Songs From The Labyrinth

Brisbane, QLD, AU
Town Hallwith None
Sting brings charm to historic, brooding lute tunes...

If the Elizabethan singer-songwriter John Dowland were alive, he would be gratified that Sting is such a champion of his brooding love songs set to lute accompaniment.

This 16th-century songsmith, who enjoyed celebrity status, had a flair for crafting tunes tinged with a fashionable gloom and was reputed to be the finest lute player in England.

Sting, playing his 'Songs of the Labyrinth' Tour at Brisbane City Hall on December 1, showed he is not brilliant at the lute. But he delivered a creditable bass line to add depth and body to the lutenist Edin Karamazov's extraordinarily fluid embellishment of Dowland's tunes.

If Sting is a powerful advocate of Dowland, Karamazov is an equivalent ambassador for the lute, and, in this quasi-historical, atmospheric presentation it's an advantage that this instrumentalist looks as if he just stepped out of an Elizabethan scene.

Dowland was composing some 400 years ago and Sting traces Dowland's influence to British song right through to the present day.

He performs choice examples to back up his claim including an idiosyncratic but heartwarming version of Elgar's 'Where Coral Lies' and Vaughan Williams' 'Linden Lea' through to his own 'Fields of Gold' that charmed the large crowd.

One major factor in the success of this enjoyable, intimate concert is Sting's unconditional enthusiasm for Dowland's music.

Although these songs spring from the classical camp, Sting's trademark, untrained grainy tenor is a good match for Dowland's love-crossed introspections.

The Police's iconic frontman has not only placed himself in a position of musical vulnerability but is comfortable in doing so.

In the opening items, Sting was not yet in his stride and word definition was murky, especially at the lower end of his range, but the crowd was nevertheless buoyed by the sincerity and charismatic presence he brings to this antique brand of music-making.

'Come Again' and 'Weep you no more, Sad Fountains' were particularly inspired.

Stile Antico, an elegant if reserved a cappella group, provided lush harmonised blends in 'Come Heavy Sleep' adding radiance to Sting's outpouring and Karamazov's sinewy, expressive lines.

(c) The Courier Mail by Gillian Bramley-Moore