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Dallas, TX, US
Winspear Opera Housewith None
Sting shows off musicianship, stage presence at Winspear Opera House performance...

We could quibble that Sting played it safe Saturday night at the Winspear Opera House. We could complain that he and his stellar three-piece band - drummer Josh Freese, keyboardist David Sancious and guitarist Dominic Miller - pandered to the 30-and-up audience by giving them many familiar solo and Police tunes as well as a few album cuts from that hit-making era.

But that would be dismissing a fabulous show of musicianship, stage presence and song selection. Sting, whose performance was part of the Super Bowl XLV Kick-Off Concert Series, was in stellar artistic form. He was so good that he made us forget how coy those North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee bigwigs were about the headliner of the Sept. 10 gig dubbed "XLV Countdown Live From Cowboys Stadium."

All we know is this person is a Grammy-winner and has sold more than 40 million albums. "Contractual obligations" prohibit them from saying anything else. Instead we got banter from hosts Troy Aikman and Daryl Johnston as well as Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson and Tony Dorsett.

Sting commanded undivided attention for 90 minutes. Looking and sounding most youthful at 58, the Englishman born Gordon Sumner opened with a loosely R&B rendition of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You'. He would effortlessly travel through gems showcasing his grasp of melodies, rhythm and memorable lyrics.

The highlights were the unexpected numbers such as the sauntering 'Walking On the Moon' segueing into the moody 'Tea In the Sahara', or the solemn, spare 'Shape Of My Heart' and the rocking 'Driven to Tears'. But there was also no ignoring the punk-rock energy of 'Message In a Bottle', the stunning beauty of 'Fields of Gold' and the sinewy, sexy allure of 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'.

By the time he reached the end of two encores, Sting had touched on every significant turn of his career. Closing with 'Fragile', one of his most covered solo compositions, reminded us just how accomplished his repertoire has been.

© The Dallas Morning News by Mario Tarradell

Sting's show at Winspear comes amid buzz over upcoming Super Bowl extravaganza...

Before Sting's 80-minute set, Ann Mukherjee, Frito-Lay senior vice president and chief marketing officer, and Roger Staubach, the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee chairman, revealed a few tantalizing details about September's extravaganza in Arlington, the final of three planned "kickoff" concerts in the run-up to Super Bowl XLV.

"Sept. 10 will be a night... unlike anything you've ever seen in North Texas," Mukherjee said.

"XLV Countdown Live from Cowboys Stadium," as the event is known, will be headlined by an as-yet-unannounced Grammy Award-winning artist who has sold more than 40 million albums. Mukherjee said "contractual obligations" prevent the committee from releasing the performer's name, but the artist will announce participation at an upcoming concert.

In addition, pianist Van Cliburn will perform; a live 90-piece orchestra will accompany a series of NFL Films-produced short films celebrating the Cowboys' Super Bowl victories; and Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, will be honored. The host committee also debuted the trailer for filmmaker Mark Birnbaum's documentary about the NFL's Slant 45 program, which will be released this year.

The second of the Host Committee's three concerts was another star-studded, sold-out affair, this one hosted by Troy Aikman and Darryl "Moose" Johnston. (Faith Hill, with hosts Aikman and Joe Buck, opened the series at Bass Hall in March.)

Sting, backed by a three-piece band that included Josh Freese on drums, wasted little time diving into his hit-laden back catalog, starting with 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'. Displaying much more vigor than on the recent Police reunion tour, Sting also dialed down his penchant for improvisation.

That said, one of the night's best moments came when he segued smoothly from a liquid rendition of 'Walking on the Moon' into the gorgeous, still-devastating 'Tea in the Sahara'.

Sting kept the between-song small talk to a minimum but soberly observed that even as an English soccer fan, he'd heard of and understood the great importance of the Dallas Cowboys franchise.

Cheering, frequently shouting along and even providing a standing ovation or two, the crowd was, well, wrapped around Sting's finger. Dabbing the classics with a few new jazzy colors and stripping just enough familiarity from the well-known frameworks, the English singer-songwriter kept the elegant space humming - and looking forward to the fall's grand finale.

© Fort Worth Star Telegram by Preston Jones