Nothing Like The Sun

Toronto, ON, CA
Maple Leaf Garden
Sting Delivers Self-satisfying Show...

There he stands, fetching in his shirtless black suit. Sting in person and, lest he be blurred, his image is projected again on a massive screen above the Maple Leaf Gardens' stage.

Expertly directed camera crews capture every cavalier head toss and every meaningful smirk. Their purpose ultimately to exaggerate the already overstated.

Sting, let's not forget, is a star. His mission is to forge that indelibly on our psyches.

So we sit appreciatively in our seats while he envelops us in culture, playing the kind of music we know is good for us to hear.

The mid-tempo pop songs, textured with a smattering of jazz (managed only because of Branford Marsalis' seductive saxophone) seem to blurr the limiting lines of categorization. For that alone they deserve credit. Yet for Sting, credit is never enough.

'Nothing Like the Sun' bends over backwards to be intellectual. With Shakespearean quotes, feminist theoretics and well-bred polemics, Sting's master plan almost works.

There's just one thing wrong. His attitude.

He's a star and he knows it. How else could he dare perform such a self-satisfying show and get away with it. Hardly elevating the beat from the low-key offerings that dominate his latest album, 'Nothing Like the Sun', Sting is determined to play his favourites.

Only shouts of 'Roxanne' takes him back to his Police past during an encore. Yet, even that never made it beyond a dull roar.

That said, Sting delivers, despite himself.

His tenor voice is uniquely satisfying to the ear and his vocal diversions never dull. He has enough good sense (and money) to surround himself with an outstanding group of performers - Jeff Campbell on guitar, Mino Cinely on bass and Marsalis on saxophone.

(c) The London Free Press by Wendy McCann

He's still got that Sting...

Sting was hardly ever moody about being blue at the Gardens last night. Instead, he was the lively leader of a first-rate group performing jazzed-up funk and ska-flavoured pop. And Sting seemed to have as much fun delivering his musical messages as the 15,000 had receiving them.

Granted he was aware of his role as the thinking man of pop. But it was obvious, too, that the screaming female fans were loving him for more than his melancholy mind. So he nodded hello politely at first. And he followed that up, at various points in the two-hour show, with a few tambourine two-steps, a shake here and a bake there, and his very own stylised version of the Twist. Sting even managed a tumble across the stage, scoring a perfect ten on the scream-volume meter.

Still, there was more meat to the concert than Sting's motion. Sizzling selections from his latest album 'Nothing Like The Sun', and his previous solo effort 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles', provided lots of reasons to get rhythmic. Even a few of the re-worked Police tunes had more bounce.

And if there were any doubts about what the night held, the opening number - the blistering Latino rocker 'The Lazarus Heart' - made the point. So did a soulful version of 'We'll Be Together', while a neatly woven combination of Englishman in New York and 'Sister Moon' featured Sting's ability to switch singing grooves and provided a great excuse to showcase one of Branford Marsalis' sultry sax solos.

Just as inspired were Kenny Kirkland's outstanding jazz piano attacks, and the full speed onslaughts of percussionist Mino Cinelu.

All three added to the enjoyable re-shaping of Police tunes such as 'One World (Not Three)' - which included audience participation in the chorus - and, of course, 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free'.

A serious moment came with 'They Dance Alone', a pensive ballad about Chilean mothers who mourn for their missing children. The song was accompanied by footage of Sting with the mothers at concerts in South America.

But there were lighter moments. Especially when Sting admitted he was playing the Gardens for the first time, after having performed everywhere else in Toronto. He even recalled that The Police's first show was at the Horseshoe Tavern in front of 15 people. Then too many fans cheered as if they were there. ''You're all liars,'' he said, laughing.

But they meant well, Sting. Honest.

(c) The Toronto Sun by Bob Thompson

Sting's a man in control and 16,000 fans fall under spell...

Sooner or later, Sting always gets his way.

''Well, how are we tonight?'' the British superstar asked the adoring throngs at Maple Leaf Gardens last night. A dull roar erupted from the bleachers, as 16,000 voices roared back in deafening unison. (Rough translation: Thank you Sting, we are well.)

''That doesn't sound very convincing to me!'' he snapped in mock disgust.

Naturally, the tactic worked, eliciting an even wilder response the second time around. A man blessed with enough confidence for 10 ordinary men, Sting has an altogether cheery way of willing himself into public favour forcing the issue with his blond good looks and his urgent sense of mission.

''This song is in 7/4 time. What does that mean?'' he asked later Sounding an awful lot like Gordon Sumner the school teacher, a gig he briefly held down before leading the Police to world stardom in the 1970s. But while this might have been the same didactic Sumner last night, it certainly wasn't the Police - notwithstanding his richly-drawn version of 'King Of Pain' and an inevitable encore of 'Roxanne'.

He reminded the crowd of a now-legendary gig in town 10 years ago and jokingly called them ''liars'' when they indulged too heavily in a reminiscent cheer: ''Fifteen people showed up at the Horseshoe Tavern!''

As a solo artist, Sting's headstrong excursions have taken him into the realm of jazz and beyond, yielding an unorthodox mix of pop, soul and New Age music. Originally slow to take hold in the public consciousness, it now seems like a terrible juggernaut, certain to ensure his popularity into the next century. It was quite amazing to watch this huge and quite young crowd dance and cheer to the heated cadences of an eight-piece fusion band, which cut a wide rhythmic swath as it ranged across material from the recent 'Nothing Like The Sun' and 1985's 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles'.

Opening with 'The Lazarus Heart' and veering headlong into 'We'll Be Together', the group seemed almost too muscular at times for Sting's parched tenor which remains a limited rock tool no matter where his instrumental pretensions may guide him. But no matter. He manages to fashion everything around his sense of style, which was equally present in the maudlin 'Englishman In New York', the poignant 'They Dance Alone (Gueca Solo)' and the arrogantly overdone rip on Jimi Hendrix in 'Little Wing', which brought the house down and ended the set nearly two hours after it had started.

(c) The Toronto Star by Craig MacInnis