more than 45 minutes into the show when he lit into a smooth-swinging 'Consider Me Gone'.
During the second set the band hit stride with a moving version of 'Fragile', dedicated to the late bassist Jaco Pastorius, which led into a simmering turn at Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing'. Guitarist Jeff Campbell brought the song to a seering climax with stinging solos that thankfully didn't copycat Hendrix.
Reportedly, Sting was going to give 'Roxanne' a rest for this tour, but he played a warm intimate version of the first-ever Police hit, backed only by his own guitar and Marsalis' soprano sax. Sting and company's show was not a blow-'em-down, cathartic affair. Rather, it was a case of great material sung and played with passion and expertise, anchored by crystal-clear sound production.
What more could you ask?
(c) The St Petersburg Times by Eric Snider