Nothing Like The Sun

Miami, FL, US
James L Knight Center
Sting a smash, despite throat...

Even with a sore throat, Sting can't give an audience a raw deal.

And so it was with raspy resonance that the main Police-man a.k.a. Gordon Sumner, completely charmed the capacity crowd Thursday night at Miami's Knight Center. At 50 percent of his vocal capacity, Sting sings better than most mortals could ever hope to manage.

It was supposed to be the first of two concerts in Miami, the second and third stops on a world tour that will keep Sting and his eight-member band on the road, in the air and onstage until November.

As it turned out, Sting literally gave it his all Thursday night; Friday's show was cancelled because of his throat condition. A spokesman at the Knight Center said it is uncertain when, or if, the second show will be rescheduled. Ticket holders for the cancelled performance should pick up refunds at the point of purchase.

Thursday's program drew largely from his two solo albums 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' and 'Nothing Like The Sun', two lavish pop-jazz productions. Sting's newest music through its egalitarian style and scope, embraces a vision of world harmony.

The jazz segments of the concert worked best. all streamlined and dream-like, dripping with precision in every fluid note. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who also blows a cool clarinet, and bassist Tracy Wormworth provided counterpoint and propulsion to Sting's skilful meanderings.

Wormworth's bass acted as the pulse for 'Be Still My Beating Heart'. Her beat quickened ever so slightly as the song moved to its beautiful conclusion. Marsalis' clarinet lines on 'Fortress Around Your Heart' circled around Sting's voice like a ghostly echo that would not fade away.

In a moment of tribute to a man whose influence on jazz will remain for some time, Sting said, "This is for someone from Florida who is no longer with us. This is for our friend Jaco Pastorius." The song he used to pay his respects to Pastorius, an innovative jazz bassist who died last year in Fort Lauderdale, was 'Fragile', a fitting and lovely requiem.

It was the emotional high point of an evening of shimmering virtuosity. Sting avoids the rock star trip, opting instead for the role of first among equals, as a band leader should. To his credit, his technical skills are up to par and he holds his own in the line-up.

Except for an audience-participation rendition of 'Roxanne', and a disappointing ending, Sting and his band soared Thursday. He makes music that matters, and if his progress thus far is any indication of where his future lies, he'll be even better next time he comes around.

(c) Palm Beach Post by Wes Bausmith

Sting goes straight to the heart...

For some pop concerts, a measure of success is how closely the performance emulates the recording. Pop stars who can faithfully reproduce their works - note for note, effect for effect - are regarded by members of their audience as wizard-like manipulators of sound.

In the first of two sold-out shows at the James L. Knight Center Thursday, on the second show of his 'Nothing Like the Sun' tour, Sting took the opposite approach. The songs from his solo career and the Police were well known to the audience. But in each case, they were substantially transformed by Sting's surprisingly thoughtful, improvisation-oriented seven-piece band.

There was not a dull moment in the show. More unified than the band that accompanied Sting on his 'Dream of the Blue Turtles' tour, this group sent walloping waves of energy through each selection. Nothing sounded stale. Nothing was performed by rote. On the strength of its freshness alone, this is one of the most consistently engaging concerts available to the too-often bludgeoned pop audience.

Led by keyboardist Kenny Kirkland and saxophonist Branford Marsalis - holdovers from the 'Blue Turtles' band - this outfit used basic musicianship to shine bright light into Sting's recent compositions. Though the recording of 'History Will Teach Us Nothing' sounds stiff and unnatural, it was expanded exponentially by the band's dramatic loud-to-soft contrasts, and guitarist Jeff Campbell's well-used wah-wah pedal sound. 'Straight To My Heart', a song that found Sting explaining 7/4 meter to the audience, was similarly bolstered by the band's precise, seemingly effortless execution and the insistent but not overbearing pulse of French drummer Jean Ceccarelli.

Some songs were simply extended for solos. Kirkland used a Duke Ellington-style block chord line as a foil for the reggae rhythm of 'One World', which evolved into a vintage rock twist on the shout chorus. Vocalist/keyboardist Delmar Brown, whose voice can sound uncannily like Sting's, ignited 'Consider Me Gone' with a swinging double-time solo during which he mimicked his flying synthesiser runs with voice.

It hardly mattered that Sting, who explained early on that he has been battling a sore throat, clearly had difficulty singing as the evening progressed. He powered through an hour- plus first set that included vocally challenging selections 'Englishman in New York', 'Bring On the Night' and the opener 'The Lazarus Heart', which segued smoothly into the chanting 'Too Much Information'. More than once, the rawness in his voice was a plus, particularly on the surging 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'.

Dancing and mugging throughout, Sting worked to compensate for his vocal handicap. He linked his material with songs from others in pop: 'History Will Teach Us Nothing' evaporated into the raised-fist chorus of Peter Tosh's 'Get Up, Stand Up'. His treatment of Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing', ended with the Beatles' 'From Me to You'. The band, known for deft quotes from jazz standards, closed 'Be Still My Beating Heart' with Herbie Hancock's 'Chameleon'.

Whenever Sting lagged, his band - and an understanding audience - was there for support. Playing acoustic guitar early in the second set, Sting led the crowd through a sing-along version of 'Roxanne' that he barely sang, choosing instead to hammer out a chunk-chunking accompaniment.

Following an abbreviated run-through of 'They Dance Alone', which included Sting's well-received Spanish narration, the singer dedicated perhaps the most singularly beautiful composition on his 'Nothing Like the Sun' LP, 'Fragile,' to the late bassist Jaco Pastorius. This song and many others were enriched by the seductive, extremely musical percussion of Minu Cinelu.

Encores included another vocal challenge, Sting's adaptation of a melody by Hans Eisler, 'The Secret Marriage', and 'Message in a Bottle'.

(c) The Miami Herald by Tom Moon