Brand New Day

Madison, WI, US
Kohl Centerwith Jill Scott
Sting's first-rate gig melds styles, moods...

Maybe it was the sweltering heat outside, inspiring folks to break out the khaki shorts and halter tops. Maybe it was the warm, jazzy, world-beat sound of Sting and Jill Scott on stage.

Whatever the reason, it sure felt like an outdoor summer concert at the Kohl Center Tuesday - a relaxed, occasionally playful and always accomplished show by Sting, who is winding up the U.S. dates on his 'Brand New Day' tour.

Looking insufferably fit at 49 in a tight black tank top and baggy pants, Sting cracked wise about a recent episode of ''Ally McBeal,'' in which he played himself as a defendant.

''You can't sue me for looking at your wife,'' he said, which is a good thing, as our legal system is crowded enough. After he held one note for an incredibly long time, my own wife cooed, ''He's so tantric!''

Although Sting has been criticized for softening his music since his early, jagged days with the Police, he has probably smuggled more interesting sounds into Top 40 radio than any other popular artist, from jazz (If You Love Somebody) to Mideast pop (Desert Rose).

All those styles and sounds were in abundance Tuesday, as Sting played a lively mix of hits and album cuts from his solo career, along with a few standards from his Police days. The moody 'A Thousand Years' was an odd choice for an opening song, but the show quickly found its footing with the upbeat 'If You Love Somebody', the catchy 'After the Rain Has Fallen' and the funky 'We'll Be Together'.

Sting has surrounded himself with an incredibly talented five-piece band, which intriguingly featured only one guitar player but two keyboardists, and a trumpet player to boot. The phenomenal Manu Katche consistently found exciting and innovative ways to keep the beat on drums, and trumpeter Chris Botti's beautiful tones thrilled the listener on 'Englishman in New York' and 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'.

As always, Sting was the band's magnetic center, clearly enjoying himself with an enthusiastic crowd before him and a talented band behind him. The band broke into several extended jams, including a marathon version of If the 'World Is Running Down' and a full-bore version of 'Roxanne' that included an effective call-and-response between Sting and the audience.

The show closed with a terrific solo version of 'Message in a Bottle' that had the crowd singing along, and a gorgeous, evocative 'Fragile'. All in all, it's good to be Sting.

The Madison show was extra special for the 'Brand New Day' tour because it was the first show back for opening act Jill Scott. The Grammy-nominated R&B singer had been hospitalized for a lung infection, causing her to miss several dates.

She sounded just spectacular on Tuesday, her expressive voice ranging from scat singing to talking blues to a wail that filled every corner of the arena. ''I just wanted to stop for a brief moment and say how extraordinarily happy I am to be here tonight,'' she told the cheering crowd. ''Sting so graciously wanted me to be here. And I said to myself, I've got to get to Wisconsin!''

(c) The Capitol Times by Rob Thomas

Sting in synchronicity with favourites...

Sting and I have frolicked many times... In my dreams.

I've allowed him to watch every breath I take, every move I make... Until I woke up. I admit it. Sting has been my dream date ever since his days as a Police man. I've looked past his sometimes arrogance and have even tried not to get jealous of his smart and beautiful wife, Trudie.

But Ally McBeal? Sting went too far.

Addressing 9,500 fans and wearing a tank top and cargo-style pants at the Kohl Center on Tuesday, Sting inquired as to how many had watched him serenade McBeal on her recent birthday show. Thanks for rubbing it in.

Thankfully, all was forgiven as Sting stepped into a 110-minute set that spanned his career and included six songs off his latest release, 'Brand New Day'.

While the show started sluggishly with 'Thousand Years', Sting and his five-piece band picked up the pace on songs such as the jazzy 'Englishman in New York'.

Sting, who has been on a whirlwind world tour, may be ready for some time off. His distinctive throaty voice was in tact but he didn't seem as playful or bouncy as in past shows. 'Fill Her Up' off his new album was an exception, showing Sting maneuver through twang to soul. 'A Perfect Love ... Gone Wrong' got a boost from drummer- turned-rapper Manu Katche.

Sting classics like 'If You Love Someone Set Them Free' and 'We'll Be Together' got the woman in the seat behind me riled. ''Yeah baby! I love it!'' she yelled until her date yanked her back into her seat.

'Fields of Gold' was a beautiful ballad and those of us with serious allergies liked it all the more delivered in air-conditioned kindness. Sting tackled 'Desert Rose' without the help of Algerian singer Cheb Mami who lent a hand on the 'Brand New Day' CD. The lighting was elaborate with orange flames of tissues dancing with the help of fans. Chris Botti's trumpeting added texture to 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'.

From the Police archives, Sting sampled 'Roxanne', 'Message in a Bottle', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Every Breath You Take'.

The show ended with two encores including a tender version of 'Fragile'. What ruined the song for me, though, were two men in a box suite above me who started arguing and swearing loudly, proof that Sting, who is a well-known human rights activist, still has his work cut out for him.

Grammy nominated R&B singer Jill Scott opened her 45-minute set thankful for good health. It was her first show since being hospitalized for a lung infection. She missing two weeks of the tour, but her lungs sounded healed. Two singers and a six-piece band backed her. Sexy and soulful, Scott has a voice that is equally suited to jazz, blues, R&B and hip-hop. Her set was faithful to her latest CD, Who Is Jill Scott?: Word and Sounds, Vol. 1 including songs such as 'He Loves Me', 'Getting' in the Way' and 'Love Rain', which was part spoke word, part scat and even some air-jamming upright bass moves.

(c) The Wisconsin State Journal by Natasha Kassulke