The following article by Mike Weatherford appeared in an April 2009 issue of The Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper...
Sting says a new album may come of his current streamlined touring band, with two guitarists but no keyboards. "I'm interested in doing something a little more surprising," he says. Sting does not golf. "I feel it spoils a good walk, in my opinion," he says. And besides, "I can't see me in the clothes."
Hence, the pop/rock icon had no personal insight into the value of the private golf lessons which Tiger Woods volunteers in auctions to benefit The Rainforest Foundation that Sting co-founded: "That's kind of priceless." But he figures, "I was honor bound to repay him in some way," and he is doing it by playing Tiger Jam IX on Saturday. If all 8,000 tickets sell out at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, the concert portion of the benefit would gross around 6,400, surely enough to consider any debt settled. And Sting likes the idea of helping the Tiger Woods Foundation, which supports at least five Las Vegas youth charities.
"I'm a great believer in education. I believe we need more of it, not less of it," he says. Besides, he has been performing in Las Vegas since at least 1988, and now feels a certain kinship with the locals. "It struck me more and more that Vegas has become a real city with real citizens and a real demographic," he said in an interview that took place before he showed up as a surprise performer at the April 18 opening of Red Rock Resort.
For those who weren't on the VIP list, Saturday's concert is Las Vegas' first chance to hear the Broken Music Tour, a back-to-basics quartet format with two guitars and no keyboards. The tour visited mostly colleges on its last U.S. pass. "I find it very refreshing," he says. "One, I don't have to arrange that much. When there's more than four people in the band you have to sort of tell people when to play and when not to play.
"A four-piece band, it kind of organizes itself. It's kind of obvious. It's punchy, it's spare, it's kind of nostalgic. I do a lot of Police material because it's tailor made for that," he adds. "I'm hoping it will bear fruit and turn into a record eventually." The more rocking approach is something of an about-face from the lush arrangements of Sting's past few albums, but falls right in with his knack for reinventing songs in concert. In 2004, for instance, he opened a Hard Rock Hotel show with a lounge version of the reggae-rooted Police song 'Walking on the Moon'.
He says it makes "a nice 'Aha!' moment" for fans to "recognize the song after eight bars. It's always fun to use the record as a starting point, a blueprint if you like, and then try to do something new. The four-piece band creates a different kind of challenge: How do you make a song that has multiple keyboards on it work with two guitarists? "Fortunately I have two excellent guitarists" in longtime sideman Dominic Miller and Lyle Workman.
Sting says he is "thinking and worrying about a new album" but has "a little surprise coming out before that happens." Whatever it is should be in stores by Christmas and probably won't be a standards album. He has already recorded an album's worth of standards, if fans bother to round up his soundtrack contributions and his work with Chris Botti; the latest, 'What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?' is on Botti's recent disc 'To Love Again'. But to go the Rod Stewart route doesn't feel right just yet.
"I think in a way it sort of indicates that you haven't got the material," he says. "I'm very happy with the songs I have recorded in that genre. But, I'm interested in doing something a little more surprising." The college tour suggests he's more interested in going the other direction. Fans from the early Police days have been able to age gracefully with Sting over the years, but he tried to combine the campus concerts with music master classes or discussions of his autobiography "Broken Music." "It was fun, going back to teaching," says the former Gordon Sumner, who taught before the Police formed in 1977.
Whatever motivated this turn probably wasn't some middle-aged crazy thing. "I'm 54 years old, I don't know whether I've reached middle-aged crisis or not. I feel like I'm as curious as I was when I was 14; I've got as much energy. No, I don't know what it is."
© Las Vegas Review Journal by Mike Weatherford