Broken Music

Reading, PA, US
Sovereign Centerwith Fiction Plane
Sting gets back to basics in Police-heavy show...

The veteran singer/songwriter, backed by two guitarists and a drummer, unleashes a high-energy concert Monday night at the Sovereign Center that features many songs from the band he left for a solo career.

Even though everyone was expecting a Sting, the amount of Police Monday night in the Sovereign Center was surprising.

More known recently for his tinkerings with jazz, sophisticated pop and world music, show-biz veteran Sting kept his foot firmly and emphatically in rock this time out, unleashing an uncharacteristically high-energy show heavy on songs from his former band - 11 of the 19 selections were from his days fronting the Police.

The evening actually was a bit of a family affair, as the show kicked off with a short set from Fiction Plane, a band led by Sting's son, Joe Sumner. The band's energetic Britpop went over well, warming the audience up nicely for Sumner's father.

The buzz for Sting's tour was a return to basics, with his usually sizeable entourage being limited to two guitarists and a drummer, all of whom probably were about half his age.

If there was any doubt in the nearly sold-out audience as to what would transpire over the next hours, the opening salvo of Police classics - 'Message in a Bottle', 'Demolition Man', 'Spirits in the Material World' and 'Synchronicity II' - took care of that.

Bucking the trend of most of his solo leanings, Sting's set focused on strong backbeats instead of jazzy inflections, guitar power chords instead of keyboards, straight-ahead funk instead of polyrhythmic exercises.

'When We Dance' Sting this wasn't.

''I'm going to be singing a lot of songs I haven't sung in many, many years,'' he said, then joking, ''Songs like 'My Sharona.'''

While the Knack classic didn't get an airing, many songs from that era did, including some real dusty gems ('Next to You', 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'.) Sting even paid homage to the Beatles with an odd-metered version of the band's 'A Day in the Life'.

Sting's voice has held up remarkably well through his four decades of performing. All of the high notes and 'Eee-oohhs' in the earlier songs were spot on. He also was in a lighthearted mood, regaling the crowd with tales of fox hunting and his love for TV Westerns, even calling Reading a pretty little town with all of its porches.

''This tour is much smaller than I usually do,'' he said. ''I'm trying to get back to my roots.''

It wasn't only the music - the stage also adhered to the minimalist ethic, with the band backed only by basic lighting and a large screen used for illumination.

The evening did feature a few more recent selections - 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', 'Fields of Gold' - but even they sounded slightly more raw without the sheen of keyboards.

'Every Breath You Take' and the solo rocker 'Lithium Sunset' ended the evening, after which Sting promised, 'We will be back.'

(c) The Reading Eagle by Jon Fassnacht