SHOW REVIEW

Slick Sting is still on song...

An interesting juxtaposition of songs at Sting's sell-out concert showed the impressive range of the man's talent.

'Brand New Day', an anthemic number from Sting's acclaimed new solo album of the same name, was followed immediately by 'Roxanne' - an early Police number.

Both were well received by the 12,000-strong audience at the NEC Arena in Birmingham n and demonstrated just how far Sting has come since the early days as the young, sexy, tousle-haired lead singer of Eighties boy band The Police.

Now a slick solo artist, Sting's sophisticated songs reveal a host of cultural and musical influences but his fans have obviously stuck with him since the beginning, judging by the age of the audience (and he's still sexy!).

Sting jumped and strutted around the stage, interweaving popular Police numbers, such as 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', with hits from his solo career, like Englishman in New York, and material from the new album, including the haunting 'Desert Rose'.

An imaginative use of stage effects - a huge floating moon, coloured drapes, sparkling lights and even fake burning flames - and fantastic backing musicians and singers all contributed to a superb show.

Wonderful support came from the fascinating Nitin Sawhney and a host of multi-cultural musicians. An evening of live music at its best.

(c) The Gloucester Citizen



Sting at the NEC...

Before I say anything of Sting's once again excellent performance, Nitin Sawhney and band did a wonderful job as support act. They left us in no doubt of why they were picked to be one of the support acts.

The haunting, opening bars of 'A Thousand Years' signalled the start of what was to be another excellent night. Sting as ever looked good in his combats, gold shirt and gold jacket. At the start of the second song - 'Set Them Free' - he treated us to a view of his fit body as he took of the shirt and jacket to reveal a black vest top. My favourite off the new album, 'After The Rain' was next. I was now itching to get up and dance. As we were sat in the fourth row, in the centre, we felt privileged to be sat amongst a load of people with VIP passes round there necks. Whether these passes were weighing them down or whether they are far more restrained than I, none of them stood up. Sting looked round and looked disappointed at the crowd reaction. A few people in the block to our left had got up but not many. By the time they got to 'All This Time', enough was enough. I made a lonely bid to be the first in our block to get up (my apologies to those sat behind me). I looked to my right and another lady joined in to stop me looking like a complete idiot (thank you!). Eventually more and more got up. As the set continued we were treated to 'I'm So Happy', the only track from 'Mercury Falling', quickly running straight in to 'Fill Her Up'. The classic 'Englishman In New York' got everyone up. This nights version of 'Roxanne' was perfection it's self, but then, when wasn't it?

During the evening Sting asked Dominic how many times they had played the NEC together. Dominic said it was quite a few. Well guys, it was four and I was there each time. You are more than welcome to do a lot more!!

We all know they way Sting works by now and had no doubt how the show would, sadly, come to an end. The solo version of 'Message In A Bottle' got everyone singing and richly deserved the rapturous round of applause it received. The band left the stage, but we knew 'Fragile' was still to come. By now the front rows were eyeing up the goodies that can be plucked from the stage as soon as the last note sounds. Imagine the disappointment when a roadie came on stage and removed all the goodies in sight (towel, glass, throat spay and all set lists).

Sting and his boundless energy came back to perform my all time favourite. All too soon the evening was over. On leaving the arena I spotted a steward playing with a piece of paper. Just as I passed him I glanced back. Could it be? Was it?? YES. A set list. Having the cheek of the devil I said ''I don't suppose that's going begging?'' a quick flutter of the eye lids and the booty was mine. It now sits along with my other prized possession, my autographed ticket!

(c) Lyn Spares for Sting.com



Almost everything you would expect...

This show had almost everything you would expect from a Sting performance: warmth, clarity, brightness, a handful of old Police tunes - although it's a measure of his continuing success as a solo artist that songs from his previous incarnation take up a smaller proportion of the evening each time I see him - and mostly unimpeachable musicianship from the seven-piece band. And yet there was something lacking, an indefinable absence: pixie dust, inspiration, synchronicity, correct planetary alignment - whatever it was, tonight's show, half-way through Sting's UK tour, didn't have enough of it.

There were other, more quantifiable difficulties, too: it took the band half an hour to warm up (something finally clicked during the exquisitely tingly 'All This Time'), it was another 30 minutes before the crowd decided to start enjoying themselves ('Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' finally got them off their bums), and there was a singular shortage of attack in the drumming department ('Brand New Day', the title track from Sting's recent album, had none of the recorded version's exuberance). Also, the plot was lost for a time during an unnecessarily protracted 'Roxanne'. And did the trumpet player have to doodle quite so liberally over every available musical space?

On the plus side: Jason Rebello - the latest in a long line of world-class keyboard players employed by Sting - delivered a cracking solo, and there were glimpses of the heights that a Sting show can achieve (don't scoff, non-believers, I've been there) during the gorgeous 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', and the thoroughly uplifting 'Fill Her Up' from the new album.

Also impressive was the way the new material was woven into the fabric of a largely well-paced show, where it rubbed shoulders very comfortably with more familiar stuff. Add to this a high-quality support act in the shape of Asian flamenco-jazz-rap crossover artist Nitin Sawhney, and you have little to complain seriously about. But still: where was that pixie dust?

(c) The Daily Telegraph by David Cheale



Something simple...

Remember the last Sting gig you went to? Worthy, politically correct, a bit on the bland side?

Well think again, the former Police chief is aloof no more. This was an arresting performance to be enjoyed rather than respectfully admired.

Dialogue with the audience may have been at a premium, but there was a devil-may-care grin on the face of the bassman. A sting in the tail of the music.

It was a gig which ranged from 'Roxanne' - served up in an extended call and response setting - to new single 'After The Rain Has Fallen'.

Backed by a seven-piece band powered by drummer Manu Katche, Sting revisited triumphs past and present, with the emotional 'Fields Of Gold' an early highlights. They rocked on 'We'll Be Together', strolled through 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', and jammed on 'When The World Is Running Down', with keyboardsman Jason Rebello taking the honours.

The downside? Guitarist Dominic Miller was oddly inconsistent, and the virtuoso trumpet of Chris Botti somewhat over-used. Musically, less is often more.

But it was simplicity that stole the show. An acoustic solo 'Message In A Bottle' and spine tingling 'Fragile' were encores worth the price of admission alone.

A brand new day, indeed.

(c) The Birmingham Evening Mail by Paul Cole



Sting's sounds staying strong...

Strolling onto stage to an eruption of female screams, it was just another day at the office for the ex-Police frontman.

No real showmanship - a few lights, backdrops appeared occasionally, and there was the odd shimmy from Mr Sumner himself, to shrieks of delight from the audience. But Sting was just basically there doing what he loves - playing his music.

Not exactly a blistering start, with a lesser-known track to open up his set - considering the blond one's expansive back-catalogue of material to choose from. However, he soon redeemed himself with blisteringly slick (if you can have such a thing) renditions of 'We'll Be Together' - featuring the talents of guitarist Dominic Miller, 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', 'Englishman In New York', 'Seven Days', and 'All This Time'.

Trumpeter Chris Botti scaled the heights, but was given perhaps too much freedom to improvise, detracting from the essence of the songs themselves.

Sting's mastery for finely crafted tunes is unsurpassed, at no point was it possible to detect a source of influence. But it is that craft - more to do with technique than soul - which lets him down. We all wanted him to gather himself to hush things right down before starting into the beautiful 'Fields of Gold', but it came off as just another exhibit on a cold gallery wall.

Roxanne was treated respectfully to begin with, just voice and guitar, but it soon rocked up and then veered off into a near-10 minute display of self-indulgence and posturings. Meanwhile, 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' was the nearest the auditorium came to party time.

On occasion he stripped the music to its bare minimum to show off his remarkable gift of a voice which didn't falter for the 90 minutes he was on stage.

(c) The Express and Star by Graeme Andrew

SET LIST

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