Sacred Love

Boston, MA, US
Tweeter Center for the Performing Artswith Dominic Miller & Annie Lennox
For the record, Sting lacks that old sting...

In opening the night, Annie Lennox shows classic range and a strange stage presence on a mix of old and new songs.

Sting, like all of us, is only as good as his material. Last night at the Tweeter Center, he leaned heavily on material from his latest record, and the weaknesses of Sacred Love were on full display.

Sting's mostly a genial performer, and that helped the more ponderous material seem less so. But too many of his recent songs, particularly off 'Sacred Love', are semi-exotic non-events that didn't translate well to the big outdoor venue. The opener, 'Send Your Love', never really took off; 'Sacred Love' was never as funky as it threatened to be, and 'This War' was far too stately.

'Never Coming Home' did manage the elegant mix of pop, jazz and funk that Sting's so often shooting for, with a nifty tapping intro from guitarist Dominic Miller and an extended ending workout featuring a nimble piano solo from Jason Rebello and popping bass playing from Sting. And backup singer Joy Rose did a tremendous job on 'Whenever I Say Your Name', the duet that, on record, Sting did with Mary J. Blige.

Sting threw in three Police favorites, and strong ones; unfortunately, they huffed and puffed through 'Synchronicity II', never reaching the frenetic tempo of the Police's original. 'Roxanne' got the by-now-usual improv middle section, which had its moments, particularly when Miller (virtually a co-star with Sting) let loose, but didn't go very far afield. A just-fine 'Every Breath You Take' was a predictable encore.

A keyboard-driven version of 'An Englishman in New York' had an energetic reggae bounce, but the real highlight of Sting's set came when Annie Lennox joined him for a rip through 'We'll Be Together Tonight'.

Lennox preceded Sting, and while traffic prevented me from hearing the whole set, her sunlit performance was much more energetic. The former Eurythmics singer used to have a reputation for being an icy performer, but, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, she showed a classic range and an almost-spastic stage presence while doing new songs and old favorites. A solo piano version of 'Here Comes the Rain Again' was a highlight, showing that the synth-driven Eurythmics version was hiding a classic ballad of romantic yearning.

The latter part of her set rocked, as guitar came to the forefront for crunching versions of 'Missionary Man', 'I Need a Man' and 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)'.

(c) The Providence Journal by Rick Massimo

Lennox, Sting prove a satisfying combination...

It will be tough to find a more natural concert pairing this summer than Sting and Annie Lennox, who came together on a double bill for the first of two Tweeter Center shows last night: two thrilling snapshots of two distinguished and endearing, multi-faceted careers.

It was a cool, clear night, and the two couldn't have asked for a better crowd: sold out, generously responsive, good-naturedly cheerful and ready to dance, making for a relaxing and wholly satisfying evening of summer music. Like Sting, Lennox has a stage presence and sheer performance gravitas that lends sophistication and credibility to even her sloppiest, most experimental pop moments. And boy did she look the part: smashingly sexy in stilettos, form-fitting flared jeans, a sparkling blazer and a rainbow-colored skullcap over her white-blonde hair.

Fronting a seven-piece band, she danced and sizzled through several career staples in an hour-long set that included 'No More 'I Love Yous', funktastic versions of Bob Marley's 'Waiting In Vain' and 'Missionary Man', and the infectious radio smash 'Walking On Broken Glass', which brought most of the crowd to its feet.

The Eurythmics' immortal 1983 chestnut 'Sweet Dreams' dripped with synth funk to open a two-song encore and was a nice contrast to the ethereal ballad 'Why'. Although a 40-minute wait between sets created a bit of a lull, Sting and his band, consisting of two keyboardists, a drummer, a percussionist, two backup singers, a guitar and the namesake himself on bass, were quick to restore the energy level, blasting straight into the serious rumba-funk of 'Send Your Love' to start and rarely letting up for 90 minutes. In a show that focused largely on tunes from 2003's shiny, happy 'Sacred Love' CD, Sting reminded the audience why he's so revered, turning in one of his best and most relaxed performances in years. He strutted around the stage dressed in a black, open-collared shirt with shot white cuffs and black slacks and sang with clarity and conviction, accompanied by his internationally flavored ensemble and the same three-video screen setup he used for an equally impressive show at the Orpheum in March.

Part of Sting's new comfort zone is how well he integrates tunes from his entire oeuvre: Police warhorses like 'Synchronicity' and solo-era staples like ''Fields of Gold'' mixed well with more recent, Afro-beat-flavored fare like 'A Thousand Years' because the band wasn't afraid to toy with the arrangements a little bit in the name of flow. The crowd roared when Lennox slinked back up on stage for an electrifying duet on 'We'll Be Together', so ablaze with passion that she was instantly missed when she headed backstage after just the one song. Here's hoping for more on-stage collaboration between the two as the tour progresses. If there was a momentary misstep, it was the politically charged 'This War', complete with video images of planes bombing remote villages and shadowy oil fields. Sting is allowed to be poignant, but if the song was meant to be angry and indicting, its singer's warm, ballad-savvy candor didn't quite get the desired effect, nor did slotting it between two love songs.

The further the set progressed, the more refreshingly experimental the tunes became, and by the time the hour was nigh to wrap things up, Sting and his band revealed some serious jam chops. Arguably The Police's finest and best-known song, 'Roxanne' received a 10-minute treatment that built in intensity. Piano and guitar ruled on the set-closer, a Santana-ish Latin rocker that saw bouncing solos from keyboardist Jason Rebello and then guitarist Dominic Miller. Miller, who has been Sting's lead guitarist since 1989, was the key ingredient to the 1999 smash 'Desert Rose', which began a blistering, if perfunctory four-song encore.

(c) The Patriot Ledger by Chad Berndtson

Sting and Lennox prove to be a powerful pairing...

In a season that has found countless musical acts rethinking their tour plans, the success of Sting and Annie Lennox's co-headlining 'Sacred Love' tour is nothing short of astounding.

Performing for a nearly full house at the Tweeter Center last night (there is a second show tonight), the two musical chameleons once again redefined themselves and proved that artists with impressive catalogs of songs can still draw devoted fans.

Even if, in the case of Sting, he seemed intent on examining only the most obvious choices from his older work. And, unfortunately, many of the songs he showcased from his latest album, 'Sacred Love', were lightweight.

This was never more obvious than on the duet 'Whenever I Say Your Name'. Performed with backing singer Joy Rose (Mary J. Blige sang the recorded version), the song came across as a campy cabaret act with Sting holding Rose's hand as he sang and gazed into her eyes.

Sting's seeming disdain for his work with the Police was evident as well. 'Roxanne' was slowed down so considerably that it illustrated just how rudimentary the bass line truly is. His jazz scatting and passing references to Police classics 'King of Pain' and 'So Lonely' added insult to injury.

The highlight of his set was a guest appearance by Lennox on 'We'll Be Together'. Slithering from the side of the stage, she demonstrated a smooth and seductive sexiness that had captivated the audience during her own hourlong set.

During her portion of the show, Lennox gladly provided a tour through her own impressive past. At 49, her voice has not lost an ounce of the power that endeared her to audiences, and her stage presence is commanding.

Among Lennox's finest moments was the haunting 'Here Comes the Rain Again', which built to a ferocious conclusion. Lennox did not deny her post-Eurythmics career, delivering the Academy Award-winning 'Into the West' from the film ''Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'' to massive adulation. She seemed unburdened by her past, and the result was a dynamic set that was consistently engaging.

(c) The Boston Globe by Tom Kielty

Hot Lennox takes some Sting out of a spectacular evening...

Sting got stung Monday night.

The Tweeter Center's double bill of Sting and Annie Lennox was the kind of one-two punch that would make most boxers envious.

But Monday night, at least, opener Lennox got the upper hand in a performance in front of a near sell-out crowd.

The former Eurythmics lead singer was into only her second night on tour, but she laid out a dazzling, near-flawless set that touched on almost every phase of her career. Looking half her age in a form-hugging tank top, bare midriff and low-cut jeans, Lennox, who turns 50 in December, cut a slyly sensual figure onstage.

Her show mixed grit and grace and was alternately playful and inflammable. Lennox displayed a sheer exuberance that was impossible to ignore, whether she dipped into a sumptuous, slinky ballad, performed a stripped-down version of 'Here Comes the Rain Again' or roared through rockers such as her hip-swiveling version of 'I Need A Man'.

Her melismatic yowl at the start of 'Missionary Man' was one of the most riveting moments of the night. Lennox's lush vocals and savvy sense of stage dynamics as well as a perfect sound mix contributed to an exceptional performance.

Sting's 100-minute headlining set was hardly a bust. He ran through nearly 20 songs and included most of the tunes longtime fans wanted to hear. His backing septet hit all the right moods and colors, and Sting was in fine vocal shape and ever the confident, consummate frontman.

But the overall impression was that he was presenting his music, while Lennox left her guts on the stage. His material ranged from a straight-ahead version of 'Every Breath You Take' and a techno rendition of 'Roxanne' to 'Fields of Gold', 'Desert Rose', 'Englishman in New York' and 'Sacred Love'.

Cheeky Sting featured a video of an exotic dancer of the Centerfolds kind during that last number, an interesting mix.

His band's sound was so loud it was muddy in places, and the way he hopscotched through musical genres sometimes gave his set the feel of a World Music 101 class. But there was no mistaking the chemistry when Lennox joined him for a steamy 'We'll Be Together'.

(c) The Boston Herald by Dean Johnson

Sting at the Tweeter Center...

Here's my report: I made it there very late with my friends, Jill and John and we completely missed Dominic's set unfortunately due to traffic in spite of the fact that we left extremely early to get to the show. We were disappointed that we missed what we were told was an outstanding performance which included Sting's rendition of 'Shape of My Heart', but at least someone else drove this time. The last time I drove to a Sting concert I was late and ended up with a speeding ticket!

Luckily, we made it in time for Annie's set and were blown away by her powerhouse of a performance. Annie really knows how to get the crowd stirred up with classics like 'Walking On Broken Glass', 'Why?' 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Waiting in Vain'. Her music is deep and duly provocative. Her presentation packed so much clout that the audience was mesmerized from the very beginning to the standing ovation that she received from many audience members at the end of her set. She definitely provided the level of intellect and intensity the average Sting fan expects to experience at a concert.

When the curtain fell and purple lighting outlined random phrases on its sheaf, the beginning hints of 'A Thousand Years', began to quietly drift through the amphitheatre and the crowd began to applaud. My friend Jill provided the first priceless moment of the concert that did not belong to the musicians. She turned to me and in all seriousness, said, ''Is Sting going to walk out or fly out now?'' She has never attended a Sting concert. She likes Sting, but only owns CDs of his that I have given her and isn't completely familiar with his catalogue. However, for anyone who thinks that I discuss him with her like I do the average person, consider THAT remark!!! She honestly asked me if he was going to FLY OUT as if he were a superhero or something. Later, when I asked her if she thought he would appear on a trapeze, she said, ''no.'' In spite of the fact that I have posted that he is the average person on this site, I must sputter on enough to this woman to the extent that she now feels he has the ability to defy gravity and fly out onto the stage. It doesn't surprise me since I do rave about him incessantly.

Anyway, Sting began the set with the Dave Aude version of 'Send Your Love'. I was impressed with his voice. I am qualm less about this man and his band's performance at the Mansfield show. It glistened in supreme excellence. There was nothing wavering about how Sting sang. If there was, Jill would have reported it pronto because Jill has professionally recorded books on tape and has done voiceovers so she is extremely attuned to sound and likes to contribute her opinions about it. Her only complaint about the show had to do with the Tweeter's speakers. She felt that they could not filter the amount of bass that they were receiving properly and at times were cutting out. I didn't hear it at all, but I was in complete bliss. She also feels that on the album 'Sacred Love' Kipper has distorted Sting's voice. She prefers the live sound of 'All This Time'. That's her feedback, but my ear is not the trained professional's ear. I think Sting sounded superb last night, didn't notice any bass discrepancies, etc.

As usual, 'Whenever I Say Your Name', was a huge hit with the audience as Joy Rose and Sting continued to bring the house down with their impassioned duet. Thank goodness this crowd was alive and kicking compared to the group attending Sting's concert in NY last March. I think the weather finally thawed out the audience. They were moving at last! By the way, someone posted that they have a harder time moving when they are in bad seats because people next to them generally don't care. Well, this isn't necessarily true. My seats weren't optimum and some might consider them bad (Section 7), but I didn't really feel that way and others around me were just as intent on enjoying the concert as I was in spite of the fact that we weren't close. I found that when I am close to Sting, I am in such awe that the ''deer in headlights'' effect takes over for a few songs until I can shake myself out of it and dance. Up in the stratosphere I was moving with the crowd on a natural buzz from Sting, no alcohol imbibed or required. However, I vow not to ever be that far away again. As much as all the fans around me were enjoying the mutual buzz, toting binoculars with the strength of the Hubble telescope around my neck did not optimize my concert experience.

Many people questioned why 'Stolen Car' and 'Brought to My Senses' are no longer in the set list. Well, it's simple. It's because there are three things in life which are inevitable: Death, taxes, and the fact that if you attend a Sting concert, you are going to hear Sting play 'Roxanne'. In this case, during this particular leg of the tour, you are going to hear Sting play 'Roxanne' for a long, long, long, long, (Did I mention long?) time. It lasted ten minutes. I timed it on purpose when Heather last night used the word ''extended'' to describe it. So that ten minutes absorbs a couple of other good songs in the process.

Sting loves 'Roxanne'. He wants it to last forever. He wishes it could. Tonight, at the Mansfield Tweeter Centre, he almost found a way to make it happen. He is summoning the spirit of Timothy Leary to assist him in prolonging this song so it can last forever and you can hear it when he's playing because he plays it so fervently. The song is like one long LSD trip (I think) as I imagine a musical LSD trip to be. It is incredibly cool. It really tries to link up with another dimension. My friend John turned to me and, bless his heart, straight back from serving in the National Guard from Iraq, he said, ''It's an altered state of consciousness.'' This is a man who has survived bombings and hostility I can't even describe. The song gripped him to that extent. I guess he isn't easily phased, but he then said, ''This MUST be the finale,'' about 4 or 5 minutes later. It wasn't. The song kind of morphs into it's own race for immortality. It becomes 'King of Pain', for a while and if anyone gives this any thought, a correlation can be drawn between the kind of misery outlined in both songs. Sting is very sensitive to make the connection and choose 'King of Pain' to blend with 'Roxanne'. It's amazing how this song kind of lulls the listener into that trance of evermore and then crashes into an unforgettable crescendo. Don't miss it. It's really something to behold.

Sure, I missed 'Stolen Car'. I also missed 'I Was Brought to My Senses'. I missed a whole bunch of beloved songs though that will never, ever be played live. I didn't dwell on it and I'm not now. I just enjoyed that Sting excelled at his craft. Some standouts: Rhani on percussion really does add something special to this sound. It's a very subtle nuance, but the fact that his playing isn't leaping out at the listener and is enhancing the songs in all the right places is an indicator that he is doing his job well. Rhani's work delicately frames each song and adds nuances which blend incredibly well with Keith's drumming. Dominic, as always, is brilliant as Sting's right hand man. He never overplays or tries to stand out and take over the stage with his intricate guitar work. He fits perfectly into the scheme of the entire band, and teamwork is evident as they all play together with no one band member upstaging anyone else. They mesh beautifully.

My only suggestion would be that I think Donna Gardier deserves her time in the spotlight with Sting singing a duet, too. Not to detract from Joy Rose's performance, but tonight I witnessed every other female onstage duet with Sting. Annie really rocked out with Sting singing 'We'll Be Together', and quite frankly, if anybody used that glorious moment for a bathroom break, they missed out on one of the show's highlights. Joy nightly gets to sing with Sting also. However, Donna doesn't have that moment and it seems to me that she works hard and deserves it. Maybe she could sing 'Every Breath You Take' with Sting at the end of the show, especially since this is a song that is also very tenacious. I missed her tonight during 'A Thousand Years'. She wasn't even onstage at that point although Joy Rose was.

Lastly, most of the fans want to hear 'I Burn for You'. Well, it appears Sting doesn't want to play that. Maybe he isn't going to ever, or maybe it's his trump card that he's saving for a special occasion. On any account, he's probably past the point in his career where he feels he needs to compromise on a professional level to appease anybody. He is unlikely to do anything he doesn't want to do. Maybe if fans in the future smuggle in huge signs that say, ''Please Play I Burn For You'' and light them up with sparklers attached, he'll notice. He said the fans want fireworks. Something tells me that he could turn into an arsonist and he still wouldn't play that song though. He won't do anything he doesn't want to do. Since we've made it a point of contention, he is even more apt to be defiant about it. Has anyone noticed how long his hair has grown since the ''Cut Your Hair Petition?'' It's probably just synchronicity... I hope everyone in Stingdom and beyond has the opportunity to catch this amazing concert. Rcruit your friends and indoctrinate your enemies!

(c) JGBumblehead for

Sting and Annie Lennox join at Tweeter...

Human rights are as second nature to Annie Lennox as they are to Sting.

If Sting has worked tirelessly for Amnesty International for over 15 years and sung against repression in such songs as 'They Dance Alone', Lennox has repeatedly crusaded against abuse and manipulation in such songs as her Grammy-winning 'No More 'I Love You's' and 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)' from her Eurythmics days.

The group even played at the 1988 Wembley concert for Nelson Mandela.

As fans of both world-class talents found out Monday at the Tweeter Center during their two-day second stop on an extensive North American visit (including Mohegan Sun on Monday), their 'Sacred Love' Tour is not only a shrewd pairing of kindred spirits but also a strong combination of contrasting performance styles.

Where Sting employed fancy backdrop video and visuals on a trio of screens, Lennox , who led off in jeans and tanktop (no frilly couture and feathers here), relied solely on stage lighting for occasional effect.

Front and center in the opening set were her now-fabled technique, soulful riffs and, most of all, one of the most strikingly beautiful voices in popular music. Besides memorable renditions of 'No More 'I Love You's' and 'Sweet Dreams', the stunningly fit 49-year-old chanteuse offered a lush rendition of 'Walking on Broken Glass' complete with classical dance moves to match its formal but snappy stylings and a signature buildup of repetition and drama on 'Waiting in Vain'.

Sitting at the piano for another Eurythmics hit 'Here Comes the Rain Again', she told a near-sellout audience, ''This is the bit where I get to sit down and kind of check you out.'' What followed here and during her entire program including her 2004 Oscar winner 'Into the West' from 'The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King' - was the kind of lovers' understanding wished for in many of her lyrics.

Keyboardist Bernie Smith and bass guitarist Paul Turner were standouts in her band's sharp accompaniment.

In the slightly longer set that followed intermission, Sting eventually stretched back to his Police days for the megahit 'I'll Be Watching You' ('Every Move You Make').

Earlier, he shared a kind of spiritual and sensual epiphany on 'Whenever I Say Your Name' with big-voiced vocalist Joy Rose (instead of Mary J. Blige, on the album) and later moved to the hot syncopation of the title number from his latest album. 'The Fields of Gold' with distinctive guitar harmonies from Sting and special guest Dominic Millerbecame an understated celebration of the environment.

Some fans might have preferred a shorter version of the funky hit 'Roxanne' to allow time for other favorites like 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.

Still, keyboard wizard Jason Rubello really went to town here with an impressively long solo. Religious diversity from Buddhism and Islam to Judaism and Christianity became a key motif on the visual displays as Sting and his exuberant band sang and played a repertoire embracing the complementary powers of love, music and faith.

In fact, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' took on added force as fans especially cheered a timely line about losing faith in politicians.

As unease and uncertainty about Iraq, terrorism and the future of the world seem to hold the public in a vise-like grip, major artists like Sting and Lennox who joins for an elegant yet fiery duet present a joyously hopeful alternative.

(c) Worcester Telegram and Gazette by Jules Becker