Nothing Like The Sun

Madison, WI, US
Dane County Coliseum
Sting takes crowd through changes...

Sting, who was formerly the lead voice and bass player for the now-legendary Police, has gone through a lot of musical changes in recent years. He has embraced jazz, for example, eliminated the forced accents in his voice, and written some very impressive and intellectually deep material along the way.

At the Dane County Coliseum Thursday night, Sting (will the real Gordon Sumner please stand up?), backed by an illustrious eight-piece band, stepped miles away from his days with the Police and frequently took about 6,800 patrons on the excursions.

It certainly didn't hurt to have some of the hottest musical hired guns - Branford Marsalis on tenor and soprano saxes, and Kenny Kirkland, an early-days compatriot of Branford's brother, Wynton - on your side, either. The rhythms came fast, furious, slow and simple, sometimes within the same tune. For openers, the band worked up a brief rock exercise and then shifted confidently into one-drop reggae.

Although he covered bass and lead vocals with the Police, Sting strolled onto this black multi-leveled stage barehanded, looking calm, confident and comfortable in a patterned black smoking-style jacket, leather pants with red side seams, and no shirt.

He bathed in the glowing mood of the overlapping rhythms for awhile before settling into the main matter at hand: Showing Madison that he's still as good a performer, singer and songwriter as he ever was. He also recalled the first-ever rock show at the newly remodeled Madison Civic Center almost 10 years ago.

Opening the set was sizzling salsa, which was lowered to a glowing torchy ballad, and then a slow dance with one of his backing singers. Moving to the other side of the stage like a musical monarch, he surveyed Kirkand's solo bit and smiled in approval.

There was real soul in Sting's impassioned tale of 'Sister Moon', and the crowd was enraptured. Mere moments later, the onetime lead Police man (who may again take that position, according to music business grape vines) encouraged the crowd to 'Rock Steady' and really started working the audience by shifting to a jazzy shuffle pace.

Before 'Murder By Numbers', Sting took a jab at televangelist Jimmy Swaggart for declaring the tune was written by Satan, and an evil thing. Sting brustied off the four-yearold commentary by whipping himself up to a real tent show frenzy, finally stating calmly, "I wrote this song."

He did most of his own stuff, but the Police tunes went over best.No matter. Most of them were his anyway, and at this show, they sounded great.

(c) Wisconsin State Journal by Michael St. John