Sacred Love

Montreal, QC, CA
Bell Centrewith Dominic Miller & Annie Lennox
Sting and Annie stir vocal chemistry: But a drained and detached Sting needs dash of partner's lust for life No rust shows on Lennox's pipes...

Last night's Sting/Annie Lennox double-header at the Bell Centre seemed like a pretty even pairing in theory: Two enduring singers from two of the most important bands of the late 1970s and 1980s (the Police and Eurythmics, respectively), both of whom have glided into adult-contemporary territory with little to no dignity lost. But in the end, Lennox was the real stinger.

If anything, going in, the odds leaned in the other direction. Her Theatre St. Denis show last year earned wall-to-wall raves, but there were nagging doubts whether Lennox would be able to adequately fill the Bell Centre stage. Her latest album, 'Bare', is a delight, but its sombre tone is hardly conducive to an arena concert, and it's been years since her last headlining tour in venues this size.

As soon as she strode out for 'Legend in My Living Room', though, it was as if Lennox never went into her decade-long retreat from music. Her presentation was occasionally less than inviting - as with the voguing in 'No More I Love You's' - but it was never less than commanding.

After all these years, Lennox still has one of the purest voices in pop. The chorus of Little Bird betrayed a loss of a few notes in her upper register, but the naked introduction to 'Pavement Cracks' was shiver-inducing, and could only have come from an artist who hasn't let any rust gather on her pipes.

Lennox's only serious miscalculation was including 'Cold', a hushed number that should be left to theatre concerts. The momentum was regained with the haunting 'Here Comes the Rain Again'; by the time she strutted through a revamped 'Missionary Man' and rock-hard I Need a Man, the nearly 13,500 in attendance - most of whom presumably forked over the hefty admission price mostly to see Sting - couldn't be dragged back into their chairs.

Most artists would be biting their nails beyond the quick at the thought of following a set of that calibre, but if there's one thing Sting has never lacked, it's self-belief. Unfortunately, if there's one thing he does lack, it's a new album that doesn't sound telegraphed in from the most self-satisfied reaches of his psyche.

As if to draw attention to the paucity of inspiration on last year's 'Sacred Love', Sting started his performance with the techno-fied travesty 'Send Your Love'. In concert, as on CD, it was an embarrassment to hear a song that belongs at Club Dome coming from one of the most graceful singers in popular music.

It was a rare lapse in taste in a set that was tasteful to a fault. 'Synchronicity II' was drained of some of its vitality, but after 'Send Your Love' it was a relief just to hear Sting's Everest-climbing tenor paired with a worthy song. All the same, Sting consistently came off as too cool and detached when compared to Lennox. Instead of elevating her touring partner's game, Lennox inadvertently highlighted his current off-balance diet of three cups slickness to one cup soul.

In picking live delegates from 'Sacred Love', Sting wisely chose 'Dead Man's Rope' - the most affecting melody on an album that's hardly brimming with them. But it was when Lennox returned for 'We'll Be Together' that the temperature rose, her playful demeanour a striking counterpoint to Sting's buttoned-up stride. The vocal chemistry was undeniable, and one wishes there had been more of it on offer.

As deadline called, Sting had settled into a sequence of ballads that were unharmed by his all-too-effortless approach. After years in the set list, 'Fragile' was anything but, and 'Fields of Gold's' emotional truth couldn't be destroyed unless its writer lapsed into a coma. Sting certainly isn't at that point yet, although if he takes one lesson from his time spent with Lennox, one hopes it's to temper his state of grace with a bit more lust for life.

(c) The Gazette by Jordan Zivitz

Sting in Montreal...

I just got back from Montreal and have to say that I couldn't agree more with the reviews posted in the VT section.

I had by far the best seats I ever gotten to see Sting. I was seated in the 2nd row, right in front of Kipper and to make eye contact with one of the band members was very ''satisfying''. To see some of my smiles being acknowledged as he smiled back at me was... precious

But let's start at the beginning: I was entirely seduced by Annie Lennox even though I'm not really familiar with her music aside from the obvious hit songs. Unlike, the Montreal gazette reposter, I loved 'Cold' which brought me close to tears. Her set was magnificient and uplifting. She was glad to be there and we knew it, not only because she said it, because we could feel it.

With such an electrified crowd and one of the best seats in the house, I was excepting to live the experience of a life time. So I planted my glasses firmly on my nose and my feet on the ground and braced myself for what could no doubt be an overwhelming night. In the band's introduction Kipper even commented on the quality of the audience judging from the reception Annie had gotten. The magic was there, all they had to do was to capture these vibes and run with them.

Unfortunately, the magic died quite soon in Sting set. The 2nd song, 'Synchronicity II' felt void and flat. I couldn't believe myself for not being more electrified by a song I've loved for so long. It was fun, but no more, to have Annie back for 'We'll be Together' - at the end of which she dropped to the floor in mock extasy having been kissed by Sting But why play 'Seven days'??? And I know some of you like 'This War' but it felt out of place, serving only as an editorial introduction to the always beautiful 'Fragile'. Even 'Sacred Love' felt as though it had been ripped of it's original power and depth.

And 'Roxanne'??? What to say about 'Roxanne' except that it is counter productive or maybe Sting is punishing his audience for wanting to hear it so much!!! I felt sorry for Kipper (still so close) when he jumped from his stool at the end of this never ending version in hopes to see the audience imitate him. I thought to myself: WE WERE standing earlier, you guys MADE US sit right back, so there. Again being so close to Kipper, I think I noticed frustration as he walked off the stage before the first encore.

I had to wait 'til the very end with If I ever lose... my favorite moment of the show. To feel some sort of magic, some sort of commitment from both Sting and the audience.

Now I know nothing about making music but I have a feeling the songs arrangements (sorry Kipper) are not suited for such large venues as Centre Bell. But mostly, I couldn't feel anything coming from Sting... He looked and ''felt'' so cool, so detached, almost condescending to his audience. Was I too close? And for Sting, are there too many shows, not enough challenge? I don't know what it was exactly (maybe it was me 'cause I did hear lots of people say what a great show it was as I walked out) but I hate the feeling this concert left me with.

I'm so glad I was at the Place des Arts in March. Much better venue, much better show.

I should stop 'cause I know I will hate what I just wrote when I read it later but I had to get it off my chest.

I wish all of you who haven't seen the concert yet to have the time of your life!!!

Don't hate me for being so bummed out. I'll keep the faith.

(c) Anna Blume for