Sting sings tepid funk: Fans adoring. Songwritng talent died with Police...
Sting last night delivered dull, melody-free dross like This War and a seemingly interminable Sacred Songs that battled it out with brief moments of excitement like Englishman in New York.
To disappoint his adoring fans at this point in his career, Sting would have to strangle a puppy on stage. And even then, the rich, cool, charismatic Gordon Sumner, Commander of the British Empire, might somehow get away with it.
Ask any of the 3,000 thoroughly pumped-up devotees who attended the singer's sold-out show at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts last night, and they'll probably tell you it was a spiritual experience. These are, in fact, the people who delivered a standing ovation after the first song, a tepid jazz-lite version of the Police classic 'Walking On the Moon'.
But if you've always suspected Sting's post-Police career has been primarily a celebration of his utter fabulousness - and that his songwriting talent more or less died with his original group - last night's show would not have changed your mind.
The problem became alarmingly clear immediately after that initial standing O, as Sting delivered four clunkers from his most recent album, the dreadful Sacred Songs.
Smart, imaginative visuals on giant screens gussied up the presentation of each song.
But there was no masking the fact that 'Send Your Love', 'Inside', 'Forget About the Future' and 'Dead Man's Rope' are typically turgid examples of the kind of tuneless funk and featherweight pop that passes for songcraft in the Sting catalogue these days.
As if to underline the diminishing-returns factor himself, a hard-rocking version of another Police classic followed - and 'Synchronicity II', released in 1983, was, indeed, the high point of the evening. It was a momento of Sting at the top of his game, rocking hard and spitting out solid hooks.
Things stayed almost on track as backup singer Joy Rose joined Sting for a genuinely fiery duet of 'Whenever I Say Your Name', with Rose actually trumping Mary J. Blige's performance on the studio version. The chemistry between the two was sweet, Rose's pipes were astounding on the extended ending and the audience cheered lustily. But the dirty little secret was out again: no song.
And so it went: dull, melody-free dross like 'This War' and a seemingly-interminable 'Sacred Songs' battled it out with brief moments of excitement like 'Englishman In New York' and an extended, but faithful 'Roxanne'. While the difference was dramatic, the audience made little distinction between the old and the new, delivering a steady stream of screams and cheers and jumping on their feet at regular intervals.
Sting's seven-piece backup band delivering solid, if unspectacular, accompaniment - perfect shading, in fact, for a singer who might have stopped being an artist to settle in for a lifetime of adult-contemporary product, suitable for car commercials.
He's not the first. Look what complacency and underachieving have done for Rod Stewart, the Rolling Stones and Elton John, among others. And, please, don't use the word ''maturing.'' If maturing means losing the muse, it's time to blow the dust off that copy of 'Reggatta De Blanc'.
(c) Montreal Gazette by Bernard Perusse