Jazz meets rock in a super Sting showcase...
On his second solo visit to Australia, Sting proved once again that he possesses a depth and maturity as an individual performer quite different from his work with The Police.
Of course he chose his band well - a group of extremely talented jazz musicians including Branford Marsalis on sax, Jeffrey Lee Campbell on guitar and a serious Tracy Wormworth on bass. The performance was punctuated by several quite radical instrumentals utilising many aspects of improvisational jazz, during which the musicians could demonstrate their not inconsiderable abilities.
Not surprisingly, Sting concentrated on material from his solo albums, opening with a selection from 1987's '...Nothing Like The Sun', including his song for Quentin Crisp, 'Englishman In New York' and 'We'll Be Together'.
Dressed stylishly, like the renaissance man he is, Sting showed his versatility on keyboards, guitar and tambourine, dancing with backing vocalist Dolette McDonald and impishly sampling other instruments. (He can't play sax.)
He was eager to showcase the talents of his players, standing back for exhilarating passages such as Kenny Kirkland's energetic, bluesy keyboards in 'Bring On The Night' and Marsalis' haunting clarinet in 'King Of Pain'.
But with tight yet daring playing, the band executed an exciting performance, in what was less of a rock concert than a musical experience - an eclectic mixture of jazz and rock. Changing mood frequently, Sting moved effortlessly between the jazzy langour of 'Sister Moon' and more uptempo numbers such as 'Rock Steady'.
He hardly needed to, but Sting sealed his popularity by telling us that not only was Melbourne the most important city in Australia, but the loudest. And we got to see the very well preserved Sting torso.
An an encore, 'Home On The Range' was an interesting choice followed by a jubilant 'Fortress Round Your Heart' and 'Don't Stand (So Close To Me)' featuring a rollicking finish with some memorable guitar. Police fans could hardly complain about the choice of material, either.
Responding to the warmth of the audience, Sting returned again to finish a great night for all concerned with 'Every Breath You Take' and a moving solo version of 'Message In a Bottle', during which the guitar mike was broken but this was more than compensated for by most of the capacity audience singing along, word for word.
(c) The Herald Sun by Carolyn O'Donnell