Brand New Day

Denver, CO, US
Red Rocks Amphitheatrewith k.d. lang
A Sting for the 21st Century...

It's time to face the facts: Sting is getting old. He's 48 now, and the energy that propelled him through Police shows in the '70s and '80s and solo shows in the '80s and '90s is slowly disappearing. When he came to Red Rocks Tuesday night, to play his first Colorado show since 1996, it was obvious that his musical tastes have changed.

Sure, he made passable tries at the old rock 'n' roll attitude, on chestnuts such as 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and Roxanne', but his heart wasn't in it, and it showed. Not that there's anything wrong with that - when the songs did click, as on 'Perfect Love... Gone Wrong' or 'Tomorrow We'll See', it was as magic as any performance he's ever given.

Of course, those two songs are from Sting's latest album, the Grammy-winning 'Brand New Day', and they are textbook examples of the modern Sting sound: smooth jazz-influenced, vaguely show tuney, with a slight world beat, and lots of muted trumpet courtesy of the talented Chris Botti. It's a formula that works, and it's one Sting's current band - which also includes drummer Manu Katche, pianist Jason Rebello and longtime guitarist Dominic Miller - seems to enjoy playing. Elsewhere in the set, particularly on older numbers such as 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Englishman In New York', the band seemed slightly lost; an undeniably talented group of musicians who just couldn't seem to gel.

Sting, on bass and lead vocals (of course), was his usual charming self, telling the crowd at one point, ''I'm feeling the altitude, but I'm not as high as you are - in a manner of speaking.'' During 'Englishman's' ''Be yourself, no matter what they say'' chorus, he coaxed the sell-out crowd into singing along: ''Come on, this is the state motto.''

The set varied mostly between early solo songs (Moon Over Bourbon Street, Fragile) and later solo songs (Fields of Gold, Fill Her Up). Some 16 years after he left the Police, it might be unfair to expect Sting to perform songs made famous by his old band, but they're still some of his best-known compositions, a fact he realizes all too well. It wasn't by coincidence that the show ended with classics such as 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Message in a Bottle', as well as the Bring on the Night'/'When the World is Running Down' medley - a pretty radical reworking of old Police songs - that has become the unofficial theme of Sting's solo career. The band mustered up all its energy for the closers, and did an admirable job of approaching the energy the singer and his various bands had in the '80s and early '90s, with Botti paying tribute to Branford Marsalis' soprano sax work.

The show took longer to perform than it did to sell out - it took less than 60 minutes to fill the 9,000-seat venue (which added some 600 seats to handle the overflow); the show lasted nearly two hours, with a 90-minute first set and and a 15-minute encore. Near the end of the first set, Sting performed 'Desert Rose', a song he recorded earlier in the day for a KBCO Studio C session (it also appears in a Jaguar commercial).

The moral of the story? Take Sting for what he's become, not what he was. Given the dramatic nature of his new work, it's entirely possible that he'll write a Broadway musical someday. He's still a great songwriter, and his voice is still strong and unique more than 20 years into his rock star career.

Who knows - there may come a day when Sting can play a solo show and never once play a song by that old twentieth century band the Police.

(c) The Boulder Camera by Greg Glasgow

Sting delivers energetic mix of old and new for the faithful...

While Dave Matthews played for the masses in the stadium down the road, Sting played a concert for the elite.

Even with ticket prices approaching the triple digits, Tuesday night's Red Rocks show sold out in an hour months ago. By show time Tuesday night, it was the hottest, hardest ticket in town.

The result was almost comic sights of well-heeled yuppies, standing on the dirt shoulder of the road, some with kids in tow, forlornly holding up two fingers at passing concert-goers, hoping for a miracle.

Early on, blustery winds played havoc with the sound, but Sting still delivered a strong, driving set. It was a far cry from his last tour, when he delved deeply into the personal songs of the 'Mercury Falling' album. This was Sting the Road Warrior, lacking the warmth and personality of last time around but driving with punch and determination in songs such as 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and the title track of his latest album, 'Brand New Day'.

Fans looking for hits may have been disappointed; Sting played his fewest number of Police songs in years, opting instead for the eclectic mix of the new album and jazzy reinterpretations of his solo songs (except, of course, for the near-obligatory slow-start, roaring-finish treatment of 'Roxanne').

'We'll Be Together Tonight' got a good shaking up, reworked and ending with a squalling Dominic Miller guitar solo. Sting and Miller also teamed up for a light, delicate acoustic reading of 'Fields of Gold' that set the audience swooning.

Still, the decidedly jazzier excursion got a decidedly flatter audience response, as Sting gave out generous helpings of new songs (Fill Her Up, A Thousand Years) while carefully doling out audience favorites such as 'All This Time'.

But the crowd was Sting-savvy, lustily cheering more obscure cuts such as 'Seven Days' and 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', and were paid back handsomely with hit-filled set-closers, including 'When the World Is Running Down'. As he has throughout his solo career, Sting threw out curve balls, demanding that the audience keep up.

k.d. lang opened the show with a strong set and full band, her first show of the Sting tour and a preview of her Aug. 16 Boulder Theater date. Her new 'Invincible Summer' album is more mainstream than her previous recent releases, and the crowd appreciated it.

(c) Denver Rocky Mountain News by Mark Brown

Every little thing Sting did was magic...

Backstage, Sting is cordial to all his anxious fans standing around. When he's introduced to the ''local rock critic,'' he smirks, extends his hand and says, ''Oh, I love critics!''

The scribe comments that it's always hard to find a new angle on a person who's been written about thousands of times.

''That process of being labeled, giving people an easy handle on me, is exactly what I'm trying to avoid,' he says. ''That's my job.''

At 48, Sting remains an elusive target. His lyrics used to explore guilt, jealousy and other psychological warfare. At Red Rocks Amphitheatre last night, he performed his solo hits - 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', a muted, elegaic 'Fields Of Gold', 'All This Time', 'Englishman In New York', 'We'll Be Together', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' - and Police songs from 'Every Little Thing Is Magic' and a call-and-response Roxanne to the encores 'Every Breath You Take' and Message In A Bottle'.

But Sting's tour is in support of his satisfying new album, Brand New Day', on which he croons about contentment, specifically love and life. The opener 'A Thousand Years' was a love story based on reincarnation, and 'After The Rain Has Fallen' was a narrative about a thief and a princess. He got downright romantic on the title track from 'Brand New Day': ''You're the magnet to my pole/I'm the devil in your soul/You're the pupil I'm the teacher/You're the church and I'm the preacher.''

The smash 'Desert Rose' soared, and 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong' was an idiosyncratic take on a shaggy dog tale (with smooth wit, Sting sang the dog's part). 'Fill Her Up' blithely used a range of multi-ethnic touches, from country to opera to world beat - even French rap, a style which Sting finds ''much more erudite and serious'' than its American counterpart.

His core band employed eclectic shadings in the right places - guitarist Dominic Miller's solos and percussionist Manu Katche's busy polyrhythmic drumming - and Chris Botti's trumpet pierced the night air on several songs, notably 'Tomorrow We'll See'.

And so Sting (Gordon Sumner) finds being one of the world's biggest rock stars fun and fulfilling these days. Guys think he has a great voice and catchy hooks, and gals dig him. Most of the people in the sold-out crowd were grooving, clapping their hands or tapping their feet. Some were really getting into it, looking as if they were about to pee their pants. A man standing behind a blushing woman said in a joking manner, ''I'm gonna tell your husband.'' To which she replied, ''Believe me, he already knows.''

(c) The Denver Post by G Brown