Sting and Branford Marsalis...
The same songs that sounded stiff and self-conscious on Sting's two solo albums were transformed into loose, spontaneous rock 'n' roll by Sting and his eight-member band at the Patriot Center Saturday night.
Although the endemic access problems at the Fairfax facility prevented much of the crowd from hearing the first few songs, the concert showed off Sting's strengths - his seductive rhythms and joyous melodies - and minimized his biggest weakness - his strained intellectualism.
The concert also showcased far better singing than Sting has ever committed to record. An early medley found Sting, shirtless under a white jacket, concentrating on his vocals without an instrument to play, and he came a lot closer to Van Morrison than one would have ever imagined possible.
He sounded surprisingly loose and humorous on 'Englishman in New York', and then belted out a passionate ballad version of 'Sister Moon' that climaxed first in a Ray Charles growl and then in a high wolf call. The band segued into a rocking blues arrangement of 'Rock Steady' that found Sting sounding sassy and aggressive.
Sting shared the stage with Branford Marsalis, whose saxophone fills and solos were so distinctive and expressive that they often seemed like duet vocals. In the medley, for instance, Marsalis' soprano sax responded to Sting's every phrase as if the horn were Tammi Terrell talking back to Marvin Gaye.
Percolating Latin rhythm arrangements sped along syncopated eighth-note accents. Sting helped the cause with a strongly punctuated vocal on his Brazilian-flavored 'Consider Me Gone'. 'History Will Teach Us Nothing' ended in Sting's high, counterpoint vocal against his chanting band and then moved into a rousing version of Bob Marley's 'Get up, Stand Up'.
Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing' began with Sting's subdued acoustic guitar intro but built inexorably until Sting was screaming over a roaring electric guitar solo.
(c) The Washington Post by Geoffrey Hines
Sting, jumpin and jazzy...
Outright lunacy is bubbling from the usual impenetrable exterior of Sting, the thinking fan's pop star. He vamps, he prances, he does the twist (rather lamely but with unbridled gusto). He even did a somersault during Saturday night's stupendous two and a half hour concert at the Patriot Center - early in the 11-week USA leg of his world tour.
Sting's lyrics follow his human-rights agenda, but the music's sheer elegance and energy overwhelm any gravity. This show's 10,300 fans, mostly college students, were in no mood to brood. They came to dance. And Sting is an able partner.
His bracing tenor looms above layers of airy melodies and galloping beats provided by a versatile seven-piece band. The sound, seamless and cool, is a pastiche of reggae, jazz, samba and rock gently sifted through a new age filter.
Bare-chested under a white jacket and red-accented tuxedo trousers, Sting romps through 20 percolating tunes, mostly from his new 'Nothing Like the Sun' LP and earlier solo work, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'.
Punchy pop songs like 'Too Much Information' and the playful 'Englishman in New York' are balanced against the melancholy undercurrents of 'Driven to Tears' and 'The Lazarus Heart'. The more compelling numbers - a bluesy 'Sister Moon' and the mournful 'They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo)' - showcase Sting's expansive voice, richer and less brittle than ever.
Though he never relinquishes centre stage, Sting gives his band room to stretch in such instrumentally appealing songs as the jazzy 'Rock Steady' and 'Consider Me Gone', and 'Straight to My Heart', a reggae strain set in a quirky 7/4 time.
Branford Marsalis' moody sax and Tracy Wormworth's pummelling bass pump life into anaemic meanderings like 'History Will Teach Us Nothing' and 'Be Still My Beating Heart'.
Sting reshapes proven arrangements into interesting sequels: 'Fortress Around Your Heart' and two Police classics - a sleepy 'Roxanne' and yet another aberration of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me'.
Though his compositions dominate, it's 'Little Wing', Jimi Hendrix's psychedelic sonnet, that steals the show. Sting's nostalgic rendering, lush with stirring vocals and Jeff Campbell's soaring guitar, does justice to a hard-to-top '60s chestnut.
(c) USA Today by Edna Gundersen