Message in the bottle is...
Sting seems to be torn between being a pop star and a ''serious'' musician. During this concert he swapped roles and masks many times without us getting any closer to the real person. This is echoed in the fact that few of his many finely crafted songs have been truly moving, lacking a sense of vulnerability.
Perhaps the mono-monikered one has been too busy confidently plotting what will appeal to his adoring public to let his guard down.
A calculating element has always been implicit; a ''this will get them dancing/singing/buying'' undercurrent which flowed from The Police into his solo career. Not necessarily avaricious in nature, it may sometimes have involved such deliberations as ''this will impress them'', or ''this will puzzle them''. But calculating, nonetheless.
Sting's back-catalogue is now vast, and here he happily drew upon the full spectrum, from 'Roxanne' to 'Brand New Day'. The former, restored to a band (rather than solo acoustic) version, was a highlight. His voice never sounded stronger, its strangely boyish quality always especially suiting this tune, whereas that lightness of timbre continues to undermine some other songs.
Also from the Police repertoire came 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', which may be disposable pop, but remains cute and danceable. And while the much more substantial and arresting (!) 'Every Breath You Take' was curiously denuded of all its haunting wonder, 'Message In A Bottle' actually captured a sense of confidentiality, Sting just accompanying himself on nylon-stringed guitar.
The rest of the time he was on bass, often playing lines which must be devilishly hard to simultaneously sing over. These imaginative, reggae-influenced bass parts, which so typified the Police repertoire, created a legacy which has run through his solo career: the contrivance of song structures and arrangements which do not necessitate instrumental solos. It was innovative 20 years ago, and remains a distinguishing characteristic of his material.
The rare instrumental features that did emerge among the seven-piece band were of a high calibre, even if the sound was dreadfully muddy.
Trumpeter Christopher Botti took a splendid solo on 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', pianist Jason Rebello worked up some heat on 'When The World Is Running Down', and guitarist Dominic Miller was tasteful on the lovely 'Fields Of Gold'.
It would add up to a good show if Sting could discard his masks - and perhaps the silly name.
(c) The Sydney Morning Herald by John Shand
A Brand New Day in Sydney...
I have always wanted to go to Australia so at the beginning of the 'Brand New Day' tour I made the resolution that when the 'main man' packed his bags and jetted off down under that I would do the same. So when I received my Outlandos e-mail Update No. 35 in September announcing dates in Australia, including several at the Capitol Theatre Sydney, I started all those treks to Travel Agents and surfing of Web Sites to check out the best holiday deals to OZ.
My old mate 'mad' Paul Carter was desperate to come with me but felt he would not have the funds or enough holiday entitlement from work to make it so I forged on with my plans and duly booked my flight, accommodation and managed to successfully book really good seats through Ticketmaster in Australia. It took three weeks of constant web site monitoring for 'on sale' dates and many phone calls at 11 O'clock at night GMT time (9 O'clock AM Sydney time) to achieve my tickets. I even managed to get front row middle for the Saturday night show, not bad from the other side of the world!
It was minus four days and counting and I had just finished of my holiday shopping, (sun tan cream, camera film, lots of Australia Dollars etc) when I received 3 messages on my mobile phone. It was Paul ''I've been down to the travel agents today, booked a flight via Japan, got me Visa, and I'm coming with ya mate!!''.
And so it was that the two intrepid explorers set off via different routes but with the same destination in mind, Sydney Australia. Sting here we come again!!
I set of from Heathrow a couple of hours later than Paul and upon my flight was Jason (Rebello) and his family. I had a talk to him at the airport and said ''I hope you'll be able to stay awake for the first show''. Our flight didn't reach Sydney until the morning of the first gig, a 24 hour journey isn't very good preparation for a member of the audience, let alone a band member! I met up with my compatriot at Sydney Airport and we made our way to the hotel.
Having checked in we decided to go and take a look at our first famous land mark the Opera House. We were making our way down to the OH, passing some cafes, when Paul turned to me and said ''oh my God look who's over there'' and there was Sting, Kipper, Dom, Chris and Billy Francis all having their lunch. We debated as to whether we should stroll in and say hi but I thought it may annoy them as they were having their lunch so we just made sure that they saw us, as you do, so they knew that the lunatics were in town!
We carried on to have a look at the Opera House and on the way back bumped into our old mate Dom. He was happy to see us and was amazed that we had travelled all that way to see the shows. Paul was anxious to get a ticket for that night's show so he could relax and enjoy the rest of the day so Dom said he would sort us out some tickets if we turned up at the sound check. Well to think there was any question that we wouldn't be down at the venue anyway for the sound check!
We arrived on cue and shortly afterwards Sting turned up. There was only Paul, me and two Ozzies there so everything was nice and relaxed. One of the major objectives for me of this current trip was to get a photo with Sting whilst I was wearing my local football club's shirt. All my friends at the club have been urging me for a while to get this done as the club publish photos of fans wearing their shirts at famous locations around the world. Well I was going to go one better and have my photo taken with a world renowned personality, our hero, Sting. The photo shoot duly took place and although he had a hard look at the badge on the shirt to his credit he didn't say 'who the hell are they?' which means he either must of heard of them or he just felt sorry for me and didn't like to rub it
in as we are currently languishing at the lower end of our league, having said that the old Geordies aren't exactly setting the world alight this season either.
Sting was nice and relaxed he greeted us with the comment ''you're here again, then'' and commented to Paul that he didn't see him in Japan this time (one of Paul's previous famous Sting trips). I got my BND promo CD single cover signed and he signed things for the two other people. We wished him well for the show that night and he went off to work to do his sound check. After the soundcheck Dom came out and presented us with 3rd row middle seats for the gig and so we went away chuffed at our first days work.
The following four days were spent doing touristy bits during the day. Meeting up with Sting and band at the sound checks. Doing the gigs in the evening and partying the night away at various Sydney clubs and pubs.
At the end of the first night's show Paul bumped into a girl called Maria, who he had met on a previous tour (how many countries throughout the world hasn't got a Sting fan who doesn't know Paul from a previous tour?). Maria became our escort for the remainder of our stay and guided us through the many attractions the city has to offer. We went up the AMP tower, which gave us a magnificent view of the landscape of Sydney. Its similar in construction to the Post Office tower in London. We checked out the Sharks at Seaworld. Spent the day on Bondi Beach, where we saw Kipper and some of his mates. I did the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb which was an amazing experience and on the final day we even witnessed the suicide of a man who hurled himself of a hotel balcony. Not a pretty sight!
One of the sites we visited regularly was the box office at the venue. The poor guy got to know Paul quite well as he was on his case for tickets every day, but fair play to the guy he held the best one that came available each day for him. In fact there was a funny incident when one day we went in there and there was a girl behind the counter that we hadn't seen before. Paul asked about ticket availability and she said ''no there was nothing at all'' so Paul said ''is Rick there?'' she called him out from the back and Paul said ''got anything for Carter'' and the guy said ''yep I can do you a 6th row gold ticket right now'' you should have seen the girls face. She had to leave the counter and skulk round the back she felt so stupid. Good old Rick came up trumps for three night for Paul
so we didn't have to hassle for tickets. The poor guy will remember the two lunatics from England for some time to come I'm sure.
The Capitol Theatre, although a newish building, has a decor in the art deco theme. With statues on the walls at the sides and ornate furnishings. Sting and band took stage each night at approximately 8:45 and began the set with the by now customary first song 1000 Days.
Sting's apparel each night was made up of a black vest and khaki green pilot trousers. Ever the consummate professional he performed his mixture of old and new, fast and slow songs to appreciative, yet not lively, audiences. Since my last show in Europe in the Summer he had omitted from the set list 'Mad About You', 'I'm So Happy' and 'Tomorrow We'll See'.
There were no changes in the line up of the band even Russ was still in favour, not bad for a Sting BV to last that long! The choreography of the show was as it has been for some time with Sting sparing with band members and the individual spotlight taken at various points by Manu, Chris, Dominic, and Jason. The funky middle of 'Roxanne' has really taken root and provides yet another aspect to the classic song. Cheb Mami wasn't available for 'Desert Rose' but the song still stands on its own as a really 'get up and dance' number. In fact the only thing that was dreadfully wrong with the set was the choice of 'Shape Of My Heart' as the return song for the first encore. He had just got the crowd up for it and ready to really go mad when he slowed it right down again (need to rethink that
one Sting). He soon got things going again by playing 'Faith In You' and 'Every Breath' and had all of us at the front singing along to 'Message'. 'Fragile' brought the show to a customary end and at least some of us went home happy each night but then again we would go home happy whatever the geezer played!
On the last two nights he even invited girls up onto the stage during 'World Running Down' to dance with him. Three people had jumped up onto the stage on the first two nights only to be 'escorted' away by Phil. But I presume Sting had said something about calling people up because no attempt was made to remove the girls. The first time just one lucky girl was beckoned up to the stage join him. The following night the saucy old bugger got two of them up there with him. He loved it, he swayed, they swayed, he shook his hips, they shook theirs, they stuck their **** out, and his eyes popped out! Good job Trudie wasn't there otherwise he would have got another telling off!
All in all it was another excellent trip for me and the old Colmans (Paul). Once again everything went perfectly and touch wood so far the BND tour is turning out to be the best ever. We've now visited 7 countries on this tour and he's just gone and announced another load of dates going up till next July so there's plenty more opportunities to rack up some more. Here's to more adventures in 2001!
(c) Andy Finch for Sting.com