Brand New Day

Estero, FL, US
TECO Arenawith Sophie B. Hawkins
Sting, Sophie B. concert at TECO takes a while to warm up...

Tickets for the Sting concert at the TECO Arena were a hot item, made even hotter by the last-minute addition of Sophie B. Hawkins as the opening act.

But when Sting played the arena Saturday night, it took a while for the music to reach a boil. Sophie B. hit the stage and announced, ''I'm gonna warm you up here a little bit.'' She did more than that, performing a 40-minute sizzling set that included 'No Connection', 'Only Love' and 'Lose Your Way', a song that's not only on her 'Timbre' CD but on the soundtrack CDs for TV's ''Dawson's Creek'' and the movie ''Bounce.''

Being the opening act is sometimes a thankless job; in this case, Sophie B. performed admirably, even as people filed in late for their seats or held conversations while she sang.

She was also not served as well by the sound system. On the opening number, 'Mysteries We Understand', her voice boomed and echoed in the arena - very puzzling for a venue that's had previous concerts with crisp, precise, clean sound. On some numbers, you could hardly hear the band that was backing her.

But Sophie B., and her marvelous voice, could always be heard. I found myself wishing that she'd return and headline in a smaller venue, with a better sound system.

Throughout her set, Sophie B. played a number of instruments: African drum, guitar and banjo. She's one of the most uninhibited singers out there today, singing from her gut, almost as if she's stripping off her flesh and skeleton to show us her soul. On a jazzy version of 'As I Lay Me Down', she got on her knees for a verse. And on her last song, 'Damn, I Wish I Were Your Lover', Sophie pranced, pouted and pleaded, wiggling her hips, suggestively slipping off her jacket, toying with her scarf, getting on her knees and lying prostrate on the stage. It was a playful sensuality, not unlike Marilyn Monroe in some spots, and totally fun.

I suspect the ice underneath the stage was melted by the end of her set.

There was a half-hour intermission, yet people were so excited to see him that Sting could've picked up the momentum where Sophie B. had left off. Instead, he chose to sing a string of mid-tempo and slow-tempo songs - not the best choice with an audience that was as wound up and hyped-up as this one.

The audience screamed and leapt to its feet when Sting walked out. They screamed every time he walked to the edge of the stage, and every time he wiggled his hips. They also screamed during some songs, effectively drowning him out.

Sting performed a number of songs from 'Brand New Day' and 'Ten Summoner's Tales': the tender 'Fields of Gold', 'Seven Days', the country-ish 'Fill Her Up'. But it wasn't until 40 minutes into his set that the tempo sped up with 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. The crowd jumped to its feet, and the entire main floor was dancing, arms in the air. The old Police song got the biggest cheers of the night so far.

Unfortunately, the sound balance was off, with Sting's voice barely audible above the band at times. Maybe that's OK for some rock concerts, where words are almost superfluous or repetitive, or not as well-crafted as Sting's.

It's a strange kind of paradox: Sting's music has become increasingly jazz-flavored as he's matured, concentrating more heavily on ballads and slower songs. They're the kind of songs best performed in smaller venues, yet Sting has become such a mega-star that he performs in arenas and stadiums and at events such as the pre-game concert for Sunday's Super Bowl.

I also could've done without spotlights shining in my eyes periodically throughout the concert; I will never understand why musicians do that. If Sting wants to see the audience, he should get softer lights like Kenny Rogers uses. When Rogers played TECO a few weeks ago, he lit much of the arena so he could see people, and we didn't have to squint or avert our eyes. At the Sting concert, it was like having a interrogation light right in my eyes, detracting from my enjoyment of the concert - especially when it kept happening .

Sting was backed by six talented musicians; particularly outstanding were Jason Rebello on keyboards and Chris Botti on trumpet. The two provided some of the best jazz jams of the night, playing off of each other or improvising with Sting on bass. Rebello was especially versatile; it's telling that at times, some of the men in the audience weren't playing air guitar but air piano.

After 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', the tempo and mood of the concert picked up, with Sting performing 'Englishman In New York', 'Brand New Day' and 'Desert Rose', which included a special guest appearance from Algerian singer Cheb Mami. Unfortunately, every time Mami opened his mouth to sing, the crowd screamed so loudly they drowned him out. When Sting started singing 'Roxanne', accompanied only by guitar, the audience began shouting out the lyrics as he sang. Later in the song, he did get a nice call-and-response going with the audience, singing ''Roxanne oh!''

Sting and company came out for two encores, performing 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' and 'Every Breath You Take' for the first encore, and 'Message In a Bottle' and 'Fragile' for the second.

But it seemed that just as things were starting to heat up, the concert was over.

It was great to see Sting live in concert; the improvisational jams were wonderful. But to appreciate the subtle beauty of his lyrics and melodies, I'll to have resort to the CDs.

(c) Naples Daily News by Nancy Stetson

Sold-out TECO crowd hears classic rock songs, singer's powerful voice...

Sting's newest album may be called 'Brand New Day', but that didn't stop His Tantric Majesty from delving into the good old days Saturday night.

The former Police frontman treated a sold-out audience at TECO Arena to several hits from his critically acclaimed albums with the New Wave band.

Still, he ended up concentrating mostly on tunes from his successful solo career, belting out favorites such as 'All This Time' and 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.

It's good to hear Sting's pipes are as powerful as ever. No one on this planet sounds quite like him, and his hypnotic voice has that magical ability to soothe and excite at the same time.

The stage was bathed in purple light when Sting appeared at about 9:05 p.m., and odd geometric shapes swirled behind him on cloth swaths. Sting wore flowing pants and a black muscle shirt, his guitar slung casually before him, and immediately launched into the gentle and beautiful 'A Thousand Years' from his new album.

Later, Sting and his tight band worked through a muscular version of 'We'll Be Together' Tonight with pounding drums and guitar that went from jangly to hard-rock riffing.

They followed that with the simply cool 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', which manages to mix fierce jazz with a man rapping in French.

Sting bobbed and tapped his toes to the music throughout and said things like, ''It's nice to be in Fort Myers!'' which drew cheers from the audience. Other highlights included the countrified 'Fill Her Up', the lovely 'Fields of Gold', and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', which got the audience clapping, jumping and singing along.

After singing for The Police, Sting launched a solo career in the '80s that incorporated jazz, world beat and classical music. The songs from his latest album all share the same theme - love. Musical styles range from jazz to country to Algerian pop to rap.

Pop singer Sophie B. Hawkins opened the show and ended her 40-minute set with the crowd-riling 'Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover'.

(c) The News Press by Charles Runnells