Summoner's Tales

Boston, MA, US
Great Woods Center
Sting this 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 diplayed 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 Sanchious 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) Worcester Telegram & Gazette by Rob Sullivan

Sting arrests crowd with Police work...

Sting got back to basics last night at Great Woods with a tight and satisfying show for a sold-out house that featured his smallest touring outfit since his days with the trio the Police back in the '70s.

The compact band featuring Sting on bass and lead vocals, Donnie Miller on guitars, Vinnie Calaiuta on drums and one-time Springtseen sideman and solo jazz artist David Sancious on keyboards even delved into a fair portion of the Police's old songbook.

Nearly a third of Sting's 20-plus song set clocking in at nearly 100 minutes was composed of Police material. Sting's acknowledgment of his past was well received by his listeners.

But there also was a downside to the strategy. By and large, the Police tunes were the strongest and most muscular parts of the concert.

Sting was fit and trim in embroidered black slacks, a billowy Elizabethan-style shirt, long sideburns and close-cropped hair. He had a swashbuckling look, ready to join the cast of the new Shakespeare flick 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

Along with Police tunes that included 'Roxanne', a steamy 'Synchronicity', 'King of Pain', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', and 'Bring on the Night', Sting performed nearly every cut from his new release 'Ten Summoner's Tales'.

The new songs generally held up well in a live setting, and the quartet left enough space in them for some jazzy jamming and cunning guitar and keyboard fills.

The set began with Sting's recent hit 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', followed by two more selections from the new disc, 'Heavy Cloud No Rain' and 'Love is Stronger Than Justice'.

The latter number included a fiery loose-limbed jam reminscent of the Police's later days, as well as some caterwauling guitar from Miller.

Sting kept the stage gimmicks to a minimum, utilizing solely a few backdrops and some dry ice. But the music was mostly crisp enough to keep the audience's attention without extra props.

The band's cover of the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life' began on an almost mournful note but ended well and allowed Sancious to go goofy on the keyboards.

Things got a little wobbly in the middle of the concert when too many introspective ballads like 'Probably Me' and 'Shape of My Heart' threatened to rob the set of its momentum. But the puckish 'Englishman in New York' got the show back on track and paved the way for a galavanting pre-encore finish composed of a trio of Police tunes.

Sting has always been a smart performer. Last night's concert nicely showcased the new album and included enough of his classic material to keep his veteran fans happy. Everybody won, even if the show never quite went into hyperspace.

(c) The Boston Herald by Dean Johnson

The Sting of old unleashes a torrent of rock...

Sting has been many things in his solo career - protest singer, New Age troubadour and jazz-swing maestro - but last night he cut down on the cleverness and simply kicked out the jams.

He rocked harder than he has since his supergroup the Police called it quits a decade ago. He unleashed his band, which reached heavy metal proportions at times, and he even took his shirt off at the end - just as he did when the Police played Boston Garden and Foxboro Stadium in the early '80s.

Sting, who opened the Great Woods season before a sellout 15,000 fans last night (with a full moon gleaming overhead), rocked aggressively. He put together a set assembled with care and precision, but loaded with jump-off points for jamming and laced with maximum surprise value. He even did a startling, high-intensity version of the Beatles' 'Day in the Life', which would have made John Lennon stand up and take notice.

Sting is playing off-and-on stadium dates with the Grateful Dead this summer (reports from the road have him going over extremely well with Deadheads); and last night, he seemed to bring that stadium energy to Great Woods. He employed a towering sound system that not only projected his voice fully, but gave a booming tone to some edgy, knife-blade solos by guitarist Dominic Miller, who played at times like a young Jimmy Page with the same bluesy authority.

Sting had the fans out of their seats early - and he kept them up with a 90-minute set that merged nearly all of his last album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', with six newly enriched and rearranged Police songs. The peak was a crunching segue from a punked-up, guitar-screaming 'Synchronicity', to a relentless, dance-churning 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', given a rock wallop as opposed to the lite-pop of the studio version.

Sting got clever at times - he slyly, campily acted out 'She's Too Good for Me' - but he kept his talking to a minimum throughout the show. No long- winded banter, no heart-wrenching pleas to save the environment or stop death squads in Argentina, as he's mentioned in the past.

Last night he had his party shoes on, rocking grittily on 'Roxanne', bullishly doing 'King of Pain' (with dark, industrial smoke billowing factorylike in the back of his largely minimalist stage set) and a ferocious 'When the World is Coming Down, Make the Best of What's Still Around', where he and former Bruce Springsteen keyboardist David Sancious squared off in a torrid, funk-laden instrumental duel.

The new songs mostly jelled as well, especially the Nashville honky-tonky of 'Love is Stronger than Justice (the Munificent Seven)'. The acoustic, painterly 'Fields of Gold' also shone.

Two other notes to this sizzling Great Woods kickoff. First, the traffic was still rough getting in (despite the fact a second-entrance fire road is open this year) and it caused this writer to miss the opening act, Dada (sorry about that). And second, there's a sterile wire fence added at the back of the lawn to combat the gate-crashing. Otherwise, it was a perfect night, with pied-piper Sting in complete, exquisite command.

(c) The Boston Globe by Steve Morse