Broken Music

Tel Aviv, IL
Ramat Gan Stadiumwith Fiction Plane
Sing-along with Sting...

When a performer of the caliber of Sting comes to Israel, it is more than a show, it is a cultural bookmark. And when it is a cross-generational star who is ''54 and still hot'' (as one fan wrote on a poster), you never know who you're going to see in the audience.

On a traffic-heavy Thursday night, we got to know our fellow drivers a little better than usual. While turning onto the Ayalon Highway, I looked out the window and searched out which car was ''sharing'' its tunes, a nice mix of American alterno-female rockers. As Yehuda Sa'ado, the most recent Star is Born winner, zipped by in his black Honda Civic hatch-back, we wondered if he, too, was going to jive to Sting.

While the thousands of Sting fans amassed in Ramat Gan's stadium, 26-year-old Crown Heights-based hassid Matisyahu warmed up the crowd with his reggae-style rhymes. With ants in his pants and tsitsit flying, the rapper delivered indecipherable, lightning-speed lyrics to a semi-indifferent crowd.

After a smattering of polite applause, Sting and three band members took the stage, opening with a series of crowd-pleasing oldies. The drummer, who looked suspiciously like a refugee from last week's visiting delegation of Japanese sumo wrestlers, was definitely the hardest working musician of the bunch, and sang sweet back-ups that belied his hulking visage.

Israeli crowds like to participate, and soon everyone was singing along with at least an approximation of the lyrics. (Thankfully, with words like ''Sending out an SOS,'' an international audience can't go too wrong with some Sting/Police material.)

The community singing session continued when, halfway through the set, Sting switched pace and departed from his well-worn hits to cover 'A Day in the Life', introducing it with a blase', ''Here's a song from my favorite band, the Beatles.''

One has to wonder, though, if it's all gotten a little old for Sting, who must perform the same set in countless arenas across the globe. His mega-stardom may be something of a Catch 22: His fans come to hear the same old songs sung the same way, which leads to a bored mega-star singing the same old songs the same way but pleasing his fans. The only truly original and creative sparks at the singer's Israeli performance flew when he and the band pulled out a few rockin' tunes with distorted guitars and long lead guitar solos that were basically lost on the crowd.

But that's okay, because what the audience really wanted was to sing along with Sting, and at up to NIS 600 a ticket, it got what it paid for.

The highlight of the show came from an unexpected source in a highly anticipated song. As the opening chords of 'Roxanne' (about a most misunderstood hooker) boomed across the arena, Matisyahu again took the stage. Showing his happy chabad colors, jumping and singing, Matisyahu gave new life to the anthem - and stole the limelight.

By the time Sting reached the requisite encores, the natives were restless and his quiet, soulful 'Fragile' was unfortunately relegated to background music.

(c) The Jerusalem Post by Amanda Borschel-Dan