Nothing Like The Sun

Cuyahoga Falls, OH, US
Blossom Music Center
Sting lets out the stops at Blossom...

Some characters manage just fine with one name. Prince, for instance, seems to be doing OK. So do Madonna, Cher and Sade. And what about Dion and Fabian? Don't forget the three B's, either - Batman, Bullwinkle and Buckwheat. Sting is another one.

Born Gordon Sumner, the blond heartthrob made a name for himself - and a few million bucks, to boot - singing with a trio called The Police in the late '70s and early '80s.

Somewhere along the way, he caught a buzz and decided Sting was better than Gordon. But regardless of the moniker, this limey can make music. On his own since '85, his solo career has focused on introspective, complex, jazz-inflected arrangements rather than the more accessible rock and reggae that was a staple of his former group.

The transformation cost him plenty, too - at the box office and record stores. But increasingly, it's becoming clear that the move also signaled a quantum leap in creativity and musical expression.

Monday, at Blossom Music Center, he led a superb eight-piece ensemble through a striking two-hour set that must rank among the Cuyahoga Falls amphitheater's top shows this summer.

Leaning heavily on music from his current 'Nothing Like the Sun' LP, he soothed and stirred the crowd of about 10,000 with a shadowy blend of lilting melody that strayed gracefully into realms that really have no names. Although jazz would come closest, there also were traces of rock, blues, reggae and even big band, all melding in a most appealing fashion.

The timorous urgency of 'Be Still My Beating Heart', for instance, gave way to a gripping rendition of Jimi Hendrix's melancholy paean 'Little Wing' - complete with a dramatic Jeff Campbell guitar solo that combined Hendrix's fire with emotive understatement... before bending into a Lennon/McCartney '(With Love) From Me to You' finale. Verrry impressive.

The mournful-yet-hopeful 'They Dance Alone' - about political prisoners and their relatives - produced similar results. So did versions of the elegant 'Fragile', '(If You Love Somebody) Set Them Free' - dedicated to children imprisoned in South Africa' - and the bouncy 'We'll Be Together'.

Even an encore of 'Home On the Range' sounded good. The only apparent problem with Monday's show was some loopy choreography that often resembled freestyle gymnastics-on-tainted-Gatorade. But hey, all you had to do was close your eyes. And that's not so hard.

(c) The Akron Beacon Journal by Mark Faris