Brand New Day

Peoria, IL, US
Peoria Civic Centerwith Jill Scott
Sting concert upbeat, enjoyable...

Relying heavily on his solo work while also revisiting favorites from his old band The Police, British rocker Sting gave an upbeat, entertaining performance Wednesday at the Peoria Civic Center Arena.

The multimillion-selling artist, supported by a talented band that sang excellent back-up, stayed fairly true to the original versions of his songs, but wasn't afraid to experiment with tempos and rhythms on his 'Brand New Day' tour.

Sting opened the 90-minute concert with 'A Thousand Years', the moody first track from his newest album. He then moved into 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'After the Rain Has Fallen', establishing the intensity and energy that would mark the whole show.

The quirky 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', sung from a dog's perspective, benefited from strong work by trumpeter Chris Botti. It was practically a duet between Sting and the trumpet before drummer Manu Katche joined them, rapping in French. (Wonder what he was saying?)

Sting, while not Mr. Charisma onstage, goofed around a bit with his bandmates and talked to the audience. He hearkened back to playing at the Peoria Civic Center in 1982 with The Police (''I was 10 then,'' he joked). He also warned husbands in the audience not to sue him for looking at their wives, referring to Sting's recent guest appearance on the TV show ''Ally McBeal.''

Sting's unusual voice, hard and full, hasn't diminished over the years; his vocals on Roxanne are still as pressing and insistent as in 1978. And he is adept at a variety of musical styles. His country ditty 'Fill Her Up', which found Botti trading trumpet for tambourine, started out twangy and moved into rock-tinged gospel for the powerful ending.

'Fill Her Up' slid seamlessly into the melodic 'Fields of Gold', which was as lovely as ever. The song featured guitarist Dominic Miller, who highlighted and sharpened the familiar melody.

But it was the Police hit 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' that got audience members, if not on their feet, then at least moving in their seats, singing along to the ''eee-yo-oh'' refrain.

Botti's bluesy trumpet work also contributed to 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', in which Sting seemed to channel Louie Armstrong's throaty singing style. The whole ensemble filled the arena with the haunting, Arabic-style chanting of Sting's most recent hit, 'Desert Rose'.

After a brief break, Sting came back onstage to sing 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', then launched into the well-received 'Every Breath You Take'. The group played it at a slightly accelerated pace, which seemed a little too fast for the normally mellow song.

After another break, Sting reappeared with only a guitar to perform a stripped-down version of 'Message in a Bottle', inviting the audience to sing the repetitive refrain.

Sting closed the show with 'Fragile', from his 1987 album 'Nothing Like the Sun'. The concert ended on a somber note, with Sting crooning, ''How fragile we are, how fragile we are.''

Opening for Sting with a 45-minute set was R&B singer Jill Scott, who missed the first stops on the tour when she was hospitalized with a lung infection. She joined the tour Tuesday in Madison.

Scott's good health was Peoria's good fortune. She sounds great on her CD, ''Who Is Jill Scott?,'' but she sounds even better live. Her vocal inflections and her onstage movements were infused with personality, and she talked about sex and love in a natural, approachable way. Anyone who doesn't think she is the Next Big Thing clearly didn't hear her flexing her incredible vocal muscles on 'He Loves Me'.

A crowd of between 5,000 and 6,000 people saw Wednesday's concert. Promoters Jam Productions of Chicago would not give an exact audience count, nor would Civic Center staff release the number. ''It's not information that I could release because it is (Jam Productions') show,'' said Civic Center General Manager Debbie Ritschel.

(c) The Peoria Journal Star by Sara Netzley