Brand New Day

Pittsburgh, PA, US
Post Gazette Pavilion at Star Lakewith Tracy Chapman
Man of the world: Sting takes audiences on a trip across the globe and back in time...

Despite Sting's award-winning solo career, the crowd at the Post-Gazette Pavilion at Star Lake couldn't forget about his former gig as the ''chief'' of Police.

For the artist formerly known as Gordon Sumner, it was his work with a trio that split up 16 years ago that brought the crowd of 9,257 to its feet.

Hits from the '80s, including 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Roxanne' and 'Set Them Free', were the ones that got the Bics flicking, the voices singing and the big hair bobbing.

But that's not to say Sting's solo act wasn't a hit.

Clad in gray cargo pants, a black sleeveless T-shirt and black work boots and looking far younger than his 48 (wow, how can that be?) years, Sting smoothly took his audience around the world and back.

From the rap sung in French on 'Perfect Love' off his 1999 release 'Brand New Day' to the Arabic tones of 'Desert Rose' from the same CD, Sting proved himself to be a man of the world.

Selections from his post-Police days also displayed his versatility.

Jazz, along with a glowing full moon, lit up the stage for 'Bourbon Street' while country influences blended with traditional gospel sounds in 'Fill Her Up' and reggae sounds got the crowd moving to 'Englishman in New York'.

And, of course, there was plenty of pop/rock.

Not taking time out from the set lasting nearly two hours to chat, Sting let his music and his band - ranging from a trumpeter to a bongo player - do the talking.

Not that anyone seemed to mind.

After a double encore consisting of 'If I Ever Loose My Faith in You', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Fragile' (with lyrics including ''on and on the rain will fall like tears from the sky'' ironically sung just as the shower that had been threatening all evening began), fans showered the stage with flowers, British flags, a stuffed bumble bee and at least one pair of panties.

Opening for Sting was folk/pop singer Tracy Chapman.

From her hits like 'Fast Car' and 'One Reason' to newer tunes, Chapman had the audience's attention. And, after an hour of 'Telling Stories', they rewarded her with a standing ovation.

(c) The New Castle News by Renée Gendreau

Sting, Chapman frolic over vast musical terrain...

Dour? Pretentious? Serious with a capital S? Which Sting would that be?

Certainly not the one performing for 9,257 people at the Post-Gazette Pavilion last night.

Sting is an artist, and the pieces he played reflected his need to explore far-ranging musical territory. Borrowing from rock, lounge music, gospel, even country and Dixieland, Sting brewed a heady mix of thinking person's pop. That didn't stop him from letting loose and enjoying himself, though.

Singing of New Orleans in 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', Sting slipped into a laughable Louis Armstrong impression. He also milked the more ironic lines of 'Tomorrow We'll See', setting the audience up for the pathos to come. He also upheld his tradition of inserting lyrics from 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' into another song, singing the second verse of the Police song over the coda of 'Seven Days'.

Sting also seemed to revel in the musical shifts his band could pull off with aplomb. The bright, melodic choruses of 'After the Rain' segued seamlessly into a loose, sparse reading of 'We'll Be Together'. Again combining a new song with an earlier tune, the jazzy conclusion of 'Fill Her Up' faded neatly into 'Fields of Gold'. The hushed version of 'Fields' was the musical highlight of the initial set, with Sting embracing the song's melody and wrapping it around Dominic Miller's acoustic guitar lines.

The Police songs Sting trotted out all garnered ecstatic reactions from the crowd. They varied greatly in quality, though. 'Roxanne' floated between a stark guitar-and-voice reading and a plodding band version. 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' were better.

The only real missteps in Sting's set were two songs from 'Brand New Day'. Sting began his show with 'A Thousand Years', a slow, oddly shapeless song that didn't create the energy of a more typical opening tune. 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' was even more of a mismatched musical hodgepodge. While Chris Botti played some wonderfully lyrical trumpet lines throughout the tune, other elements of the composition just didn't fit.

Tracy Chapman was a perfect fit as the opening act for the show. While the singer/songwriter's material can come off as simple and gentle, her songs are actually quite crafty and cutting. With her backing musicians often adding only atmospheric touches, Chapman's voice and lyrics rightfully took center stage. 'Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution' came off as more of a warning than happy sing-along, 'Fast Car' benefited from a deliberate but lush arrangement and 'Telling Stories' played with the intriguing idea of a lie sometimes being ''the best thing.''

Chapman had a bit of fun herself. After playing 'Give Me One Reason' a la the version on 'New Beginning', she kicked her band into a rollicking jump blues version that out-muscled the original.

Thus both performers offered beguiling sets full of well-planned virtuosity and enjoyable spontaneity.

(c) The Pittsburgh Post Gazette by John Young