Brand New Day

Charlotte, NC, US
Ovens Auditoriumwith Me'Shell NdegeOcello
Sting on a starry night...

Tuesday night was a magical, moonless night. First of all, Sting was playing Ovens Auditorium - not the Coliseum, not Blockbuster Pavilion, but 2,500-seat Ovens Auditorium. And he brought one of R&B and Hip Hop's brightest stars, Me'Shell Ndege'ocello with him to open the show. Sting is touring for his new album, 'Brand New Day'.

Mel Gibson was even there to give the evening a special touch. (Not that he said anything or did anything but enjoy the show with everyone else.) Gibson arrived and left with very little fuss or fanfare.

Sting was backed by a phenomenal band which included his longtime guitarist Dominic Miller, drummer Manu Katche (Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, Tori Amos), up-and-coming jazz trumpeter/soloist Chris Botti, pianist Kipper and keyboardist Jason Rebello. Back-ground vocals were provided by the British trio The Scream.

Anyone who has seen Sting perform before knows what an amazing show to expect. Tuesday's show eclipsed all expectations. Even trumpeter Chris Botti said, ''It was a fantastic night for us.'' Sting's new material is quite good, and coupled with a great mood, a flawless band and a receptive audience, magic was made.

Sting bantered with the crowd and told stories where they were appropriate. The rest of the night was one song seamlessly melded into another until it was time for the first encore. Sting played a number of songs off the new album, including 'A Thousand Years', 'After the Rain Has Fallen', the country-influenced 'Fill Her Up', 'Brand New Day', 'Tomorrow We'll See' and the fantastic 'Desert Rose'.

Sting opened the show with 'A Thousand Years', a beautiful ballad of unrequited love. He quickly moved into familiar territory with a smoking version of 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', and followed that with the new, upbeat 'After the Rain Has Fallen'.

'Fill Her Up' was introduced with a story about an article Sting read about robberies in the United States. Apparently a respectable number of successful robbers hop on a plane to Las Vegas not long after their crime only to be robbed by the casinos. He loosely based the song on the ironic story.

'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Roxanne' and 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around had the crowd up and dancing. Sting tore the roof off with 'When the World is Running Down...' The band extended the song and threw in a salsa beat to the crowd's extreme delight.

Sting danced back and forth across the stage throughout the song, and even did an Elvis swivel hips imitation for a while.

Both 'Roxanne' and the acoustic 'Message in a Bottle' had the crowd singing along. While the singing during Roxanne was more call and Sting and the audience.

Sting pulled on a low black hat - ''so that you'll know I'm serious'' - before doing his best Louis Armstrong imitation for 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'. Trumpeter Chris Botti prowled across the stage under the full moon and street lamps, wowing the crowd as he went. He had a number of solos throughout the show, and blew the crowd away on all of them.

After a rousing version of 'Englishman in New York', Sting played 'Tomorrow We'll See' off the new album.

He started the song softly, ''The streets are wet/The lights have yet/To shed their tawdry lustre on the scene/My skirt's too short/My tights have run/These new heels are killing me.''

The crowd chuckled as the import of the words sunk in, and Sting smiled. The song is a sultry story in which the prostitute protagonist tells the listener, ''Don't judge me.'' The song prominently featured Botti and his sexy trumpet ignited the tune.

The two-plus hour show was a phenomenal treat for those lucky enough to get tickets.

Botti said that the band enjoyed playing the smaller, more intimate venues because they were closer to the fans and the interaction was more fun. Sting joked at one point about all the space between him and the crowd.

When asked why the band is playing smaller venues instead of Coliseums, Botti said that this leg of the tour was ''kind of a warm up'' before the rest of the tour kicked in at the beginning of the new year. He said we can expect to see the band back again, probably at Blockbuster, in the summer.

(c) The Charlotte Observer by Andrea Ross

Sting wows crowd with energy, variety and top-notch band...

At 48, Sting performs with an air of confidence and mischief. For nearly two hours he dipped into his vast musical repertoire to entertain a sold-out crowd of 2,600 at Ovens Auditorium. The mostly middle-aged crowd showed its affection with whoops and hollers of support and several standing ovations.

The former Police front man, whose seven solo albums have sold millions of copies worldwide, is one of the few former band leaders to sustain his own career.

Part of his success is due to his willingness to challenge musical boundaries. He's been doing it since his 1985 jazzy solo debut CD 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles'. His latest CD, 'Brand New Day', ranges from Algerian music to country.

Sting performed his solo staples such as 'Fields of Gold' and 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and Police favorites, such as 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take'.

He was energetic, pouting on some songs, and engaging, encouraging the crowd to stand and sing. And his band - which included a French drummer, who rapped on one song, and an English keyboardist - was on point all night. From Chris Botti's moody trumpet in 'Perfect Love Gone Wrong' to the cascading instrumental crescendos in 'Seven Days', the band was tight. It flowed from one song to another as if fit into one concert-length medley.

Throughout the show, Sting looked relaxed as he wiggled his hips behind his guitar and bantered with the audience about everything from his fabled five-hour sexual stamina to his jacket: A dark shimmery thing.

By contrast, opening act Me'Shell Ndegeocello started out stiff. It took her several songs to warm up.

Dressed in blue jeans, an undershirt tank top and a knit hat, Ndegeocello looked cold.

Ndegeocello is also known for bucking musical trends. Since cutting her teeth in Washington, D.C.'s go-go scene, the 30-year-old singer and musician has been challenging the industry with her poignant songs about sexism, poverty, love, homosexuality and other themes.

Ndegeocello, who has released three CDs, performed only songs from her latest one, 'Bitter', during her 40-minute set Tuesday. During the first half of the show, she and her band seemed out of sync as they plodded through the disc's melancholy tracks. But Ndegeocello's original instrumental composition 'Adam and Eve' got their juices flowing. Ndegeocello's energetic dreadlocked guitarist pumped up the six-piece band. And Ndegeocello finally hit her stride, playing her bass guitar as if it was an extension of her essence. Every song after that flowed like a jam session and Ndegeocello showed why she is considered one of the best bassists in the country.

(c) The Charlotte Observer by Tonya Jameson