Sting, orchestra break new ground...
It's like what Eazy-E said: Forsake the police.
That was the unspoken sentiment Tuesday night at Riverbend, where Sting put aside the songs of his former band, for the most part. Instead, he gave solo hits and lesser-known songs the full-on symphonic treatment, backed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, 40-plus players strong.
This show did not end up serving as Cincinanti's consolation for being excluded from the Police's reunion tours of 2007 and 2008. Sting threw Police fans a few bones, such as 'Roxanne', 'King of Pain', 'Next To You', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Every Breath You Take'. But the majority of the two sets - totaling 26 songs and lasting two hours and 45 minutes, intermission included - was of the 1984-and-beyond, post-Police variety.
Transitioning from reggae-rock to jazz-rock to world-music-rock to, now, orchestral-rock is a natural progression for the 58-year-old singer. He has always seemed as if he's plotting the next manoeuvre, and his intentions appear to be a bit on the pompous side. Switching out the three-piece Police for the RPCO will do nothing to downplay any accusations of pomposity.
But anyone in the audience who equated a string section with high art and/or rock Ã¢ï¿½ï¿½n' roll entertainment probably thought that Sting, again, made the right move.
The orchestral makeover sometimes gave a song a second wind. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' has a soft-to-loud momentum that fit naturally to the sway of the orchestra.
Then there were times when the fit was forced, such as with the up-tempo rocker 'Next To You' that clunked along awkwardly as showy conductor Steven Mercurio unsuccessfully tried to will his band to rock out.
And then there were the times when strings and brass did nothing but make middle-of-the-road material become even more middling. This accounted for a lot of his solo material, which doesn't compare favourably to the Police catalogue.
There were exceptions. The best non-Police performance of the night was 'Moon over Bourbon Street', which came off like an old tune from a good musical and kicked off just as the night's rainfall was at its heaviest. The suspenseful punctuations of the orchestra seemed to be syncopated with the rumble of thunder, and Sting heightened the song's creepy quotient with a bit of squawk from a theremin.
So where does Sting go after the orchestra-rock thing dries up? To country music, of course. He spoke of his love for country music a few times during the show. He recalled the pride he felt when his 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' got Toby Keith a cover hit on the country charts. Sting played 'I Hung My Head', a song that he wrote and that Johnny Cash would later cover.
And though Robert Plant seemed like a genius for teaming on a duet record with Alison Krauss a few years ago, let's not for get who the first old English dude was to come up with the idea. Sting and the orchestra performed a nice version of 'You Will Be My Ain True Love', his duet with Krauss used in the 2003 movie 'Cold Mountain'.
(c) Cincinnati Enquirer by Chris Varias