Mercury Falling

Clarkston, MI, US
Pine Knob Music Theaterwith Lyle Lovett
Sting's show doesn't buzz the crowd...

Sting may or may not have hung his head after his show Wednesday at Pine Knob Music Theatre. One thing's for sure. He lit out of there in a hurry after the show - not a good sign.

It wasn't a bad show. In fact, it was pretty good.

But it also was too restrained for most of its 90-minute life, which may explain why so many people in the pavilion stayed seating through most of the show.

Then again, it could be one of those chicken and egg things. Was the show subdued because the crowd wasn't into it, or was the crowd bored because Sting wasn't energetic enough?

A little of both, I think.

Either way, the former Police man didn't wait around afterward to shed any light. He and the band were gone before you could slap on an after-show pass.

Lyle Lovett, the quirky Texan and latest in a string of intriguing opening acts on Sting's American tour, got things started on a solemn note with the ominously gloomy 'Promises', featured in the movie 'Dead Man Walking'.

The crowd in the pavilion, which was less than half full, didn't seem to notice or care.

But Lovett and his piled-high hair, chiseled, toothy smile and not as large Large Band gradually won over the slowly enlarging audience with a crisp, classy performance.

The highlight: a jaunty, swinging version of 'That's Right (You're Not From Texas)' that would have made Bob Wills proud.

Sting, like Lovett, is a chick magnet who can write great songs. He doesn't have Lovett's dry sense of humor, nor his eye for narrative detail, but he's a master of melody, has an engagingly grainy tenor, loves to blur stylistic lines and, oh, yeah, he's a babe, women say.

These attributes are abundantly clear when Sting is onstage. He dabs musical adventurism on his songs like expensive cologne. The suite-like 'I Was Brought to My Senses' and the slinky, funky 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' smelled especially sweet.

With songs like an extended, rock steady reggae version of the Police's 'Roxanne' among the night's 18 songs, you'd think the crowd would go nuts. Some folks in it did, but most of the people in the center section preferred to sit.

Their lack of energy seemed to suck a little life out of Sting and the band, that played about half an hour less than usual. They seldom caught fire, with the notable exception of the aforementioned songs and a rendition of 'Bring on the Night/When the World Is Running Down, You Get the Best of What's Still Around', thanks to Kenny Kirkland's dizzying keyboard solo.

Unfortunately, Kirkland's considerable talents were underused, guitarist Dominic Miller didn't assert himself enough, and Sting seemed to be holding back vocally (he used a spray on his throat a couple of times) on the louder material.

Despite those woes, many things went right. Two horn players brought much-needed energy to the proceedings and took songs like 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Demolition Man' into new places.

Lovett returned for a loose take of Sting's divorce song, 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying'.

But it was an extended version of 'Roxanne' that brought the crowd to life, albeit temporarily.

That kind of thing simply didn't happen enough Wednesday night.

(c) The Flint Journal by Doug Pullen