Brand New Day

Albuquerque, NM, US
Mesa Del Sol Amphitheatrewith Jonny Lang
The variations present at the pop crooners' show were a people-watcher's delight...

If you needed any proof that we live in a diverse state, you needed go no further than the Sting concert Wednesday night at Mesa del Sol Amphitheatre.

The variations present at the pop crooners' show were a people-watcher's delight. For every woman dressed to the nines in a halter, leather pants and high heels, there was another in an ultra casual combo of sandals, cut-offs and a T-shirt. For every couple of well-dressed VIPs sipping their imported beers as they casually walked back to their seats, there was a middle-class family of three - parents supervising their child's first concert. For every pair of lovebirds cuddling beneath the moonless Albuquerque sky, there were a mother and son, like Karen Johnston, 42, and her son, Brian, 10. Johnston, a self-professed Sting fan from his days with The Police, was out with her son on a school night because Sting's show was one of the few she felt was appropriate for him, especially on a school night.

''There aren't that many shows I'd feel comfortable bringing him to,'' she said as Sting and his band lighted up the night with their jazz-inflected sound. ''Even though it's a school night, I figured it'd be all right.'' Certainly, Sting is more than appropriate for audiences from 10 to 60, which was roughly the range of the audience, though the singer did jokingly point out in his stage patter that he is ''the only person over 50 on the top 40.''

The English-born singer/songwriter did little to disappoint the 12,000 in attendance, playing songs ranging from his days with The Police, the post-punk band that mixed reggae with pop to become one of the biggest bands of the '80s, all the way to his current best-selling CD, Brand New Day.

Many in the crowd said they had followed Sting's career after The Police's demise in 1986, but hoped to hear more Police songs than solo material. ''I want to hear Roxanne, '' said Deanne Seumptewa of Socorro, a longtime Sting fan. ''I'd like to hear a lot of old stuff, but I have all his albums. But we're here to see (opener) Johnny Lang, too. He's great.''

Seumptewa, 39, and her cousin Phyllis, who didn't want to give her last name, also of Socorro, took advantage of a special at a local hotel that included tickets to the show, a room and a shuttle to and from the amphitheater. They already had their lawn tickets, but took advantage of the rest of the special.

It's a really good idea,'' Seumptewa said. ''There were about 12 people in the van with us.''

Oh, and they got to hear Roxanne.

Sting's stage show was one of the most dazzling to come to Mesa del Sol, creating a flood of colors and shapes behind him while bathing those in the reserved section with different shades of light. The show was the second sell-out of the season, which definitely contributed to the congested traffic flow into the amphitheater. ''It was tough,'' said Roger Gonzales, 27, of Albuquerque. ''I missed a lot of Johnny Lang, but it was worth it to see Sting.''

Just then the lights went out and Gonzales hurried back to his seat.

(c) The Albuquerque Journal by Kenn Rodriguez

Sting pleases cross section of fans...

Backed by his 'stunningly good' bandmates, British songwriter/singer Sting mixed it up with old Police favorites and solo triumphs while a packed house at Mesa del Sol Amphitheatre sang along.

Sting has been making darn skillful music since he went solo 15 years ago, a sort of world music/New Age/ jazz/pop melange that makes us feel grown-up and sophisticated just for listening.

But admit it. Most of us have never quite forgiven him for leaving the role we loved him best in leader of the Police. That sentiment was evident last night when, about 35 minutes into Sting's sold-out show at the Mesa del Sol Amphitheatre, he played the first notes of the 1981 Police hit 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'.

The crowd of 12,000 went berserk.

They stood. They danced. They spilled their beer. They sang along with the ''Eeeeeyooooh'' chorus. And the mostly over-35 set was transported to the days when MTV was a new thing and the Police were the hottest band on the planet.

The message was clear: Your solo work is fine, Sting, and those tricky time signatures are smart, but play some more Police songs.

Until that point Sting had opened the show with a mix of songs from his latest Grammy-winning album 'Brand New Day', which has marked a comeback for him, and earlier songs from his solo career.

Sting, 48, still looks much as he did in the early 1980s when he was every bookish girl's fantasy. He came out on stage in a sleeveless black t-shirt and cargo pants, his blond hair cropped Caesar-style and his bod still buff enough to prompt screams from the women who had dragged their husbands and boyfriends to the show.

(Note to male significant others: Get to the gym, honey.)

Sting, who danced about with his bass guitar as he sang, was backed by a six-piece band of stunningly good musicians, the sort of virtuosos who make you wish you hadn't quit band in middle school. Guitarist Dominic Miller and keyboardist Kipper were knockouts, smoking through the jazzy riffs that served as a segue to many of the songs.

Sting has long been slagged for having a superstar-sized ego, but on stage he indulged the audience, urging them to sing along and cracking jokes. He thanked the crowd for missing the last episode of ''Survivor'' to come to the show.

''And I know who won,'' he said. ''Rich.''

Sting watches ''Survivor?'' Who knew?

He returned to the Survivor theme a few songs later to take a self-deprecating stab at himself. ''I feel like my whole life's been one long episode of 'Survivor,''' he said. ''I'm the only person over 15 in the Top 40.''

He played a mix of songs, current and older, from his solo career. Some of the highlights included the country-and-western 'Fill Her Up' from his latest album; 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', in which Sting did a cheesy Louis Armstrong growl for much of the song, and 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free', 'An Englishman in New York', 'Fields of Gold', 'I'm So Happy' and his current Top 10 hit, 'Desert Rose', the Bedouin-sounding song being played hourly on KBAC-FM Radio Free Santa Fe.

He didn't waste time between songs with patter. The tunes flowed into one another with scarcely a pause.

Over the years, Sting has obviously been more interested in the more complex tunes of his solo career than the economical pop of his Police days. But at Mesa del Sol he gave his fans what they came to hear: he peppered his one hour and 45 minute show with Police faves like the magnificent 'Roxanne', 'When the World is Running Down', 'Bring on the Night', and the romantic-as-a-ransom-note 'Every Breath You Take', which he played as part of his first encore.

For his second encore Sting did a gorgeous version of 'Message in a Bottle', another Police hit. He performed without his band; it was just Sting with a guitar and his thin, aching voice.

The band rejoined him on stage and he closed the show with 'Fragile', a sobering song from 1987's 'Nothing Like the Sun' dedicated to the thousands of people who ''disappeared'' during the Pinochet regime in Chile.

Sting may permit Jaguar automobiles use 'Desert Rose' in its commercials, but he hasn't forgotten his political causes.

(c) The Albuquerque Tribune by Leanne Potts