Nothing Like The Sun

Winnipeg, MB, CA
Winnipeg Arena
Sting delights concert crowd with jazzy feel...

One has to wonder why jazz purists are supposedly so upset with Sting for trying to inject some of their genre into his sound. As 10,000 concert-goers found out at the Arena last night, jazz fans have nothing to fear from this former school teacher/Police bassist.

In fact, the very success of the show testifies to the fact that Sting has done little more than replace his guitarist and drummer from the Police days and add two keyboard players, a percussionist and a bassist. If this had been jazz you could've fit the crowd quite comfortably in Sting's dressing room.

But it wasn't and the crowd found, much to its delight, that Sting has changed little from his Police days.

When he started that band in the late '70s as Gordon Sumner, he was songwriter, bassist, lead vocalist and band leader. Now he's minus the bass but still very much the boss.

And there's no question he's assembled an excellent outfit. Based around saxophonist Branford Marsalis and keyboardist (mostly piano) Kenny Kirkland, the sevenpiece unit cooked with jazzy authority, sending up a rhythmic storm in 'Be Still My Beating Heart' or sliding along slow and sultry in 'Fragile'.

When Sting emerged on stage in white jacket and pants and began working his way through 'Nothing Like the Sun', his latest album, the crowd responded enthusiastically. The melodic simplicity of Sting's writing enjoyed the tasty embellishments of Marsalis and Kirkland.

'Sister Moon' had a slow, bluesy swing while 'Englishman in New York' skittered along over the light and breezy reggae base Sting is so fond of.

A huge screen above centre stage and two others in the wings broadcast images from four cameras, whose operators roamed the stage. The viewing was so well directed that you were often tempted to watch it rather than the stage below.

The crowd enjoyed these par-for-the-course concert accoutrements and the band's capable treatments but responded politely only until Sting launched into 'King of Pain', one of the last Police singles. And then the band was transformed. All of a sudden, funky bassist Tracy Wormworth was reduced to supplying a steady thump; the percussionists had to lay back as the feel spoke for itself; there was nothing for Marsalis to do and the drummer vainly tried to duplicate Stewart Copeland's superb work.

This highfalutin outfit was suddenly lost, incapable of feeling the simplicity of Sting's writing. It stumbled along mechanically and rudderless.

The roar of recognition from the crowd said it clearly liked what it was hearing - a Police hit - didn't care who was playing it and wanted more.

But the fans didn't get it. The band countered with 'Be Still My Beating Heart' and 'Walkin' in Your Footsteps', two of Sting's strongest post-Police efforts. Clearly, Sting is trying to say he has emerged from those davs. But this concert showed no radical change.

(c) The Winnipeg Free Press by Stephen Ostick