Sacred Love

Milwaukee, WI, US
Marcus Amphitheaterwith Dominic Miller & Annie Lennox
The show was incredible...


The show was incredible, top to bottom. The fans were mostly good, with a few caveats (though I tend to think people who are caveats aren't really fans - they're too busy being object lessons).

First, the show. Dom came out a couple of minutes before 7:30, and we heard his whole set. Dom fanatics: help me out with titles, if you can. The first piece was based on the riff he and Sting used for 'Mad About You', from 'First Touch', I think. He played the second piece off of 'Second Nature' next, and then he did 'Air On A G String' from 'Shapes', which was beautiful - there are a couple of chord substitutions in there that just break my heart. He talked a bit about growing up near Milwaukee in Racine, WI, and dedicated 'The Star Spangled Banner' to ''my fellow Americans.'' It took people about half the song to figure it out, and then they stood. Dom played beautifully, and again there were substitutions that broke my heart. Sting came out, after a lengthy intro and thank you from Dom, and sang 'Shape Of My Heart'. Cue final applause, mostly surprised. People weren't expecting such a treat, and the stealth in which he starts his set is shameful. I'd like to hear a bit more from him, maybe some stuff with Rhani and Jason or Kipper. Bring in that blond bass player - he's not bad.

Stage cleared, and Annie Lennox came on. From beginning to end, she captivated the audience. Part of it is her set. I didn't know about three or four of the dozen songs, and that was because I didn't have those albums. She sang her usual best, emotional palette stacked with colours of sound that brought laughter and tears. Some songs were reworked a bit, but there was a sense of ''greatest hits'' about it. She did three or four Eurythmics tunes, including 'Sweet Dreams', 'Missionary Man', and 'Here Comes The Rain Again' (with Annie on piano) as a slow ballad. The band, like Sting's, is a crack band, and every guy played much better than expected. The singers were great, and in general, one has a sense of Annie Lennox being categorized as Talent Deserving Wider Recognition. The other part of audience captivation is Annie. She's just a PRESENCE onstage. When she comes out to sing 'We'll Be Together', there is nothing you can do to ignore her. She's just THERE. Her set ended with an encore of 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Why', and after people had clapped their hands so hard blood flowed and screamed so loud I feared the roof would fall, she spoke, thanking us warmly and urging us to give to the two charity organizations outside the amphitheatre - Amnesty International and the Candlelighters, an organization for children with cancer.

Another break, this one longer, for the set change to Sting's set. I went to see where Dom was signing, didn't see it, went to the restroom, came out, saw stingbaby and leelin, and went to where Dom was signing, only to find that they'd cut the line off before I got down there. I went back up and got back to my seat with a couple of minutes to spare for the Sting portion of the show. I hate breaks that aren't long enough for me to be stupid and then be smart enough to mend the error of my ways. My only consolation is that I didn't bring CDs for Dom to sign. The lady at the end of the line still wouldn't have let me in. Of course, the fact that the line was so long for Dom gives me hope that he'll sell more music. I like that thought.

I can't remember Sting's set list exactly, so I'll touch on highlights. Very much the same set as we've seen in other people's reviews on this board. I was disappointed, as one would expect, that people sat down on 'Seven Days', the third song in. That said, they did stand for the entirety of 'Roxanne', even the weird improv section where everything slowed down. There was much less sitting than I thought there'd be, and people weren't necessarily mad that I stood through much of the show (I did finally sit during 'Seven Days', against my better judgement, but bounced back up again throughout the show). Putting 'Synchronicity II' at the front of the set was good for crowd morale. People were really excited, and even 'Seven Days' evoked cheers from the Annie fans around us. 'Never Coming Home' was a huge jam, with Jason in rare form. I'm sort of tired of the 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You'/'Every Breath You Take' combo at the end of the show, but I have to say, the audience loved it. Sting captivated the audience in the same way Annie did, but maybe not with the same intensity at times. I don't know - there is something to be said for a GH tour set, but from the cheers that greeted 'Seven Days', you'd think it was a Top 10 single. 'We'll Be Together' was a great duet. My friend said that she would have liked to hear Annie do the duet on 'Whenever I Say Your Name', and I agree. I love Joy's version, and she brings the house down, but to hear Annie do that song... mmm. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

The crowd was fantastic, for the most part (I'll explain that qualification in a minute). We had several Annie fans around us, and several folks who didn't really know either artist that well. Everyone loved both sets, and everyone was completely surprised by Dom. When he played the Bach, most of the chatter common during opening acts stopped. People were very tolerant of our cheering and singing along to everything, and I didn't get any nasty comments from the people behind me about my dancing and standing (I pretty much danced when I stood, though, so there was a reason at least for me to stand). The only problem that marred the evening was this rude f***er who came over during Annie's set. One rude person complaining about lighting, one anti-gay slur by said rude person, and one fan who missed three songs by the artist he came to see while complaining to security. Alcohol does weird things to people. Everyone else was lovely - there was a younger fan (25-30) sitting in front of us who'd seen Sting eight times, and she brought her mom with her every time. Her mom was singing and clapping along with the rest of us. It was great.

All in all, great show, great times, and new fans made on both sides of the table. I can't think of a better way to bring people together.

(c) Ecobox for

Sting strikes musical balance...

The prospect of following a buzz-cut dynamo like Annie Lennox might panic the stoutest of hearts.

Still it came as something of a surprise when about four songs into his set at the Marcus Amphitheater on Saturday night, Sting rolled out the giant projection-screen topless lady with the Hula Hoop. That was most unSting-like, and it did not turn out to be a passing hoochie eruption. 'Sacred Love' was illustrated front to back with projection strippers to the point where Sting and his backups were starting to resemble the house band at Art's Performing Arts Center. Indeed, when the G-string pageant was over, Sting quipped, ''No one was looking at me during that song.''

Obviously, this was a different, very eager-to-please edition of the sometimes reserved Englishman. The signals were there from the start. Sting opened with the techno-fueled 'Send Your Love' supplemented by electronic distortion and video belly dancers.

Musically, the veteran star cut a compromise between last year's 'Sacred Love' and a greatest hits set. There were plenty of hits on parade: 'Fields of Gold', 'Fragile', 'Englishman in New York', and 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', among them. Interestingly, the best response of the night seemed to come for the Police classics, 'Roxanne' and the obsessively magic 'Every Breath You Take'.

But new tunes such as 'Dead Man's Rope' and 'This War' also had their moments. If the latter was meant as a protest of the war in Iraq, the accompanying animated video undercut the message. It was full of generic World War II bombers and parodies of heroic '30s and '40s Soviet poster art. What was left then was a peace train that didn't know where it wanted to go.

As noted, Annie Lennox opened and she was simply magnificent. Sashaying on stage with a Monroe walk, Lennox oozes theatricality and style like a punk-cut Bette Davis. There is a kind of delicious duality about Lennox - part siren, part saint. She's got this great gospel voice - deep, rich and powerful - and she can really take them to church on something like 'Missionary Man'. But those fashion model looks, the pop star hauteur and punk charisma come from a very different part of town.

Give her a good tune - and she's got a bunch of them both as solo artist and with the Eurythmics - and she's just a killer stylist. Give her a tale of sorrow like 'Why' and she can just about crack your sternum with heartache. On a diva platform such as 'Walking On Broken Glass', she all but commands an audience to their feet. After 'Broken Glass', the Marcus crowd never sat down again. Of course, holding 'Sweet Dreams' in reserve didn't hurt either.

Lennox might be the most compelling stage presence to emerge from the pop world in the '80s. That she doesn't tour more often is a near crime.

(c) The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Dave Tianen