Sting gives arresting performance: Former Police man finds adulation in intimate venue...
Sting's mass appeal may have dwindled, but the influential British singer-songwriter found no shortage of fervent admirers Friday night in the relatively intimate confines of DAR Constitution Hall.
Eight years ago, Sting easily packed the cavernous Capital Centre. But if his fans didn't quite fill this much smaller house, they gave a rousing welcome to their hero, who first rocketed to worldwide stardom as chief of the Police, the eclectic rock trio that ruled the early '80s.
Many stayed on their feet for most of the two-hour show, dancing, hollering and singing along as Sting and a tight five-piece band swept through two dozen songs - seven plucked from ''Brand New Day,'' his seventh album as a solo artist.
Cradling his bass guitar and clad in black leather jacket and black cargo pants, Sting acknowledged the adulation by pausing before his sixth number to admire the ''lovely theater'' and how it was nice to have ''everyone so close.''
''You know, I can hear everything you're saying,'' he joshed. '' 'I liked him better with the Police.' 'What's with that jacket?' 'Can he really do it for five hours?'
''I'm trying to convince my wife to take up tantric shopping,'' he teased, ''which is when you shop for five hours and don't buy anything.''
The crowd certainly bought what Sting had to offer, which for the most part was a percolating, well-paced, jazz-inflected set that included a smattering of hits from his Police log.
With a few exceptions drawn from his uneven new album Sting's performance merited the largely rapturous reception.
The 48-year-old former schoolteacher was in reassuringly good voice, especially in his keening, trademark upper register. And he thumped the bass with authority as he swayed, bounced and charged across a stage before a stark backdrop that appeared to consist of columns draped in sheets.
Only a performer secure in his audience's affection could open with something as slow and languid as 'A Thousand Days', off the new CD, before delivering more familiar fare like the funky 'Set Them Free', the scorching 'We'll Be Together' and the anthemic 'All This Time'.
Sting also pleased by plunging through a good-humoured 'Seven Days', a swirling 'Mad About You' and an elegiac 'Fields of Gold', waiting until the 12th number to nod toward the Police department with the rollicking 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.
He wisely chose to slim down the recorded versions of some of his more ponderous tunes. The title cut from 'Brand New Day', for example, was thus rendered enjoyably taut.
Guitarist Dominic Miller contributed searing electric fretwork as well as crystalline acoustic chords. Pianist Jason Robello and trumpeter Chris Botti provided standout solos and support.
Sting donned a floppy black hat for a Satchmo-mimicking rendition of 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' and soared with an apparently extemporaneous 'My One and Only Love'. He crooned the latter to minimal piano accompaniment after a female fan handed up a homemade poster addressed to him with those words - plus the disclaimer ''except for my husband.''
Other highlights included a reggae-rooted, sing-along workout on 'Englishman in New York' and a hot jam on the Police's 'Roxanne'.
The first encore paired a churning 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' (its title line addressed to the crowd) with a sinuous 'Every Breath You Take', a Police smash.
When the crowd demanded him back again, Sting delighted with an intimate acoustic reading of 'Message in a Bottle' - the audience worshipfully trading lines with him on the chorus - before closing with a haunting, delicate 'Fragile'.
(c) The Washington Times by Ken McIntyre
Sting keeps the faith at MCI, wowing them with every breath he took...
Sting's first encore at Constitution Hall Friday night, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', was in keeping with both the focus of the concert - love as a many-splendored/ splintered thing - and the mood of the sellout crowd, happy to see the Englishman in Washington after a three-year absence.
As Sting noted later in the wistful 'Fields of Gold', absence and remembrance make the heart grow fonder, and he reached into his deep catalogue to include several Police classics along with many highlights from a solo career stretching back to 1985, as well as seven songs from his just-released album, 'Brand New Day'. Sting even trotted out the luminous '50s pop standard 'My One and Only Love' (which he originally recorded for the 'Leaving Las Vegas' soundtrack) and invested it with soft-spun conviction as pianist Jason Rebello subtly comped behind him.
The 24-song program opened with 'A Thousand Years', a new ballad of romantic constancy whose sinewy grace and sonic pastels reflect Sting's penchant for smooth, sturdy pop under the influence of jazz and world music. Songs of devotion ranged from the jubilance of the Police's 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'All This Time' and 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' to the obsessive 'Mad About You' and a still-spooky-after-all-these-years 'Every Breath You Take'. Other extremes encompassed the devastating sense of loss exemplified in 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', the plea for compassion in Fragile and the sense of renewal at the heart of 'After the Rain' and 'Brand New Day'.
The capacity crowd roared to life when Sting launched into 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', his own liberation hit after leaving the Police in 1985, and it clearly appreciated his willingness to revisit that distant past with the two 'Everys' (Little Thing and Breath), 'Message in a Bottle', which Sting performed solo on acoustic guitar, and the keening 'Roxanne'. The latter capped Sting's brief foray into the hazy world of hustlers and hookers following 'Tomorrow We'll See', a newly lit torch song about a transvestite working the mean streets, and 1986's burbling 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', which elicited his finest faux Tom Waits vocals.
There were some weak elements: The strident soul of 'We'll Be Together' is not really Sting's forte; neither is the country music styling of 'Fill Her Up'. 'Desert Rose', a melancholy meditation on loneliness, sorely missed the sensual vocal counterpoint of Algerian rai singer Cheb Mami, while 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', after starting off with a cool, jazzy elegance, fell apart when Sting's longtime drummer, Manu Katche, stepped out for an irrelevant and intrusive rap in French.
And while 'Bring On the Night'/'When the World Is Running Down set up the encores with its hard-driving passions and solo spotlights for guitarist Dominic Miller and keyboardists Rebello and Kipper, the band was more effective in tighter, airier arrangements, particularly those that showcased trumpeter Chris Botti, whose supple ornamentations and emotional colorations beautifully underscored so many songs.
(c) The Washington Post by Richard Harrington