Immaculate conception of pop...
The weather was picture-perfect - and so, on June 30th, as always, was the cool, chameleonic Sting, whose immaculate conception of pop was in tune with his maturing audience at Mansfield, Massachusetts' Tweeter Center, a packed shed south of Boston.
''He always has a great band,'' said Britta Anderson, 28, of Boston, perched with friends on a blanket as the crowd settled in during Shawn Colvin's solo appetizer of wispy folk pop. ''And he's always able to adapt his music to different styles.''
Showcasing his Grammy-winning 'Brand New Day', Sting assimilated jazz, world music (the neo-Arabic 'Desert Rose') and even snatches of hip-hop (a rap by drummer Manu Katche in 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong') and country (Fill Her Up) into the crisp, airy groove of his six-piece band, which also featured textural trumpeter Chris Botti and longtime guitarist Dominic Miller. It proved to be Sting's best solo group since his late-Eighties outfit with Branford Marsalis, sounding particularly well-honed and fresh on this fifth date of a forty-five-city, outdoor-amphitheater summer swing through America, halfway through his world tour.
Sophisticated and carefully spontaneous, the near-two-hour show adapted the minimalist precision of the latter-day Police - and Sting nodded to his former trio with five nuggets, including a singalong 'Roxanne' (tempered but still infectious), a jammed-out 'When the World Is Running Down' and a more-ebullient-than-brooding 'Every Breath You Take', which matched the mood of this balmy holiday weekend. ''The best ever,'' declared Sting devotee Tomma Botelho, 28, of Cranston, Rhode Island, whose boyfriend surprised her with tickets for her July 3rd birthday.
(c) Rolling Stone by Craig Semon
Sting: very adult, very entertaining...
Rarely has an artist and his audience matured with such synchronicity (pardon the pun) as Sting and his devoted throngs of fans.
He's gone from rough and tumble young rock star as front man for Police to a literate solo artist with songs that span the stylistic and global map. Twenty years ago his calling card was a striking economy of musical language; now Sting offers complex, attractive pop songs with heavy jazz and world music leanings.
The biting ska of 'Message in a Bottle' has been primed and plumped into 'An Englishman in New York'; the equivalent of ska with a cube of sugar and a civilized dollop of cream. It might be something to scoff at if Sting weren't so very good a growing up. Backed by a stellar six-piece band, Sting-his 48-year-old physique as buffed as his music- played a supremely polished and sophisticated set that lasted nearly two hours. Even the old Police songs he dusted off were translated into the temperate and jazz-inflected vocabulary of his current repertoire.
On 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Roxanne', and 'When The World Is Running Down...', the fire and urgency of the original versions were replaced by warmth and virtuosity. It wasn't a bad thing, by a long shot. It was, like the rest of this show, a very adult thing. Sting has a vast catalogue to choose from, and he selected well from various stages of his career.
Songs from his recent Grammy-winning CD 'Brand New Day' were emphasized, and actually comprised the spottiest moments in the set. 'Fill Her Up' is a country-flavored affair, one style the adventurous Sting doesn't wear well. And the album's title track is so sunny it called for ''every boy and girl'' to stand up, it seemed clear the singer spent too much time soaking up the rays. Highlights were the delicate, quirky 'Seven Days', a wonderfully inventive marriage of jazz and pop, 'Fields of Gold', a radiantly beautiful ballad spun of delicate acoustic guitar and sheafs of gauzy keyboards, and 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', a heart-felt standout among Sting's ever savvy, pristine musical investigations.
Shawn Colvin played an acoustic solo set to a chattering audience that had no idea what it was missing. Colvin is a rare gem, a truly gifted singer-songwriter. If self-awareness, and the sensitivity to translate that insight into musical poetry, is the folk artist's most precious currency, Colvin is richer by far than nearly all of her contemporaries. On 'Trouble' and 'Riding Shotgun Down the Avalanche', as piercing a pair of confessionals as any, she reveals herself in the harshest light. On 'Sunny Came Home' and 'Get Out of This House', spite turned to elegy with a passing of time and the absence of a band. Colvin's voice, however, carries as much nuance as an ensemble, sneaking into the folds and curves of a melody that lesser interpreters can't inhabit.
(c) The Boston Globe by Joan Anderman
Sting hits, misses with Tweeter audience...
There just aren't many rockers out there who would start an onstage conversation this way: ''I had a big day yesterday. I played chess with the world champion.''
And Sting was dead serious. He did, indeed, get thrashed by Gary Kasparov.
Ah, Sting. He's an intellectual and a dilettante, a pop whiz and a musical dabbler. Ya gotta love him and hate him, and there were reasons to do both at last night's near-capacity Tweeter Center concert.
Love him for his undeniable roguish good looks and his knack for whipping up delicious pop pastries like 'Brand New Day', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', and 'Every Breath You Take'.
Hate him for his other music more clever than inspired, more calculated than moving. There was a fair dose of that as well in his 105-minute set, such as the quasi-jazz jam in an extended 'When the World Is Runnning Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around'.
It made a lot of noise but didn't really go any place and actually required a lot less effort than Sting and his backing band exhibited.
Make no mistake, the mostly Baby Boomer crowd was generally enraptured by the concert.
But it was really a night of plusses and minuses that reached a smooth comfort zone and never really climaxed.
For every good thing, such as a sweet take of 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free', there was something to offset it, like trumpet player Chris Botti, who doodled through too many songs and ruined the hipster sheen his sound would have brought to a select few.
Sting was in good vocal form, and his backing sextet anchored by guitarist Dominic Miller and keyboardist Jason Rebello covered a lot of musical ground.
In the end, though, it was really a concert of light: light jazz, light world music, light rock.
Shawn Colvin opened the show with a typically sturdy set of solo acoustic tunes, including her own take of 'Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic'. She was also very patient with crowd members who often seemed more intent on talking to each other than listening to her.
(c) The Boston Herald by Dean Johnson
Sensual Sting explores L'Amour...
While heavy metal fans were getting their ears blown to bits by the mighty sounds of Metallica Friday night in Foxboro, a more reserved crowd was buzzing to the sensual, soothing sounds of Sting at the Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts.
On his seventh solo album (and surprise Grammy winner) 'Brand New Day', the 48-year-old former schoolteacher suffers the slings and arrows of amour and ponders the possibilities for romantic rebirth. On stage, Sting explores these themes with a series of exotic, elegant musical terrains that included and often fused elements of jazz, funk, country, classical and pop.
Sting was his usual charming, charismatic self for the nearly two-hour, 21-song set, which included two encores. Sting performed seven tunes from his latest, in addition to nine gems from his earlier solo work and five classics from his days as the front man of New Wave hit machine The Police.
The self-anointed King of Pain turned Ponce de Leon of adult-contemporary pop had the audience buzzing early with his soulful singing, sly sophistication and pop smarts.
Wearing a tight-fitting, sleeveless black T-shirt and gray khakis, Sting beckoned the listener with his dynamic, natural flowing voice on the opener 'A Thousand Years'. Many ladies in the audience found this the perfect opportunity to swoon (and, in some cases, drool) over Sting's devilish good looks and undeniable sex appeal.
Sting got the audience clapping to a jazz inflected 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'We'll Be Together'. Sting was in compelling form (both figuratively and literally) and he smartly interspersed Sting staples with the newer, less familiar tunes of his latest.
But what was probably more incredible than the man himself was Sting's incredibly tight, five-piece backup band, made up of guitarists Dominic Miller and Mark ''Kipper'' Eldridge, pianist Jason Rebello, drummer Manu Katche and trumpeter Chris Botti. These musicians consistently brought a fresh, new dynamic to the studio versions, oftentimes sounding better than the originals.
'Fill Her Up', the high-octane, honky-tonk-turned-Holy-Gospel romp, was a toe-tapping, hand-clapping crowd pleaser. Sting belted the tune as if he were conducting a spiritual revival, playing gas station attendant turned devout disciple of Jesus.
The sensual ballad 'Fields of Gold' pulled at the heartstrings while The Police's 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' still sounds as it did 20 years ago.
(c) The Telegram & Gazette
Sting jazzes up US tour with all-star band.
''I played chess against the world champion yesterday, and I figured the only way I could win was if I kicked him in the shins after the first move,'' says Sting jokingly, referring to his televised loss of king, queen, bishops, and pawns to Garry Kasparov on ''Good Morning America'' last week.
This announcement comes two numbers into his set before an outdoor venue at the Tweeter Center of stargazers who are alternating their attention between the celebrity singer and the night-time constellations.
Sting is on a US tour in support of his sixth solo studio album, 'Brand New Day' - released last fall. Buoyed by good word of mouth and the memorable single 'Desert Rose', the record is steadily treading the waters of the Top 30 Billboard charts.
The concert opens with the majestic, affecting love song, 'A Thousand Years', one of the Englishman's strongest songs in years. It's followed by his breakthrough solo single 'If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)', which sounds even better than the original with a newly arranged bridge just before the chorus.
Most of the live material is an improvement on some recorded predecessors, and this is particularly true of selections from the latest album, which at times suffers from an overly slick production.
'Perfect Love Gone Wrong', for example, benefits from the pure, organic sounds of Sting's trumpet player, Chris Botti. The renowned jazzman weaves shimmering runs and elegant, sensual caresses into the song's spaces to stunning effect.
Sting, an engaging frontman, prances about the stage, tinkering with drummer Manu Katche's cymbals and then peering down the barrel of the trumpet as Botti holds one note for such an eternity that it would have divers gasping for air long before the trumpeter surfaces for his next breath.
Botti's inclusion in Sting's all-star band proves delightful as he reinterprets the harmonica of songs like 'Fields of Gold' and 'Brand New Day', or the much-beloved sax playing of Branford Marsalis on numbers such as 'Englishman in New York' or 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'.
The complex bass lines during 'All This Time' and the dynamic 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' prove Sting's own instrumental prowess to be equal to that of Katche, one of the world's best drummers, or Sting's longtime guitar player, Dominic Miller (who also plays with Peter Gabriel, Sheryl Crow, and The Pretenders).
The band is rounded out by Jason Rebello, a successful solo jazz artist in his own right, on piano. It is Rebello's coruscating solo that provides the highlight of the night - an extended jam of The Police's 'When the World Is Running Down', merged with 'Bring on the Night' and modelled after the version appearing on Sting's great live album 'Bring on the Night'.
Sting's career with his former band, The Police, is proportionately represented by 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Every Breath You Take', and 'Roxanne'.
If 'Breath' sounds tired after years of performances, at least 'Roxanne' sounds invigorated thanks to a new reggae underpinning that nods to the influence that the genre had on The Police.
Sting's flamenco guitar runs decorate 'Fragile' prettily, but he has closed concerts with this number before and it no longer has the impact it deserves. That aside, this tour finds Sting in fine form.
One hopes that the rawer edges of his live sets will filter into his next album.
(c) The Christian Science Monitor by Stephen Humphries