Sting Pop hero loosens up and delivers an evening of tasteful, jazzy sounds...
He's talented, good-looking, rich and smart. Pretentiousness is about the worst thing anyone's been able to come up with to foil Sting. And that charge - besides its dubious validity - is hardly the put-down of the year.
So OK, the guy's a god. He made a visitation to Reunion Arena Tuesday night, and, while the show constituted neither revelation nor revolution, it was musically solid, tastefully rendered and occasionally even loose. Sting seems freer on his own than with the sometimes stiff Police, and his performance at Reunion included dancing, running in place, two somersaults and one Jimmy Swaggart impression.
And music, of course - mainly of the jazz-influenced variety to be found on Sting's solo albums, 1985's 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles' and 1987's '...Nothing Like the Sun'.
There was even a stop or two along the way devoted to his Police past. It all happened on a simple stage set under a simple light show - no crass Pink Floyd spectaculars for our hero - with Sting supported by an eight-piece band that included Blue Turtles veterans Branford Marsalis on sax and Dollette McDonald singing backup.
Like a highly refined cousin of David Lee Roth, Sting strutted about with the confidence and abandon of the born showman he is, bringing his own personal heat to music that tends to be cool verging on cold.
The streamlined groove of 'We'll Be Together' got the crowd's circulation going quickly enough, but the show really began to click with the relatively subdued 'Englishman in New York'. 'Sister Moon' received a pretty production full of smoky blue spotlights; Sting did a sexy slow dance with backup singer McDonald and ended the number with a gentle howl.
Following 'Rock Steady', Sting told the audience that the song had been inspired by TV evangelism, a phenomenon he described as ''both fascinating and revolting.' He then told how Jimmy Swaggart had once condemned the song 'Murder By Numbers' as having been written by the devil. ''I wrote the (expletive) song,' the singer exclaimed, launching into an impassioned rendition of the fiercely political piece.
If there was anything to pick at in regard to Tuesday's concert, it was that it seemed Sting often didn't want to end his songs. In particular, 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', 'Be Still My Beating Heart' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' threatened to go on forever, starting strong but ultimately just sort of floating off into generic jams, hovering there indefinitely and, finally, evaporating long after the original songs had been forgotten. All in all, a sometimes monotonous process. There was also a dreaded sing-along.
On the other hand, Sting and company's performances of 'Consider Me Gone', 'Bring on the Night' and 'They Dance Alone' were above reproach, and 'Fragile' - which featured scattered lines from old Beatles songs, one of the evening's many long jams and a final, shrieking guitar solo - amounted to a musical roller-coaster ride.
Sting also did some joking around with attempts at 'Home on the Range', 'The Eyes of Texas' and 'The Yellow Rose of Texas', which he had to give up on when the audience didn't know the words.
Shirtless but not suspenderless, Sting did an acoustic solo turn on 'Message in a Bottle' to end the show - no smarter or better-looking, thank God, but undoubtedly richer for his trouble.
(c) The Dallas Morning News by Russell Smith