Slow but steady: Sting provides a satisfying - if mellow - opening night performance at the Joint...
Sting is getting to be an old man. The 48-year-old has been writing colorful, engaging music since the late '70s, and he's finally starting to show signs of his age - evidenced Oct. 14 at The Joint during opening night of his 'Brand New Day' tour.
Now, such a comment implies a negative connotation. Sting is hardly the same burnt-out type of geezer who headlines the Circus Maximus showroom at Caesars Palace. In fact, he's just released one of his best albums (Brand New Day) and his voice just seems to get better and better. And he still can perform for two hours with minimal misstepping or flubbing.
But if people are going to keep spending upwards of 0 on his tickets - and God only knows how expensive seats will be for the next tour - Sting needs to inject more life into his shows. Even as entertaining and moving as a Sting performance is, the former Police singer/bassist provided for some sleepy moments during his show, rarely tapping into the potential energy of some of his best material.
The genre-sampling maestro served up every tune off the new album, along with delivering a healthy platter of old solo faves and Police chestnuts. But with songs like 'Roxanne', 'We'll Be Together' and 'Every Breath You Take', Sting never breathed the life into those songs that we recognize in the original recordings. Especially disheartening was an adult-contemporary reworking of 'Every Breath You Take', which felt downright passionless.
On the other hand, Sting exposed the vitality of the new material with ease, including songs like 'After the Rain Has Fallen' and the nearly epic 'Desert Rose', a would-be single if there ever was one off the album. And with a sound system that almost sounded too clear to be the Joint's, the beautiful lyrical narrations could be appreciated on top of the lush pop compositions.
One thing to take into consideration is that Sting is not exactly running around the stadium stages of the world any longer. His audience is maturing with him, and perhaps a flashy, high-octane approach would alienate the fans anticipating his lush, lovely ballads. (Ironically, Sting did not play some of his most beautiful slow burners, like 'Why Should I Cry For You', 'Be Still My Beating Heart' or 'They Dance Alone'.) And even as the crowd sat relatively still until the Police songs came pouring through the P.A., you got the feeling it was getting what it wanted. And in the end, perhaps solid musicianship and a healthy helping of the hits is all you should ever ask for.
(c) Las Vegas City Life website by Mike Prevatt
Sting Soothes On Tour's Opening Night...
Sting opened his 1999 tour last night in Las Vegas, offering something old and something new for an intimate crowd of 1,400. During the two-hour show, held at the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, the singer/bassist performed every song off his recent A&M album, 'Brand New Day', and reached into the catalogue of his former group, the Police, for oldies like 'Every Breath You Take' and 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around'.
Backed by an eight-member band, Sting kept the evening's mood calm and mellow, even toning down the chestnut 'Roxanne' to fit the vibe. Most of the material from Sting's solo career - he performed at least one song from each of his earlier albums - was given the contemporary jazz-pop treatment for which he has become known. The show's focus remained on the new tracks, though, which draw influences from world music, country, and blues.
The Las Vegas gig was the first of his three performances here. Next, he will travel to Los Angeles, where he will play a five-night stand at the Universal Amphitheater. He will then tour the U.S. until New Year's Eve, when he will take part in a special charity concert in New York.
Sting's intelligence reflected in concert...
The biggest wonder of the whole Sting phenomenon is that he's sold millions of records without ever condescending to an audience or - except for maybe that 'De Do Do Do'... business a long time ago - ever dumbing down his music to pander to radio.
So it shouldn't be surprising that Sting exercised that artistic freedom even more in a live setting Thursday, the first night of his new tour and the first of three big-ticket nights at the Hard Rock Hotel.
The singer and his eight-piece ensemble must have assumed they were playing to an elite and loyal core of fans by doing all nine songs from the new album, 'Brand New Day'. The sight of music stands onstage - with Sting occasionally flipping the pages in front of his microphone when he wasn't playing bass - suggested it might have been a case of the ensemble wanting to get all the songs in shape to have the option of playing them as the tour progresses.
U2 did much the same thing when it launched its 1997 'Pop' tour in Las Vegas - loading the first night with new songs, but gradually trimming them from the set list in each city to address audience flight to the beer stands. Sting might well follow suit once he leaves town, where the venues get bigger and the ticket prices lower. But in Las Vegas, fans paid to 0 for tickets Thursday, and the rent was raised to -to-0 Friday and today. At those prices, he had every right to assume true fans have already digested the new album, and would relish hearing it all in a cozy venue.
For most part, he was right. Sure there might have been a few high-rollers, perhaps enjoying casino comps, who felt the need to dance down front during 'All This Time' - a song about the death of the singer's father. And the restlessness in the packed standing-room only area of The Joint - not coincidentally near the service bars - reminded you that the room functions best as a party barn, not a theater.
But for the most part, it was easy to pretend otherwise, as the deep reds and blues on the curtains at the back of the stage shifted to reflect the jazzy chord changes and often cool and dark moods of the music onstage.
Sting emerged in black, on a nearly black stage, to begin the two-hour show with 'A Thousand Years'. The appropriately moody lead-off track for the new album was packed full of dense atmosphere and world music flair. Choosing the trumpet of Chris Botti as the featured solo instrument gave even more cool jazz emphasis to most songs than their recorded version. From 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong' to 'Mad About You', the trumpet solos ladled on film noir mood to spare.
Even the usually upbeat crowd-pleasers, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'We'll Be Together' seemed a little chillier and more detached than usual, with Sting curiously downshifting from his trademark falsetto - though it returned for 'Roxanne' near the end of the show. Of course, a deeper-voiced Sting more perfectly suits modern crooner standards such as 'I Was Brought to My Senses' and the sexy Brazilian-flavored 'Big Lie, Small World'. And 'Ghost Story', the new song that seems the album's most dispensable in its recorded version, took on a new drama with its more hushed, scaled-down live arrangement.
And live might be the only way to fully appreciate 'Fill Her Up', the best country-gospel song that Lyle Lovett never wrote. Sting set up the outlaw drama by noting he'd been told that ''90 percent of people who commit crimes in the U.S. immediately head to Vegas,'' adding, ''Whatever you've done, you're safe here. Don't worry about it.''
The singer's dry humour surfaced more near the end of the show, when he affected a Louis Armstrong growl for 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'. Police fans eventually were rewarded with more fun via the medley of 'Bring on the Night' and 'When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around', featuring a hot piano workout from Jason Rebello.
An encore also featured the favorite 'Every Breath You Take'. But the final encore of the touching 'Fragile', along with the dense, world-beat 'Desert Rose' - which he plans to promote as a single - suggest Sting's lack of playfulness might not just be confined to the Hard Rock weekend.
Maybe he could come back at the end of the tour, to play a larger room for locals at a more moderate price - as Tom Petty did Friday - so we could all find out.
(c) The Las Vegas Review Journal by Mike Weatherford
Even with mistakes, Sting can still shake the house down...
''We made some mistakes,'' Sting admitted, near the end of his set at the Hard Rock's the Joint Thursday night.
I thought it a brave admission. It was the first show of his 'Brand New Day' tour, in support of his strongest material in a decade, but that doesn't make the first night any easier. The capacity crowd didn't know the new material yet. He had not played a show with his touring band in three years. I can't begin to imagine what it feels like: stepping in front of a crowd that probably remembers more of your songs than you do and singing that first note. Who has time to ponder mistakes when there are more terrifying realities at hand?
However, having said that, Sting did make some fairly notable mistakes. And they're probably not the mistakes he's thinking of. He was probably thinking of timing errors, bad notes; I'm thinking of a set that dragged at times, lumped most of its high-energy numbers together at the end, and made me seriously wonder if he was going to play any of the music he made with the Police.
But it was the first night of the tour, so we'll put those problems aside for the moment, and concentrate on what went right. Most of the new songs, particularly 'After the Rain Has Fallen' and 'Perfect Love ... Gone Wrong', shimmered like diamonds. And 'Desert Rose', the most lovely and natural piece of song writing to come from Sting's pen in a long time, truly mesmerized.
When he sang its opening verse - ''I dream of rain / I dream of gardens in the desert sand'' - it sent chills down my spine, just as his last tale to the desert, in the Police's 'Tea in the Sahara', still manages to do some 16 years after it was released. It's kind of hard to believe that the same musicians who made that beautiful ''Rose'' bloom - drummer Manu Katche and guitarist Dominic Miller were standouts - made mistakes that anyone but Sting and themselves could detect.
No, the problems with Sting's performance were glaring, and far more obvious than a muddied bridge or momentarily forgotten vocal (I have to say I respect Sting's unapologetic use of a music stand and sheet music: even Mick Jagger is using a carefully-hidden teleprompter these days). Lumping all the Police numbers together at the end - a sharp version of 'When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around', a note-perfect 'Every Breath You Take' and an unnecessarily long 'Roxanne' - counts as a mistake.
Playing every song from the 2-week old 'Brand New Day' also constitutes a flub, with so many good songs ('King of Pain', 'It's Probably Me', 'Why Should I Cry For You?') going unperformed. And fond though Sting may be of the brooding 'A Thousand Years', he may want to try opening his next few performances with something that will get the fans on their feet - and keep them there.
Still, it was a good evening all told. Sting's voice was rich and clear, and when he put his back into it, he ably proved he could still shake a house down. The faults lay not with the star, but with his set list.
(c) The Las Vegas Sun by Geoff Carter
Sting cracks Las Vegas!
Being too impatient to wait for the European dates I travelled to Las Vegas to see the three opening nights of Sting's Brand New Day Tour.
The motivation of starting in Vegas is still a question mark to me. For sure, The Joint was a very small and intimate venue, but it was a real horror to see that 95% of the audience stayed seated during the concert and beverages were served during the entire concert. A lot of people were busier with drinking, socialising or whatever than paying attention to the concert. A large part of the 1,400 people were probably tourists who happened to be in Vegas anyway and thought it would be nice to have a peak at a Sting concert for the first time in their life. Maybe Sting wants his set list to be really good and tight before he plays in front of the real fans and the Nevada desert was a good testing area?!
To be truthful, the first night had it's weak moments. So on the other two nights they changed the set list a little and added 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. It was a good move, because it was one of the songs that succeeded in getting the crowd onto their feet. He opened each show with 'A Thousand Years', which featured both him and Dominic playing guitar. The bass returned for 'If You Love Somebody'. 'After the Rain' already sounds excellent. The song goes very gently into 'We'll Be Together' which was played in a funky way.
On the night of 15th October, after the show, we had an earthquake in Las Vegas, which can be quite spooky for people who aren't accustomed to this kind of natural phenomenon. Sting told the audience the following night that he was asleep up on the 38th floor of his hotel when he was awakened by the shaking. He got out of bed to rescue himself... but then ''Couldn't decide what to wear, so stayed in bed''. Talk about vanity!
One of my favourite songs was added to the set after a nine year break - 'All This Time'. You never can play too many songs from 'The Soul Cages' era in my opinion. Sting's real nightmare on the second night was with 'Seven Days'. At the end of the 1st verse he forgot the lyrics completely. He confidently started all over again, hoping the words would come to his mind. To our amusement that didn't happen, so he skipped the song and promised to come back to it later. While he played 'Mad About You' Danny printed out the lyrics for him and after finishing 'Mad About You' he tried once again with 'Seven Days'. Despite having troubles reading the small font, he made it successfully through the first verse - for which he got a standing ovation - but still made several mistakes in the chorus
and other verses, but he did it with a straight face and just murmured something.
'Fill Her Up' was next. Sting was told us that 90% of the criminals in the US who commit a crime directly go to Las Vegas. He wondered if we belonged to that category?! ''The song is about one of those criminals anyway,'' he said. 'Ghost Story' is one of the songs that sounds much better live than on the album. The acoustic guitar is replaced by an electric and Dominic's guitar playing gives the song a lot more power. Like ''All This Time'' before it, it was also great to hear 'Moon over Bourbon Street' again. Apart from the silly ''Louis Armstrong imitation'' at the beginning of the song, it's played in a loving new way. Regarding 'Brand New Day' and 'Tomorrow We'll See', Sting doesn't need to worry, because these songs already rocked like hell with a really nice jam in 'Tomorrow We'll
On the last Las Vegas night Branford Marsalis surprised us all by suddenly walking on stage when the band started to play 'Englishman in New York'. I believe even Sting was surprised and Branford stayed on stage for a couple of songs. As soon as Bradford came on the hall was ablaze, which was a little sad for Chris Botti who was a little upstaged and placed in the background from then on. For the majority of the audience the concert really started with 'Roxanne'. From this song on it got everybody to his or her feet at last. With 'Desert Rose' they completed all the new material and it fitted well into all the hits they were now playing. 'Bring on the Night'/'When The World' always sounds like if they keep extending the song. It really sounded amazing and had brilliant solos by Jason
Rebello and Dominic Miller. It proved that Jason is a worthy replacement for Kenny Kirkland although it appeared he did not always do what Sting expected from him, but I guess that's a matter of time.
Manu Katché sometimes does some amazing stuff on the drums, which suits the new songs well and keep everyone awake for sure. What I heard on these first three nights was amazing for the early stages of the tour. I'm really curious how some songs will evolve and develop. By the time the band reaches Europe I'm sure the little mistakes will be gone, some songs will be dropped and the songs will sound more smoother.
We can only hope the earth will be quaking in Europe next March as well.
(c) Luuk Schroijen for Sting.com