Brand New Day

Rochester, NY, US
Blue Cross Arenawith Jill Scott
Sting not at his peak, but he still delivers...

Sting, as the song goes, was once an 'Englishman in New York'. But that was long ago. He's an Englishman of the world these days.

He still has the chiseled profile of an emperor on an old Roman coin: Serious, but with the glint of the rogue in his eye. An imp who won't leave well enough alone.

And he's to be congratulated for that, even on a night like last night at the Blue Cross Arena, when Sting didn't seem to be quite at the top of his game.

The energy level and Sting's vocals were a notch or two below where they were during visits to Darien Lake Performing Arts Center over the last few years. But his fine catalog of songs makes that easy enough to overlook.

If Sting's old band, the Police, often seemed less about rock than a pop re-invention of reggae, then as a solo artist, he's increased his reach even more.

His attraction to world music is evident enough, but Sting has also clearly fallen in love with jazz and the lone, atmospheric trumpet; Chris Botti made frequent solos, most notably on 'Moon Over Bourbon Street'.

The fans loved the encore of 'Every Breath You Take', of course, and Police standards such as 'Roxanne'. But there's no denying that 'Desert Rose' - with its Algerian influences played out before faux torches, turning the stage into a desert camp - belongs in that group.

Another good thing: Sting doesn't skimp on opening acts. His highly developed tastes won't allow for it. And the odds are opener Jill Scott won't be an opener for long.

The 29-year-old Philadelphia soul singer came out slow and smoky, but quickly built to full-diva caterwauling rave.

She doesn't do onstage aerobics like many of the VH1 crowd, but Scott does have that Aretha Franklin presence. Except where Franklin might deliver a phrase with elegant dignity, Scott just beams like a big old sun, trying to share the rays with everyone.

Two backup singers were a bit superfluous, since Scott can do it all. But the rest of the eight-piece group laid down some cool jazz grooves for Scott's vocal pyrotechnics. She scat-sang like Ella Fitzgerald, did some hip-hop beat boxes, some swooping arias and sang into a cell phone during 'Honey Molasses'. 'Love Rain' was a lascivious spoken-word opening before moving on to provocative comments about ''Miles Davis between my thighs.''

It's tempting to say Scott overshadowed Sting on this night. But that wouldn't be quite right.

Let's just say that, two or three years from now, 6,500 people from last night's show will be able to say, ''Yeah, when I saw her that night, I figured she was gonna be a major star.''

(c) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle by Jeff Spevak