'Serious' Sting plays pop star for crowd...
Sting is the pop world's ranking intellectual and musical sophisticate.
In interviews, he dissects his music with the analytical acumen of a Jungian psychologist. On his solo recordings, he expands the horizons of pop and rock with the kind of jazzy aesthetic, Third World references and highbrow depth not associated with a rock icon who has sold tens of millions of records to teen-agers.
Sting, 36, might be serious and ambitious on record. But Friday night at sold-out Northrop Auditorium, he lowered his standards to accommodate his predominantly teen-aged and college-aged audience (who had gobbled up all 5,000 tickets in four hours).
It was spirited entertainment like concerts by the Police, Sting's old band. But it was not as consistently musically rewarding and challenging as his two solo albums. Too often Sting let his ego get in the way of his music. He was friendly, talkative, suavely charming and funny (he did a right-on impression of Jimmy Swaggart putting down an old Police song). But last night, Sting was more the star than the singer and bandleader.
During nearly every song, the blond British hunk posed as if he were in front of a camera. A veteran of 11 mostly minor motion pictures, Sting would make dramatic hand gestures, dance with some of his musicians, sit smart-alecky on a stool, or merely ham it up. He played the part of the pop idol to the fullest. He made a face of incredulity as keyboardist Delmar Brown scatted on 'Consider Me Gone'.
Sting was so self-involved that he turned a somersault while keyboardist Kenny Kirkland played a solo during 'One World', an old Police tune. He took the ultimate star turn when he peeled off his top during the Police's 'Don't Stand So Close to Me'. (With that kind of body, Sting should do a pose-down against reigning rock bodybuilding champ Bruce Springsteen.)
Sting's biggest ego trip occurred before his first encore in the latter of two 75-minute sets. He asked what the fans wanted to hear. They shouted 'Roxanne', the Police's first big hit. He covered his face in mock disgust. Then he explained that for 300 nights a year for 10 years he sang that song. He pleaded for a night off. The crowd was insistent. Of course, he accommodated his legions.
This seemed a strange approach for someone who considers himself a serious artist. To be sure, there were moments of musical magic, worthy of the kind of respect Gordon Sumner, the former British schoolteacher turned Sting, international music hero, has earned. Sting and his eight-member band cooked on 'Bring on the Night', which closed the first set. The momentum continued into the second set, especially on such superb soft numbers as 'Be Still My Beating Heart' (with its soft funk undercurrent) and 'Fragile' (a Latin-tinged jazz number). Those were probably the only tunes from his second solo LP, 'Nothing Like the Sun', that lived up to the exquisite beauty of the recorded versions; many other tunes were simply performed much louder than on the record.
Sting's band was tighter and less freewheeling last night than in his Twin Cities solo debut in 1985 at the St. Paul Civic Center Forum. The lone holdovers, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and keyboardist Kirkland, were outstanding in solo turns that sparked the crowd and occasionally the singer with that unmistakable cool tenor voice. Jean Paul Ceccarelli's drumming was not as soulful and jazzy as his touring predecessor or the drummers heard on Sting's records.
(c) The Star Tribune by Jon Bream