Summoner's Tales

Miami, FL, US
Miami Arena
Silent Sting - somebody call the Police. We need to file a missing personality report...

Sting has always been a bit of a boor, and now he's also become a bore. A shameless poser with a penchant for wagging his eyebrows and sucking in his cheekbones. A haughty rock star who barely could take the time to mutter an obligatory ''thank you'' during his Wednesday night spin at the Miami Arena. After waiting a year for His Mightiness to make up those five cancelled Gusman Center shows due to a bout with the flu, he obviously felt he was doing the Arena's nearly sold-out crowd a favour by actually appearing on stage. And this is what we get? A persnickety pretty boy who finally went out of his way four songs into his set to arrogantly state, ''I bet some of you thought I wasn't going to show up tonight. I'm sorry for the problems last year, but, well, that's the way it goes.'' And that was the last we heard him speak until the final song.

Yes, Sting has always harboured a reputation for being somewhat uppity, but what happened to the newfound joviality and looseness he has been busy touting in interviews all year? Apparently that friendliness doesn't apply to live shows.

While still classically handsome at 42, even with his G.I. Joe haircut and black combat boots, Sting's vocals have become increasingly strained over the years and he knows it. Trying desperately to hit the high notes during 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Roxanne', he realized it was safer to allow keyboardist David Sancious and guitarist Dominic Miller to fill in the gaps as he subtly backed away from the microphone.

Musically, Sting and Company provided the obvious as they tore through an hour and a half of hits - a little improvisational jazz on the solo material blended with the artsy rock from his days with the Police. Nothing special, nothing new and certainly nothing impressive.

Sure, his lulling rendition of 'Fields of Gold' was a pretty picture as he stood draped in a copper spotlight, and his adoring fans soaked up rabid versions of Police staples, 'Synchonicity II' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. But his lack of stage presence took the spirit out of the evening.

It was nice to see Sting actually move from behind his microphone stand once in awhile. Occasionally he'd strut to the side of the stage to grind his hips at the panting female fans or take a sip from his cup of tea, but it was apparent that audience rapport was not high on his priority list.

Rounding out the 20-song set with 'She's Too Good for Me' and 'Nothing 'Bout Me', the audience received a treat. Sting waved. And said ''thank you.'' And welcomed opening act Melissa Etheridge back onstage to join him in a raspy version of 'Every Breath You Take'. What a guy.

Etheridge, meanwhile, was given the thankless task of performing to a half empty arena while stragglers filtered in. Those who caught her 45-minute set were presented with an intense performance that had her cluster of fans dancing in the aisles.

Etheridge's casual style is a sharp contrast to Sting's airy pomp rock, making this an unusual billing. But while she solidly held the audience's interest with songs such as 'Come to My Window', 'All American Girl' and her Grammy-award winning single, 'Bring Me Some Water', she doesn't yet have enough draw to hold the arena circuit on her own.

(c) The Sun Sentinel by Melissa Ruggieri

Sting at his best performing Police hits...

The American judge gives the performer a 5.4 for presentation. Oh, excuse me. I got carried away with the Olympic fever for a moment. But I'm talking about rock star and Grammy nominee Sting.

He gets points just for showing up considering he had to cancel two of his last three concerts tours through South Florida. He also gets points for taste, subtlety, inventive use of rhythm and dynamic ensemble playing with his three-piece band and the tasteful jazz undercurrent that ran through many of the songs.

Deduct points, however, for pacing (too many mid-tempo tunes) and audience rapport (he said little to the gathered faithful). Instead he spent most of the evening at the Miami Arena presenting songs from his latest album 'Ten Summoner's Tales', including the Grammy-nominated hit 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', and the gorgeous ballad 'Fields of Gold', which should have been nominated instead.

Sting's strength as a writer was most evident on that song and the metaphorical 'Shape of My Heart'. His strength as a rocker and rock star came midway during a three-song burst from his Police catalog of more than a decade ago. The crowd jumped to its collective feet and joined in when Sting launched into 'Synchronicity II', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and the classic reggae-rocker 'Roxanne'. And rightly so. Those songs are not only among his most familiar, but also among his most energetic and most suitable for an arena setting. (One can only imagine how delightful it would have been to hear 'Fields of Gold' in the more intimate Gusman Center where Sting was supposed to perform last year.)

The audience obviously felt the same way as many headed for the exits after hearing the mini-set of Police tunes. Sting may be touring as Chaucer's Summoner this time around but his most popular role will always be that of a Policeman.

Opening act Melissa Etheridge began her set to more empty seats than full ones. Those milling in the halls waiting for Sting missed one of the best young voices in rock today. Etheridge plays straight ahead percussive folk-rock with such conviction and desperation you want to dial 911 in case her heart explodes from her chest. Her vocal delivery is nothing less than volcanic, especially on her set closer, 'Like the Way I Do'. Backed by a solid three-piece band she was soul on ice. She gets a perfect 6.

(c) The Palm Beach Post by Scott Benarde

Sting concert workmanlike, but sharp edge is still there...

After all the stories about his domestic bliss and newfound contentment, it would not have been completely out of place Wednesday had British pop singer Sting pulled up a chair to the lip of the stage and shown pictures of his wife and kids, his house, his dog. He didn't. And while his much-anticipated performance - he cancelled two previous concerts here - was more workmanlike than inspired, it confirmed that the sharp edges are intact.

Sting sang, actually revelled in, his old hit 'King of Pain'. And as if to drive the point home, he returned for the first encore to sing 'Nothin' 'bout Me', gleefully thumbing his nose at critics and others who claim to know him through his words and music.

He went about the business of presenting his latest album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', methodically. There was an efficient, if slightly rushed, feel to the way he moved through 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Heavy Cloud, No Rain' and 'Seven Days'.

He then addressed the audience, making reference to his previous cancellations, then moved right on through the program, spicing up the proceedings with songs from his Police days, his previous solo albums and the old Lennon-McCartney chestnut 'A Day In The Life'.

Sting leads a tight, solid quartet featuring Dominic Miller (guitars), David Sancious (keyboards) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums). He has been touring with this band for some time, which gives him the flexibility to open up songs to jazz-style improvisations and to play sly musical jokes.

'Roxanne' went from a sort of minimalist reggae to organ-based R&B; 'It's Probably Me' featured a good Sancious solo and then slid smoothly into 'Sister Moon', its close relative from '...Nothing Like the Sun'.

The band caught fire occasionally - 'King of Pain', 'Saint Augustine in Hell' and, especially, a stretched-out version of 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'.

Still, the total was less than the sum of the parts. There has been so much attention paid recently to the sexual orientation of singer Melissa Etheridge that it's easy to overlook the fact that she possesses one of the most distinctive instruments in rock - a raspy, gin-soaked voice that can wring unexpected meanings out of simple lines.

Wednesday, she put more heart in her 45-minute set than Sting did in his more-than-90-minute show. Her performance included old and new material - 'Come to My Window', 'American Girl' and 'I'm The Only One' as well as 'Bring Me Some Water' and a dramatic version of 'Like The Way I Do'.

(c) The Miami Herald by Fernando Gonzalez