Sting close to flawless in opener at Great Woods...
Sting opened the Great Woods summer concert series in style last night, guiding the sell-out crowd of 15,000 on a well-planned musical tour of the last decade.
The versatile performer demonstrated complete confidence as he traveled from his days as front man for The Police to his current role as gentleman storyteller.
The musical direction of the evening was set from the beginning. Sting trotted on stage with his three-piece band and kicked into 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', the smash single from his latest release, 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. Most performers showcase their current single toward the end of a show, but Sting opted to rev the crowd up early and it worked.
Sting displayed his musical diversity by deftly shifting tempos throughout the evening. Backed by Donnie Miller on guitar, Vinnie Calaiuta on drums and the multi-talented David Sancious on keyboards, Sting focused on the essentials.
An early highlight came when the band paid homage to the Beatles, grinding out a long-overdue cover of 'A Day in the Life'. The new rendition restored sparkle to this neglected tune and perhaps rescued it from the graveyard of ''classic'' rock radio.
The centerpiece of the concert was Sting's nod to his days in The Police. The quartet fired out 'Synchronicity', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Roxanne' with authority.
The evening left little doubt that Sting is comfortable with his present career and with his past accomplishments. He shed his dour label by joking with the crowd that he had written 'It's Probably Me' as the theme of 'Lethal Weapon 3' because ''Mel Gibson needed something to sing to Danny Glover.''
Sting did not entirely escape his rock star persona, however. He emerged shirtless during the encore and caused more than one female in the audience to gasp. And during 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', there was so much dry ice that one might expect Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard of Oz in the movie classic, to emerge and yell ''Pay no attention to that man behind the keyboards.''
But those are small complaints. The show was as close to flawless as a performance can get. If the remainder of Great Woods' shows approach this level of entertainment, it will be an extremely successful season in Mansfield.
(c) The Worcester Telegram & Gazette by Rob Sullivan
Sting brings craftmanship to Great Woods...
There was a time, back when he led The Police, when Sting was cutting edge, radiating a powerful rock charisma on stage. Then he became the self-professed King of Pain, all angst and depression.
Now he has mellowed into a sophisticated, melodic craftsman, borrowing freely from jazz, country and soul as the spirit moves him.
It was mostly the craftsman on stage at Great Woods, where 12,900 fans turned out, although there were some welcome flashes of power later on, particularly when Sting turned to the Police material.
The one hour and 50 minute show started too slowly, with too many easygoing, mid-tempo tunes, although it managed to pick up some energy towards the end.
Sting was backed by a pair of horn players, a guitarist and the superb (and under-utilized) jazz pianist Kenny Kirkland.
In an unconventional move, he opened with four straight songs from his current album, 'Mercury Falling': 'The Hounds of Winter', the murder narrative 'I Hung My Head', 'I Was Brought to My Senses' and the quasi-soul of 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot'.
'I Was Brought to My Senses' was especially good, particularly Sting's vocals during the hushed opening segment.
The more familiar 'Set Them Free' roused the crowd, as did the first Police tune of the night, 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.
Sting invited a fan to sing with him on the chorus of the countrified 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying'. Thankfully, he could at least carry a tune. Then Sting, ever the genial host, allowed another fan to borrow the microphone and propose to his girlfriend, whereupon Sting & Co. played the gentle 'Fields of Gold'.
Ah, sweet romance.
Fortunately, Sting found some muscle after that, his voice ringing out like a clarion call on Police classics 'Synchronicity II', 'Roxanne' and a long, jamming version of 'When The World Is Running Down (You Make the Best of What's Still Around)' with jazz-influenced solos from Kirkland and the horn players.
From there, it was a rapidfire 'Demolition Man' and the lilting 'Englishman in New York', complete with a brief rap from the sax player.
For encores, Sting opened with 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', went directly to 'Every Breath You Take' and then did 'Lithium Sunset'. He returned to the stage one last time for the delicate 'Fragile'.
Opening act The Cowboy Junkies made its reputation with a languid, whispery sound that to some is hypnotic, to others just sleepy.
But last night, the band beefed up its sound - a wise move when you're an opening band in a big concrete shed like Great Woods.
Not that this band will ever be mistaken for Metallica, but singer Margo Timmons proved she could soar as well as whisper on tunes such as 'A Common Disaster' and particularly 'Lost My Driving Wheel', on which she showed some piercing vocal power.
Meanwhile, guitarist Peter Timmons cranked up the volume a tad himself, to the point of throwing in a little growl and feedback now and again. Genteel feedback, to be sure, but feedback nonetheless.
(c) Providence Journal-Bulletin by Andy Smith
Still the musical chameleon...
Last night was couples night at Great Woods, and pop superstar Sting was more than happy to play host to the 6,450 pairs who attended his '90s version of ''The Dating Game.''
Why, Mr. Gordon Sumner even invited one gent onstage and allowed him to propose to his longtime ladyfriend in front of several thousand close friends. We never heard the response, but a couple of minutes later much of the crowd had turned away from the stage and was cheering and applauding. So, either she accepted or the two were having a knock-down, drag-out fight. Let's assume it was the former.
It fits the general tone of the evening much better.
That wasn't the Brit bassman's only interaction with the Great Woods crowd.
He also invited another fellow onstage to adequately sing the chorus to 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying' from the recent 'Mercury Falling' disc.
Those two mini-soap operas came midway through Sting's 110-minute, 21-song set, and the timing was ideal.
He had pretty much been on automatic pilot to that point. The old joke among comics is that they never laugh at each other's quips, the highest compliment they'll ever pay a smart line is to utter, ''That's funny.''
Midway through last night's show, the best to be said about the concert was, ''That's tasty.''
But Sting shifted into a higher gear in the latter half of the set with help from longtime cohorts Kenny Kirkland (keyboards), Dominic Miller (guitars), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums), and a couple of horn players.
A couple of old Police numbers, 'Roxanne' and 'Synchronicity', got the ball rolling. A punchy 'Bring on the Night', followed by feisty takes of 'Demolition Man' and 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' added some steamy flourishes.
Sting wore a woollen sleeveless jerkin, paratrooper pants, and boots. His hair was short and just scruffy enough to cement his image as a Baby Boomer heartthrob, and there was sheer lust in the eyes of more than one woman in the audience.
Still the musical chameleon, Sting toyed with several sounds in his set and tinkered even with some of his classic tunes.
New numbers like 'The Hounds of Winter' and 'Let Your Soul be Your Pilot' had a bluesy, r&b feel. 'I Was Brought to My Senses' had a breezy, island flavor colored by Kirkland's intentionally cheesy carnival keyboard break.
'Roxanne' is more ska than reggae these days, and last night's rendition even included a trombone break.
But under Sting's steady - sometimes too steady - hand, it all coalesced into a show that sent the masses home happy, especially when they got to sing along on 'Every Breath You Take'.
(c) The Boston Herald by Dean Johnson
Sting show a perfect blend of soul and pop smarts...
Sting certainly outstung himself Friday night for the first of two shows at the Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts.
With his devilish good looks and dynamic voice both at full strength, Sting wowed the audience of 12,900 concert-goers with his soulful singing, sly sophistication and pop smarts. And the fact he was backed up by a tight, five-piece band (that included a keyboardist and two horn players) didn't hurt matters any, either. Wearing a button-down tank top, baggy trousers, army boots and a strap-on bass, Sting was out to promote his sixth solo release, 'Mercury Falling'. Along the way, he threw in revamped versions of classics from his solo career and his career as the frontman for The Police.
Sting kicked the show off in high gear with the first four songs from 'Mercury Falling'. These numbers - 'The Hounds of Winter', 'I Hung My Head', 'I Was Brought to My Senses' and 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' - showed Sting's strength in redefining the pop medium. The songs ranged from fiery jazz to country-rock, Celtic-folk to gospel-driven soul, often with odd meters and non-pop time signatures.
Sting continued with jazzy revampings of 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free' from his first solo album, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', from The Police's 'Ghost in the Machine'.
Sting's performance certainly had the makings of a memorable evening for many, especially for two specific individuals in the audience. Sting invited a fan on stage to sing the chorus of 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', a number that turned out to be one of the crowd-pleasing highlights.
Even before the crowd settled down from 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', Sting invited another concert-goer on stage who nervously proposed marriage to his girlfriend of two years. Sting used this as the perfect segue for his passionate 'Fields of Gold'. During 'Fields of Gold', an enthusiastic roar in the couple's section made it obvious that the girlfriend accepted the proposal.
After Sting played matchmaker, he rocked into a series of classic Police numbers that included 'Synchronicity II', 'Roxanne', a jazzy medley of 'Bring on the Night' and 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' and 'Demolition Man'. He ended his initial set with 'Englishman in New York', a number that mixed jazz, pop and rap.
For his first encore, Sting pulled out all the stops and performed show-stopping versions of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Lithium Sunset'. He came out for a brief second encore to perform the tender, teary-eyed ballad, 'Fragile'.
Margo Timmins led the Toronto-based Cowboy Junkies through an hour set that served as a crash course for many of the early Sting-attendees. Timmins' hypnotic singing voice and the Junkies' sparse playing shined in such numbers as 'A Common Disaster' and the Lou Reed-penned Velvet Underground classic 'Sweet Jane'.
(c) The Sunday Telegram by Craig S Semon
Sting loosens up with Great Woods crowd...
British pop god Sting has frequently been termed aloof and pretentious, but he smoothly shook off that mold last night. When was the last time you saw him invite a fan up to sing? And when was the last time you saw him surrender his stage so another fan could make a marriage proposal to a woman in the audience?
Sting did both of those things last night, playing with his image and giving a crowd of 12,900 (an even bigger crowd is expected tonight) a needed shot of comic relief.
The marriage proposal was rendered by Rhode Island resident Dennis-Marcel Hamel, who, in front of a bemused Sting, asked girlfriend Deborah Andoscia to spend the rest of her life with him (she accepted, incidentally). Hamel had written two letters to Sting in recent months to request the opportunity - and Sting wisely complied. It worked magic with the crowd, which erupted in support.
Sting then performed the romantic 'Fields of Gold', which had some couples dancing cheek to cheek. This tune was a nice switch from the preceding 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', an ironic song about a man who tries to grin desperately through his divorce.
On that song, Sting invited Melrose resident Tony Cintolo up to sing the chorus, which he did quite skillfully, again to ear-shattering applause from fans who had never seen Sting so loose and interactive with his audience, at least not in New England. You expect this kind of thing from Jimmy Buffett, who allowed a local cardiologist to play guitar on 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' last year, but you don't expect it from Sting.
Frankly, Sting's gestures came at the perfect time, because the beginning of his show had been rather dour. He opened with four straight, mostly downbeat songs from his contemplative new album, 'Mercury Falling'. It's extremely unusual to see any artist open with four new songs in a row - and it was too much of a curve ball for many fans who were looking for a quick leave from reality on this warm summer night before the hurricane arrives.
The first two songs, 'The Hounds of Winter' and 'I Hung My Head', didn't translate that well to the stage. And it wasn't until the fifth song, Set Me Free' (an earlier radio hit), that the show assumed any bounce.
Fortunately, Sting really picked things up from there. He dipped into his Police catalog for the buoyant 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', a pop ditty that sounded just as terrific as it always did.
Later on, he mined the Police songbook for more surefire winners: 'Synchronicity' (with guitarist Dominic Miller laying down razor-edged funk riffs), the enduring 'Roxanne' (remember when the Police first played the Paradise and had to do this song twice because they had so little other material at the time?), a torrid 'Demolition Man' and a still-haunting 'Every Breath You Take', which remains among the best songs about obsessive love ever written.
Overall, Sting's show had a strongly upward curve - and his rapport with his audience has never been better. Look for more of the same tonight, though he was taking a risk by flying back to his base in the Hamptons after the show, despite the forecast of Hurricane Bertha invading the area this weekend.
Openers Cowboy Junkies acquitted themselves as well as possible, but their poetic, melancholy-tinged, heavily understated sound is far more appropriate for small theaters like the Orpheum, where people can listen more closely. Still, singer Margo Timmins won the crowd over by saying she loves to vacation in Martha's Vineyard every September. Hey, a little local color never hurts. And songs like 'A Common Disaster' and 'Misguided Angel' were still exquisite, even though many audience members talked over them.
(c) The Boston Globe by Steve Morse
A fine night of music from one of our best musical craftsmen...
Long touted as the thinking-man's songwriter, former Police chief Sting brought his inspired music to Great Woods on Friday night, belting out close to two hours of new hits and old hits before a crowd of 12,900. Sting is on tour promoting his latest LP, 'Mercury Falling', and he wasted no time introducing it to the enthusiastic crowd.
Dressed in Army fatigue pants and a sleeveless shirt, Sting took to the sparse stage, backed by a crack band that included Kenny Kirkland on keyboard, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Dominic Miller on guitar, and delved into the new album for the first four songs.
And of those four new numbers - 'Hounds of Winter', 'I Hung My Head', 'I Was Brought to My Senses' and 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' - the crowd reacted most favourably to 'I Hung My Head', a jazzy number with some killer sax and keyboard.
Despite the polite reception to the new material, the crowd was primed to hear some musical nostalgia, and Sting rewarded their patience with a one-two punch.
First up was one of his biggest solo hits, the moody 1985 tune 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', followed by a raucous and incendiary rendition of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', a great Police song that had the crowd bopping like pogo sticks.
Sting, obviously in good spirits, took the opportunity to interact with the crowd. First, he invited one fan up on stage to sing the chorus - rather well, I might add - to the pleasant 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying'. Then Sting played match-maker by allowing another guy in the crowd to climb on stage and propose to his girlfriend. (We never found out if she said yes or no).
With all the warm and fuzzy stuff now out of the way, Sting forged ahead with a nice rendition of his big solo hit, 'Fields of Gold', followed by an all-out guitar assault by Dominic Miller on the rollicking 'Synchronicity'.
As the band played Roxanne dozens of red lights bathed the crowd at the appropriate time in the song.
The band strutted its stuff on an extended version of 'Bring on the Night/When the World Is Running Down', in which Kirkland displayed his immense skills on the keyboard. Miller then cut loose on his guitar with a sizzling 'Demolition Man', with Sting's crisp and clean bass lines rounding out the mix.
The crowd-pleasing 'An Englishman in New York' brought the set to a close. The encore offered a howling 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and the Police classic, 'Every Breath You Take'.
In all, a fine night of music from one of our best musical craftsmen.
The Canadian band Cowboy Junkies opened the show with a fairly mellow set highlighting Margo Timmins' sultry vocals. The music sounded rather redundant and sometimes uninspired, although the crowd seemed to enjoy the band's quirky rendition of Lou Reed's 'Sweet Jane'.
(c) The Patriot Ledger by Steve White