Nothing Like The Sun

Philadelphia, PA, US
The Spectrum
On his own, Sting at the Spectrum...

In his work away from the Police, Sting has displayed a marked inclination for lashing ponderous lyrics to wispy jazz arrangements. His sparkling performance last night at the Spectrum was a delightful departure from form.

Not that his lyrics were any less gravid, but the music often carried a gripping thrust and momentum that his solo records do not.

Dressed in black trousers and a dinner jacket over a bare chest, Sting came out swinging.

The opening number, 'Lazarus Heart', was galvanized by the band's dual percussion and an underpinning of Latin keyboards. It segued into a truncated but punchy rendition of the Police's 'Too Much Information'. That one-two punch was followed by the funky strut of 'We'll Be Together'.

Backed by a fluid octet, Sting covered much of the material from his latest album, '...Nothing Like the Sun', including a haunting version of 'Fragile'.

The two sets, divided by intermission, also took in earlier compositions like 'Roxanne' and 'Bring On the Night'.

Although the key personnel (notably Kenny Kirkland on keyboards and Branford Marsalis on saxophone) were unchanged from Sting's last tour, this appearance was less stuffy and more satisfying. By dint of eliminating most of the free-form jazz solos and fustian arrangements, the music gained appreciable focus and pacing.

Playing guitar and synthesizer and in fine voice, Sting seemed in a relaxed mood, as if for once he had nothing to prove. He has always radiated a palpable vanity that makes him a charismatic performer.

At the Spectrum, he combined that magnetism with a suave energy, and the result was a riveting stage presence. There were nebulous musical moments last night, as in 'Sister Moon' when he floated like a butterfly; but for most of the evening, Sting stung like a bee.

(c) The Philadelphia Inquirer by David Hiltbrand