Brand New Day

Milwaukee, WI, US
Marcus Amphitheaterwith Tracy Chapman
Sting treats fans to gems of three-decade career...

An Englishman in Milwaukee had everyone - even Hizzoner - on their feet Wednesday night. Mayor John O. Norquist was among the near-capacity crowd at the Marcus Amphitheater treated to a whirlwind musical tour through the three decades of Sting's career - one that has steadily evolved from reggae-riffing proto-punk to jack-of-all-adult-contemporary-genres.

Looking unfailingly fit in a muscle T and cargo pants, Sting showcased tunes from every stage of his solo career and tossed in a few Police tunes for good measure. He guided his seven-piece band relentlessly from hit to hit, rarely pausing long enough even for a sip of water.

The combination of musical precision and flawless production was admirable. Set changes unfolded in seconds, for example: An enormous paper lantern rose behind the drum kit in the opening bars of 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' and mini-''fires'' of light and fabric sprang up around the stage for 'Desert Rose', his current top 20 single. But the very seamlessness of the show gave it a somewhat sterile, processed feel in places.

Fortunately, Sting is too seasoned and charismatic a performer to let the show get away from him. He let the band loose to wander on free-form, jazzy improvs during several tunes, including 'An Englishman in New York', and gave old classics new twists. 'Roxanne', for one, lost its spare urgency in favour of a massive rock-out treatment and extended call-and-answer session with the crowd.

Deadlines precluded a review of Sting's entire set.

Tracy Chapman's set was a victim of the singer/songwriter's own success. Chapman is popular enough to play the big sheds, albeit as an opening act, but her talent shines brightest in more intimate settings. The conversations of about 15,000 audience members settling into their seats almost drowned out Chapman's mellow voice and acoustic guitar on such gems as 'Fast Car' and the new 'Wedding Song'. Granted, neither Chapman nor her five-piece band did much to demand undivided attention, standing in place and mostly staring at their instruments.

While no one would want her to incorporate KISS-like spectacle, Chapman needs either to find a way to make her coffeehouse folk-rock translate to amphitheaters or to stick to smaller venues. Only at the end of her set, when she strapped on an electric guitar and upped the wattage of her engaging but shy persona for a break-out blues jam on 'Give Me One Reason', did Chapman's sound seem big enough for the setting.

(c) The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Gemma Tarlach

Sting in Milwaukee...

I think I have had just had an epiphany! I can find no better word to describe my second Sting concert in eight months. It is defined as ''an intuitive grasp of reality through something as an event - a revealing scene or moment.'' It describes my experience perfectly.

The concert took place on July 19, in an open air venue called the Marcus Amphitheater, overlooking Lake Michigan. I am not a big fan of larger venues and prefer the more intimate, personal approach.

Even though the day started out cloudy but by concert time the sun was setting on an almost perfect day. A cool breeze was coming in off the lake, and the crowd was streaming in.

Tracy Chapman started off the night with a shy and unassuming presence. Seeming unsure of herself, she failed to keep the crowd's attention at first, but gradually let loose with a heartfelt soulfullness. The crowd was getting restless, tense with anticipation. I took a walk to where the almost full moon was shining on calming waters. What a perfect night. Relaxed, I sat back down in the seats that were too far back, but with a full view of the stage. When the first chords sounded, the crowd jumped up an never set back down. Everyone seems to know the set list by now so I won't go into song specifics except the crowd seemed to more familiar with the new material than before. The energy was infectious and overwhelming. Sting just went from one song to the next with hardly a break in between. It was almost as if he was afraid to halt the momentum of the evening.

When the first heart-breaking, poignant note of 'Fragile' emerged, time stood still for me. In that frozen moment, there was no crowd, no theatre, no boundaries. Only Sting, me and the euphoria of music itself. An epiphany.

(c) Pauline Dorsan for

Sting's Milwaukee Show rocks with jazz, blues and more...

He's been called a pop snob and labeled smug, even pompous rock royalty. But you'd never know why, from Sting's nearly soldout show Wednesday at Milwaukee's Marcus Amphitheater.

While some acts despise touring, Sting wasn't sniffling about being away from his castle back home. He looked at home happily singing a reggae version of 'Roxanne' to an adoring crowd.

Sting has been touring since last fall promoting his latest CD, 'Brand New Day'. Not surprisingly, songs off that Grammy award-winning CD were prominently featured in his two-hour set. With close-cropped hair and wearing baggy, moss-colored pants and a sleeveless black T-shirt that showed off his lean physique, Sting opened his set by bowing and then breaking into a bouncing 'A Thousand Years'.

That bounce - like his voice - was strong throughout the night of genre-hopping. Sting's supple though husky vocals are among the most recognizable in the rock world. They came across perfect on new songs such as 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', which featured Sting's drummer rapping along, and the upbeat-pop title track to 'Brand New Day'.

The set, like Sting's career, moved from his rock years with the Police ('Every Breath You Take' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'), to music from his solo albums, including the jazzy 'Tomorrow We'll See', 'Englishman in New York', 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', 'Seven Days' and a country foot-stomper in the new 'Fill Her Up'. 'Fields of Gold' remains a simple but poignant song.

Sting was joined by an impressive six-man band, including some musicians with whom he has worked for 20 years. These are jazz musicians who, like Sting on bass, know how to rock. The trumpeter especially stood out on songs such as 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'.

Rich and elaborate stage lighting reflected the mercurial movement in the music. One of the highlights was mock flames that licked at the band from all sides during 'Desert Rose'.

Sting's solo rendition of 'Message in a Bottle' in the second encore would have been a great place to finish. But he brought the band out for a final bow and left the crowd thinking about the future with 'Fragile'.

Tracy Chapman opened with a 65-minute set that featured a newer song in the 'Wedding Song' along with longtime favorites such as 'Fast Car' and 'Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution'.

In between the songs - with a voice like a little girl - Chapman joked about battling bugs on stage. ''It's really hard to sing with a bug up your nose,'' she quipped.

(Note to Madison Blues Festival organizers: Chapman would make a fine future choice as evidenced by her bold and bluesy 'Give Me One Reason'.)

(c) The Wisconsin State Journal by Natasha Kassulke