Broken Music

Boise, ID, US
Idaho Centerwith Phantom Planet
Sting gets back to basics - Former Police chief belts out old hits, solo favourites...

If Sting had any clue that most college campuses don't have tumbleweeds blowing through them, he wasn't about to tell anybody Saturday at the Idaho Center.

''This is the first time I've been in Idaho,'' Sting proclaimed. ''... It's a great honour to be at the university here.''

Did the sorority cheese-factory give it away?

None of the 7,500 or so graying co-eds argued with him. The former Police chief had the audience reliving youthful fantasies by the end of the first song, 'Message in a Bottle'. That 1979 anthem was indicative of the 90-minute show: Sting sang beautifully; the crowd screamed ''Sending out an S.O.S!'' back at him; then the 53-year-old bassist leaped into the air for a song-ending rock-star herkie.

Sting was here to R-O-C-K, leaving behind the bloated tours of recent years while focusing on old Police hits, solo favourites - even a Beatles cover or two.

A lean, muscular backing trio - no keyboards! - made all the difference in the 21-song set. Drummer Josh Freese, 32, a member of the Vandals, Devo and A Perfect Circle, kept the music impatient and ferocious during the heavy metallic 'Demolition Man', the wonderfully pulverizing 'Synchronicity II' and the wall-of-guitars-augmented 'Soul Cages'.

Sting was friendly and gracious. He joked that Madonna had ripped off his tune 'Spirits in the Material World'. He related a British fox hunting ban to Idaho's outdoors before playing 'End of the Game'.

Without saying so, Sting seemed intent on reminding everyone how gracefully he and his music are aging. His singing was immaculate; the only time he hinted at weakness was during a solid, call-and-response version of 'Roxanne', when he dropped his voice an octave to cry ''Put on the red light!''

Smart fans purchased low-priced, no-seat floor tickets, which allowed them to stand right in front of Sting, flicking their Bics. The crowded floor added a warm, old-school dynamic, although it wasn't exactly like being at a rock concert in 1983: Building security pushed through the audience to bust a female fan for sitting on a man's shoulders during 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'. Patrons in reserved seats were scolded for standing.

But whatever. By getting back to musical basics, Sting ensured that this was one of those nights where every fan was in blissful synchronicity.

(c) The Idaho Statesman by Michael Deeds