SHOW REVIEW

The pop-prophet Sting stung softly...

The pseudonym 'Sting' was supposedly once given to Matthew Gordon Sumner for his love of yellow-and-black striped sweaters. Today, only the industrious bee remains of the once aggressive insect, the confirmed radical socialist and the pop-preacher of political correctness. Having sold 60 million solo albums and won a half-dozen Grammies, the English singer and bass player is considered one of the superstars of today's pop music. On his German tour with the new album 'Brand New Day', the one-time leader of the Police gave a beautiful and painless concert in the sold-out city concert hall in Bremen.

Opening the almost two-hour-long concert was 'A Thousand Years', the mellow first song of the mellow new CD. Sting avoided such nonsense as an opening band or lavish stage decorations. The simple yet effective light show, with mobile fan-shaped screens, canvases and spotlit balls, framed the singer and his seven-person band in a large-scale symbolic painting. As good as nothing remains of the caustic commentator of global injustice.

Nowadays, Sting prefers the subject of love to singing about the rainforest and Argentinean dictatorship. But the musical embrace of the world that permitted the one-time elementary school teacher to overstep the boundaries of pop music, is still there. Cooking with the spices of world music allowed the 48-year-old to come together with young and adventurous jazz musicians, such as Branford Marsalis, right from the beginning of his solo career. The elements of reggae, jazz, bossa, and Brecht/Weill-style songs unavoidably elevate the melancholy nasal sound of Sting and his pop mixture to an art form.

'Brand New Day', an album consisting of purely love songs, does not just signify a transformation of the New-Wave rocker to simple comfort, because the ethnically inspired pop star has still opened a couple of treasure chests of world music. 'Desert Rose' contributes a pinch of Rai, 'Fill Her Up' brings a yippieyeah country song into Sting's pop-soup, here and there an oriental guitar figure snuggles up to the cozy clouds of keyboard sound, and what may start off sounding light and jazzy, may very well end up with a weighty break-beat soul jazz flavour, perhaps preceded by a swerve over a circular salsa motif.

So it doesn't really surprise anyone anymore when the drummer Manu Katche suddenly begins to rap in French to the hip-hop beat, when the trumpeter Chris Botti plays a meteoric jazz solo, or when the boss himself brings out his best Tom Waits growl for 'Moon over Bourbon Street'.

Owing to the playful dancing way in which Sting binds the stylistic slices together, none of this sounds strained. Whatever the Englishman gets a hold of, always ends up catchy and sounding like Sting.

The singer traditionally puts the old titles, such as 'All This Time', 'Fields of Gold, 'Englishman in New York', and Police classics such as 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take' in new settings that often lead the distinguished band in the funky or rocky realms, opposite of the habitual arrangements.

The thoroughly relaxed and enjoyable concert ended as it began, with tranquil ballads and the bass player accompanying himself with a guitar solo in the song 'Message in a Bottle'.

(c) Nordwest Zeitung by Andre Hesel/translated by Irina Telyukova

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