Nothing Like The Sun

Englewood, CO, US
Fiddler's Green Amphitheater
Someone to watch over Sting - Fiddler's Green noise controversy enhances concert...

Someone was watching over ex-Police chief Sting Thursday night.

Since the controversy erupted over the noise level at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, various rock stars have made it a point during their performances to urge - nay, goad - audiences to newer and higher decibel levels.

Not Sting. He may not have arrested the noise, but he turned a touchy situation to his favor, and the crowd loved it. After putting on an incredible 1-hour, 45-minute set, the performer came back onstage for a second encore, and with a story to tell.

He had just gotten off the backstage phone, he said. An elderly lady who lives close to Fiddler's Green had called.

''She said, 'I want to talk to Rod Stewart','' Sting told his fans, a reference to Stewart's concert there six days ago. ''I said, 'Well, Rod's not here'. She asked, 'Who's this'? I replied 'This is Sting', and she said, 'String? Who are you'?'' The crowd reacted positively.

The woman, Sting said, then went on to ask, ''Why do you have to play so loud?''

''Because it's rock'n'roll'', he said, to which she asked, ''Well, do you know anything else?'' ''I asked her what she wanted to hear and she said, 'Do you know any Gershwin?'''

Without further ado, Sting and one of his two keyboard men, Kenny Kirkland, launched into a sultry, crowd-quieting rendition of 'Someone to Watch Over Me'. Fiddler's Green hasn't heard much like that lately.

But all this was postscript, following what was an equally classy performance that set the tone of the concert, and re-introduced the talents of Sting and his current band of musicians. Setting the concert in motion were a trio of songs from his latest record, '... Nothing Like the Sun': 'The Lazarus Heart', 'We'll Be Together' and 'Englishman in New York'. Even a few lines from 'We Are the World' were thrown into 'We'll Be Together'.

Early on, it shaped up to be a magnificent performance, with Sting never better on vocals, and the rest of the band creating a full, detailed sound.

While there are only two carryovers from his last band - Kirkland and horn player Branford Marsalis - the musicians backing him now are as good as gold. The only drawback is the vacancy of drummer Omar Hakim, now replaced by J.T. Lewis. Lewis is incredibly solid, but lacked the color and drive that Hakim put into the music.

The combination of Sting's voice and all the other performers' backing vocals was amazing. In particular, backing vocalist Dolette McDonald provided a beautiful high-end harmony throughout the night. Keyboardist Delmar Brown, percussionist Mino Cinelu and guitarist Jeff Campbell also helped to fill out the rich vocal sound.

'Sister Moon' and 'Rock Steady', played back-to-back, showed the incredible diversity of influence in Sting's music. The former song had such a bluesy, smooth feel, while the latter did as its name implied. The first song from Sting's Police repertoire, 'One World (Not Three)', allowed the band members to do a little freeform dancing around the circumference of the stage, while the deep reggae influences of the song set the crowd in motion as well.

A dedication to Nelson Mandela with the song 'If You Love Someone, Set Them Free' was a convincing performance, although the South African government will never love Mandela, and therefore probably never set him free. But the song was more appropriate as the love song its lyrics imply, rather than any kind of social or political statement.

After launching into a strong version of 'Bring On the Night', which also included a clean segueway into the Police song, 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', during which he implored the audience not to sing along too loudly - so as not to disturb the neighbors - Sting and his band took a 20-minute break. What followed this intermission should be written down as part of rock history. The following 40 minutes included one of the most incredible performances I've ever heard. Wearing black for the second set to match the mellower mood of such songs as 'They Dance Alone', 'King of Pain' and the evening's best offering, 'Be Still My Beating Heart', this part of the show put an instant lump in my throat. This set showed the entire band at its best, with a perfect mix, exchanging subtlety for strength only when needed.

One drawback to the concert was the lack of material from Sting's first solo record. 'Set Them Free' was its only claim to fame. His first encore, a complaint that he's never been asked to perform for Farm Aid that led to a sassy rendition of 'Home On the Range', would have been better with 'Russians' or 'Shadows in the Rain'.

(c) The Colorado Springs Gazette by Todd Caudle