Denver, CO, US
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Sting on Royal wavelength at masterful Red Rocks stop...

At the first of his two Red Rocks concerts with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Sting was a consummate showman and a wilful storyteller Wednesday night.

Dressed in black and holding court at the centre of Red Rocks' mammoth stage, the rock artist made sure the sold-out audience felt special at this showcase stop of his 'Symphonicity' tour.

Touring with 40-plus musicians from one of the world's most respected philharmonics, he kicked the evening off with an 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' that took full advantage of his mammoth backing band - strings, brass, timpani, harp and all. Cable network A&E was in the house with obnoxiously glaring audience lights and plenty of cameras for a later broadcast.

Pairing Sting with the orchestra is brilliant synchronicity on multiple levels. Sure, it sounds great. But the aesthetics of Sting in 2010 backed by a vaunted symphony is a brilliant way to please his audience, which has aged along with him. It also helps justify the ticket cost - $50.50 to $180.50, before fees.

The many Sting fans in the house were treated to a show that impressively covered his hits along with some unexpected album tracks. Outside of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', his first set was front-loaded with ballads - understandably, given the presentation.

'Englishman In New York' had a gorgeous clarinet throughline and a beguiling, song-ending, amphitheatre wide sing-along of ''Be yourself no matter what they say.'' 'Roxanne' had Sting on acoustic guitar, and the pop hit sounded like a minor-key lounge dirge. Sting didn't flex his upper register too much in the familiar song, but the arrangement - by Rob Mathes, who handled many of the evening's orchestrations - was understated, nuanced and quite pretty.

''There's a reason they're called the Royal Philharmonic,'' Sting quipped early in the night, acknowledging the musicians behind him. ''I borrowed them off the queen.''

The orchestra added a certain class to the joint. Sometimes Sting would step aside and into the dark, giving the players a deserved spotlight.

'Russians' took advantage of the bombastic percussion section. 'When We Dance', an overwrought ballad already, didn't benefit much from the orchestra's presence. But 'I Hung My Head' was a stunning study in contrasts with a more traditional Sting-drummer-guitarist moment blooming into a full-blown symphonic bash.

(c) The Denver Post by Ricardo Baca