Nothing Like The Sun

Melbourne, VIC, AU
Flinders Park National Tennis Centre
Sting displays rare range of skills...

Sting and company delighted the crowd at the National Tennis Centre when they emerged for a second encore to perform a faithful version of 'Home, Home On The Range'. For, until then, country and western had seemed to have been omitted from the musical survey delivered by the joyful jazz people and Sting.

Sting's songs, primarily taken from the recent 'Nothing Like The Sun' collection and 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' served as launching pads in what seemed a vibrant two-and-half-hour jam.

From seed songs including 'One World', 'Lazarus Heart'. and 'Be Still My Beating Heart' evolved jazz, reggae, salsa, funky rhythm and blues rock and near-African rhythms that showcased the artists' varied influences and the supreme skills of the eight-member band.

Making sexy, understated moves in a pair of flowing black pants, Sting lead the likes of Branford Marsalis on saxophone and soprano sax, Kenny Kirkland on keyboards, the highly-spirited Mino Cinelu on percussion and Dollette McDonald, the gutsy little backing singer through a series of caramel-smooth tempo, style and mood changes. So slick and textured was the sound that it sometimes seemed a shame to discipline it with a melody line.

From a year's honing on the road came a series of drum-tight but still laid-back arrangements, one of the most spectacular of which was 'Bring On The Night' which moulded seamlessly into 'When The World Is Running Down'. Such as Sting's confidence and the energy generated in the first hour that he and the band then took a 20-minute break.

Sting displayed his skills on the guitar and keyboards but stepped back to give Kirkland room for a long solo in 'Bring On The Night', and Marsalis - who disappeared from the stage between pearly little offerings - his head in 'Beating Heart', Guitarist Jeffrey Lee Campbell provided several loud bursts that verged on the too heavy at times.

Sting kept content from his past with The Police to a minimum and also his publicised political views, but he dedicated 'They Dance Alone' to Nelson Mandela and "all the children in South African jails".

The former teacher raised shrieks from the audience when he stripped off to the waist in 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' during the encore. Looking quite comfortable with himself he maintained the excitement by following up with 'Every Breath You Take'. Sting repeated his 1986 solo performance of 'Message In A Bottle' as his finale and left the crowd yelling for more, booing when they realised there was none.

(c) The Age by Wendy Tuohy