Melbourne, VIC, AU
Sidney Myer Music Bowlwith None

Sting with the MSO...

Sting's detractors - and there are many - complain about his aloofness, his association with so-called yuppie or corporate rock and his, well, simply being Sting.

The mere mention of his name in many social circles often prompts derisive comments about Amazon rainforests, tantric sex, lutes or all three.

And witnessing him on stage, you cannot help but wonder (or, perhaps, lament): how does a man this age look this good?

Yet all of this was put to one side on Friday night as more than 11,000 filed into the Sidney Myer Music Bowl for a three-hour-long saunter through the 59-year-old's career.

An early start - Sting appeared at 7.30pm sharp - meant large queues snaked around the outside of the venue from about 6pm. Thirty-minute waits to enter the site were common.

Inside, the mood was genteel - for a rock gig, at least. The audience remained seated until encore. Still, this was an exceedingly entertaining night traversing a back catalogue of pop that's often underestimated. Although the reunion of the band Sting is best known for, The Police, ended with him walking away swearing never again, the songs have aged exceedingly well.

And on Friday night, augmented by arguably Australia's best orchestra, they sounded superb.

Sting, as it goes, is not the warmest of performers. Singing tracks he has performed thousands of times before, there is occasionally a remoteness to the lyrics he sings.

When he took the time on Friday to explain the lyrics behind certain tracks, it was almost jolting to recall these songs were once feelings he had rather than just showpieces for his vocal instrument.

And although there were two occasions the most nitpicking of critics would suggest his vocal limitations were stretched, his singing voice was excellent, sounding remarkably well preserved.

The orchestra, too, enveloped the songs, enhancing their sound and heightening the overall experience without overwhelming Sting's own five-piece band.

Many tracks had an instrumental starting point, be it violin, clarinet, acoustic guitar or trumpet. The soloists, too, were routinely excellent: there was to be no blatant sense of egotism on Sting's behalf.

Musical diversity was important; while straight-out rock and pop had its place, so did soul, bossa nova and R&B.

The show was not perfect ('The Shape of My Heart' and 'You Will Be My Ain True Love' were both forgettable). The Police classic 'King of Pain' was the night's most powerful moment, rendered a riveting triumph by Sting and orchestra.

Two more classics, 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Tak'e were given slight tweaks to fit the format.

Like the show itself, both came up trumps.

(c) Sydney Morning Herald by Andrew Murfett