Mercury Falling

Vancouver, BC, CA
GM Placewith Jane Arden
Cornucopia of sounds as Sting mixes it well...

Sting walked on to the stage last night at GM Place to a nearly sold-out crowd already on its feet. He opened with the soulful 'Hounds of Winter', a song from his latest album that echoes loneliness to the point where the listener feels right out there in the cold with those baleful mutts.

It might be hard to believe for those who remember the Police and the way that little three-piece extended reggae and punk so well, but Sting is all grown up. And so is his audience. Nary a nose-ring in sight and the stadium air as fresh as the morning dew, last night's crowd responded with loud cheers, but remained seated. That's not to say the guy can't still rock. The crowd nearly went berserk when he launched into the old Police tunes 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Roxanne'.

For someone who's been on the circuit as long as Sting, he looks and sounds pretty fresh. If his dedication to yoga is responsible for his sculpted frame, you'll be seeing more than a few guys taking the bus in the Lotus position. Sting might be known to be an arrogant little twerp at times, but he certainly shared his stage last night. Before singing his heart-breaker single 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', he hauled a guy up from the audience and invited him to sing along. Our man Ross obliged and the crowd ate it up.

The show brought together a cornucopia of sounds: Soul, jazz, rock, reggae and even a few Celtic overtones. Sting would actually sound great with the Chieftains. His band was tight, with great big brass sounds and lotsa keyboard. No pyrotechnics or smoke and mirrors on this tour, Sting and his band delivered a show that was just a good grab-bag of tunes.

Opening act Jane Arden, a Juno Award-winner who hails from Calgary, is a true treasure in the trove of Canadian music. To the delight of the audience, she made a point of reminding us she's Canadian - and a western one at that. ''How are things in B.C.?'' she asked a screaming crowd. ''I used to live here. I busked down in Gastown, until I was punched out. Then I quit.'' Hearing her sing 'Wonder Drug', a song resonating with beauty and strength in love, you get the feeling the real drug is Arden's voice. At times truly narcotic, it floated through the stadium hitting throaty lows and angst-ridden highs. The first few notes of her hit single, Insensitive, earned a roar of recognition. Arden delivered a folky I've-been-there-before feel, mixed with a no-nonsense grit, that makes you glad she lives on this side of the 49th parallel.

(c) Unknown newspaper by Keri Langley

Sting delivers with grace...

Squire Sting ventured out of the confines of his 16th century English manor, Lake House, to hit the middle of the road and to grace many a fair burgh in the colonies with performance of well crafted pop tunessmithmanship. These tunes had much potential to offer up happiness from the squire's personal darkness and even greater potential to bore.

The squire, goateed, well-toned in body and voice, attired without pretension in pinstripe waistcoat and casual trousers, playing a well worn Fender, turned in a Vancouver date notable for its easy style and simplicity. And yes, he visited the red-light district of hits of his former hitdom to trot out a version of 'Roxanne', which fortunately sounded refreshed.

Opening with 'The Hounds Of Winter' from his latest album, 'Mercury Falling', he went on to the catchy 'I Hung My Head', the soul of 'Brought To My Senses', and got the congregation of about 11,000 clapping with gospel number, 'Let Your Soul By Your Pilot'. The audience involvement portion of the show was a resounding success when an unmarried but spoken for young man was invited up to sing the country-tinged 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', also from 'Mercury Falling'.

Anyone here for the Police numbers went home happy: 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Demolition Man', 'Synchronicity' and definitely one of the night's highlights, 'When The World Is Running Down' from 'Zenyatta Mondatta'.

'Roxanne' is a song that's gone beyond standard into crowd-pleaser self-parody, but none of the other Police material seemed dated or out of place in the context of Sting's new material. That says a lot. Sting's aiming for a cerebral hit not necessarily a chart hit at this point in his career. The sting has lost a little bite and inspiration has given in to craftsmanship, but while it doesn't take these things to make a listenable pop tune, it wouldn't hurt if it happened to come into play in the live show.

'Englishman In New York' posing doesn't move body and soul, so it's good there's an 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' to lift the spirit and get butts out of chairs.

A few numbers off the greatest hits package also made it to the set list - 'Fields Of Gold', the album 'Ten Summoner's Tales', and 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' from Sting's solo debut, 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles'.

Live, Sting packs a little more punch than on his latest release. Ironically, that may make fans and critics take a second listen. Guess that's what it's all about.

Opening act Jane Arden, who referred to her experience of living on the laid back West Coast in the early '80s - ''I busked in Gastown... But then I got punched out and quit'' - found Vancouver a little more welcoming this time. Arden turned in an easy and confident 40 minute set, warming up the audience with her first hit 'I Would Die For You', and gaining more-or-less mandatory screams of approval for 'Could I Be Your Girl'.

(c) The Vancouver Sun by Jim Carlson