Broken Music

Uncasville, CT, US
Mohegan Sunwith Fiction Plane
Sting surprises with classic tunes...

There is a theory that once male pop musicians turn 40, their ability to create new music that rocks recedes more or less in proportion to their hairlines.

Sting is a perfect example of this.

His music with the Police in the '70s and '80s was cutting edge and fresh, and his early solo material explored ideas he never got around to in his volatile band. Then, right around his 40th birthday in 1991, the man born Gordon Sumner began descending into wuss-rock with a series of autumnal albums that were plenty thoughtful, and even entertaining in a wallpapery, yuppie dinner party way. But they didn't rock.

That's fine, of course - attitudes and priorities change over the years and the rock 'n' roll mind-set of a sneering, bottle-blonde 20-something probably ought to have evolved by the time he's 40 or 50 with a family and a big chunk of land near Stonehenge.

Even so, it was a gigantic thrill to see Sting rock out to his early material Friday night at Mohegan Sun casino. Performing on a stripped-down stage with a stripped-down band, the genre-bending singer played bass on a set of songs spanning his career, starting with 'Message in a Bottle'.

The song is now more than 25 years old, and it's still funky and ineffably cool. That goes double for 'Synchronicity II', a downright snotty depiction of a numbing suburban workaday existence. Sting and the band were lean, tight and versatile, switching into a free-time lounge groove in the middle of the song, and hammering at the main riff like a crew of determined steel workers.

His take on country music was a little less inspiring. Sting said that he felt he had finally arrived as a songwriter when Johnny Cash covered 'I Hung My Head'. Thing is, when Cash covers your song, it becomes his song, and Sting's peppy voice and jazzy vocal phrasing lacked the gravity Cash gave the tune on 'American IV: The Man Comes Around'.

Sting dug into his latter-day material, too, with an assured version of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and he and the other three musicians laid back on the restrained and subtle 'Heavy Cloud (No Rain)'.

After a few other newer tunes, including 'Fields of Gold', he returned to the early years with a magnificent textured rendering of 'King of Pain' before ending the main set with a medley of 'Roxanne' and 'So Lonely'.

He ended his two-song encore with 'Every Breath You Take'.

(c) The Hartford Courant by Eric R. Danton

Sting sizzles with Police hits...

With a stripped down sound and a show incorporating a whole lot of material from his days with The Police, Sting is going back to his roots.

''Tonight I'm singing a lot of songs I haven't sung in many years,'' Sting told the crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday. ''Like 'My Sharona.'''

The remark drew plenty of laughter, and while he didn't dig out the Knack's big hit, he did dig deep into his Police catalogue for the first time in recent memory, delighting the capacity throng throughout his hour and 40 minute double encore performance.

Instead of touring with his usual bigger band, the 54-year-old bassist and singer was accompanied by his long-time guitarist Dominic Miller as well as guitarist Shane Fontayne (best known for his work with Bruce Springsteen and Lone Justice) and drummer Josh Freese of A Perfect Circle.

And while this was far from a long-hoped for reunion of The Police - don't bet on that happening anytime soon - the emphasis throughout the night was on Sting's groundbreaking work with that band.

He even started the show with four sizzling Police songs in a row, kicking off with a faithful reading of 'Message in a Bottle', before a fairly reworked 'Demolition Man', a standout version of 'Spirits in the Material World', and a throttling take of 'Synchronicity II', that had the crowd singing in unison like some English football match.

Sting was in fine voice, still very capable of reaching his upper octaves. After the first four songs, the guy known for his rather pretentious persona offered some very down-to-earth commentary concerning his love of American TV westerns like ''Rawhide,'' ''Bonanza,'' and ''Have Gun Will Travel,'' when he was growing up in England.

''It's really where I got my love of country music,'' he said, before noting that later in life when Johnny Cash covered one of his songs, Sting felt ''like I finally made it as a writer.''

He proceeded to perform a fine version of that western-styled saga song, 'I Hung My Head', with Fontayne chiming in on harmonica and acoustic guitar.

The latter's harmonica work didn't fit nearly as well into the next song, Sting's solo smash 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', but the middle part of the concert had several high points including The Police track 'Driven to Tears', which featured a stirring electric guitar solo from Miller; the cool groove of 'Heavy Cloud No Rain'; and a very reworked rendition of 'Invisible Sun'.

Though Sting's own version of his now classic 'Fields of Gold' will probably never top the late Eva Cassidy's incredible cover, he did deliver it with eloquence Friday, prior to a somewhat surprising run through The Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.

The night wound down with several Police gems, including 'King of Pain', and a mix of 'Voices Inside My Head', and 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'. He closed the regular portion of the evening with the Police's breakthrough hit 'Roxanne', which led into 'So Lonely'.

His double encore was highlighted by The Police's ever compelling song of obsession and lust, 'Every Breath You Take'. Though it's a safe bet that many in the crowd didn't know it, this was a real family night for Sting, because his son's band, Fiction Plane, did a fine job as the opening act.

The group, which is fronted by Sting's son Joe Sumner, released a superb, underrated debut ('Everything Will Never Be OK') in 2003, but they've been operating somewhat under the radar ever since.

Even though they never even mention the Sting connection from the stage, it's quite obvious, especially when Sumner reaches into his upper octave and sounds incredibly like his father. Highlights of their tight, 35-minute set included 'Cigarette', 'Listen to My Babe', and 'The Author Lies', the latter slated to appear on their sophomore set due later this year.

(c) The Republican by Kevin O'Hare

A better showing for Sting this time around...

Sometimes less is better.

Nearly a year ago, Sting played the Mohegan Sun Arena with a full band tour and gave a subpar performance. Co-headliner Annie Lennox actually outperformed him.

On Friday, Sting - now 53 - returned to the arena with his stripped down ''Broken Music Tour.'' Playing bass in a four-piece band and performing many classic Police tunes, Sting shone on stage this time.

His voice has remained strong throughout the years, yet thanks to this tighter format, Sting sounded as good as ever.

Sting and the band mixed the 95-minute set with Police songs as well as some of Sting's solo hits. His bandmates were guitarists Dominic Miller and Shane Fontayne and drummer Josh Freese.

During the concert, Sting mentioned he was performing songs he hadn't done in years and the format of a four-piece band was in many ways getting back to his roots. It was a 180-degree turn from a year ago when Sting half-heartedly played just a few Police songs.

Sting obviously has a catalogue of solo hits to be proud of since he disbanded the Police 20 years ago. But it was special to hear the songs he first performed with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers during the late1970s to mid-1980s.

Fans probably couldn't have asked for a better opening than the band starting the show with 'Message in a Bottle' followed by 'Demolition Man', 'Spirits in the Material World' and 'Synchronicity II'.

Sting didn't play one of his solo hits until six songs in when the band performed 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'. The tracks performed from Sting's solo albums fit nicely into the evening, especially 'Fields of Gold', which featured Miller's guitar-picking abilities.

Other highlights included 'I Hung My Head', which Sting wrote and Johnny Cash recorded shortly before his death, and a surprisingly powerful cover of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life'.

Miller has been Sting's main guitarist for more than 15 years, but Fontayne and Freese did justice to the old Police material.

The band came out for two encores including the Police's top hit 'Every Breath You Take'.

A Police reunion will likely never happen, and perhaps Miller is right when he said recently it shouldn't. The group left on top, but at least now Sting has found an acceptable way to bring that music back to the fans once again.

The pop/punk band Fiction Plane, which features Sting's son as frontman, opened with a 30-minute set. Like his father, Joe Sumner also plays bass and sounds quite similar to his famous dad.

(c) The Norwich Bulletin by David Pencek