Broken Music

Grand Rapids, MI, US
Van Andel Arenawith Phantom Planet
Feeling the Sting of greatness...

Every little thing Sting does is magic. Whether you take into account his pioneering days as chief of The Police or his solo career that followed the band's infamous breakup, he's a musical wizard.

Sting cast a spell on the crowd who came see the Hall of Famer's 'Broken Music Tour' Sunday night at Van Andel Arena.

'What a wonderful welcome. It's my first time in G.R.,' Sting said after opening with two Police gems, 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Spirits In The Material World.'

'Tonight I'll be singing a lot of songs I haven't sung in years,' he said.

He wasn't kidding, either. He quickly jumped back into the music performing two more heavy-duty Police classics 'Demolition Man' and 'Synchronicity II', which seemed to fuel the audience's appetite even more.

At that point, if you closed your eyes, you might have thought it was 1983 and it was the 'Synchronicity Tour'.

Sting reprised his role as bass player, but filling the shoes of Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers were long-time Sting friends' Dominic Miller (guitar), Shane Fontayne (guitar), and Josh Freese of A Perfect Circle on drums.

To see Sting walk onto the Grand Rapids stage was something else.

Looking dapper as usual and dressed in all black, he exuded a certain sophistication or charm that won over the crowd immediately.

I was pleased to see a more whimsical side of him, which he expressed throughout the night in conversation with the crowd, too.

Sting performed several more Police tracks including 'Invisible Sun', 'When The World Is Running Down,' 'King Of Pain,' 'Voices In My Head,' 'You Make The Best Of What's Around,' and 'Every Breath You Take.'

I think the audience would have freaked had he not performed 'Every Breath You Take'. Even though he had trouble hitting some of the higher notes, it still sounded great.

But the one Police song that was the cherry on top of the whipped topping had to be 'Roxanne'. The noise level in the arena escalated when the song began and the red lights bathed the stage, while Sting sang.

I love The Police's music, but this was a Sting show and I wanted to hear some of his solo work. He shelved a good portion of his jazzier, adult contemporary flavored songs, but he did manage to do 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', which is one of my favorite Sting songs.

'Fields Of Gold' was the softest track heard all night, but it did manage to spark a few cigarette lighters.

He also performed 'I Hung My Head', which Johnny Cash later rerecorded, 'Mercury Falls', 'Next To You', 'She's Too Good For Me', and a stripped-down version of The Beatles' 'A Day In The Life'.

I missed not hearing some of his other hit songs, but with a catalog like his it's almost impossible to narrow it down to a couple of hours.

In this case, the magic only lasted and an hour and 40 minutes.

New rockers Phantom Planet opened the show.

(c) The Sturgis Journal by David T. Farr

Police lineup pleases sellout...

If you closed your eyes, you'd swear it was 1983, with The Police going full bore on stage.

Of course, it wasn't really.

But Sting and his newest bandmates did their best impression of that reggae-tinged rock group on Sunday night, conquering an animated Van Andel Arena crowd almost from the moment they powered up with four straight Police tunes - 'Message in a Bottle,' 'Spirits in the Material World,' 'Demolition Man' and 'Synchronicity II.'

In sports parlance, the charismatic bassist and his musical chums were in 'the zone' all evening, which is a lot more than can be said about the struggling Grand Rapids Rampage football team that usually occupies the arena floor.

As guitarist Dominic Miller put it, the four-piece band has clicked for weeks on Sting's current U.S. tour.

''Doing a show is like going on a date,'' he had told me earlier. ''There's a bit of uncertainty involved at first and a bit of nerves that you might say the wrong thing, but ultimately, you're going to get there. So far, we've gotten to that zone every night.''

They certainly did on an unseasonably chilly Sunday in Grand Rapids, where a sellout crowd of about 11,700 clearly felt that a Police state was way overdue.

Sting, Miller, drummer Josh Freese (of A Perfect Circle) and guitarist Shane Fontayne were happy to accommodate them, digging deep into The Police files as well as performing a smattering of Sting's solo hits, including 'Fields of Gold,' which may have been the softest, most subdued tune the band played all night.

''We're not being too subtle with the music,'' Miller had said, and he wasn't kidding: Sting shied away from the jazzier, adult-contemporary fodder of his solo catalogue and rumbled headlong into a pedal-to-the-metal rock show with great results.

California's youthful Phantom Planet set things up with 33 minutes of very proficient and literate rock 'n' roll, playing its hits 'Big Brat' and 'California' even as nearly half the crowd filed in late to find its seats.

Bracing though they were, their T-shirted, high-school demeanor came off like 'Spy Kids' to Sting's cucumber-cool James Bond persona. Dressed in black, the 53-year-old bassist maintained a sophisticated air by quoting George Bernard Shaw and generally looking as dapper as an English gentleman, which he is. But he's also more down-to-earth than he sometimes appears - gleeful in the way he turns up the volume, bounces on his toes and chats whimsically with his audience.

''What a wonderful welcome, my first time in G.R.,'' he crowed. ''Tonight I'll be singing a lot of songs I haven't sung in many years. Songs like 'My Sharona.'''

No, he didn't tackle anything by The Knack, but he and his rhythmically tight cohorts did dust off heavy-duty Police classics 'Invisible Sun,' 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Around,' 'Every Breath You Take' and a fine, stripped-down version of The Beatles' 'A Day in the Life.'

Sting pulled it off with the vocal range of a guy in his 30s, though he struggled a tad with one note on 'Every Breath You Take' and chose to sing the chorus of 'Roxanne' in a lower register than he did in 1978.

But 'Roxanne,' performed appropriately with the stage bathed in red lights, also found the frontman giving his audience something extra: an extended-mix version of the tune that first put The Police on the musical map. He followed that with two encores that included 'Next To You,' 'She's Too Good For Me' and 'Mercury Falls.'

''This tour is about me getting back to my roots, I suppose,'' Sting pondered at one point during the 1-hour, 37-minute show.

And for that, Police fans are most thankful.

(c) The Grand Rapids Pres