Sacred Love

Portland, OR, US
Rose Gardenwith Dominic Miller & Annie Lennox
Annie Lennox & Sting show Portlanders they still have it...

Our British new wave heroes are aging quite gracefully, it appears.

And when the stars in question are Sting and Annie Lennox, who played to a nearly sold-out crowd Thursday at the Rose Garden arena, their music is holding up rather nicely as well.

Looking as radiant and svelte as she did during her tenure with Eurythmics, Lennox arrived onstage, after a gracious introduction from Sting, wearing designer jeans, a sheer black blouse, purple jacket, hip sunglasses and a smile warm enough to create world peace.

Then she and her five-piece band dove into a rocked-up version of 'Legend in My Living Room' from her first and most successful solo album, 'Diva'.

Much has changed for Lennox since she and Dave Stewart formed the Tourists (an early incarnation of the Eurythmics) in the late '70s. She has seen her popularity wax and wane, has become a mother and a divorcee (the pain of which she chronicles on her latest album, 'Bare'). Yet two things have remained firm: her phenomenal voice and her electric charm.

Lennox balanced her set, which seemed cut short after gesturing to her crew, primarily between solo songs from 'Diva' and the Eurythmics' biggest hits.

''Who knew I could play piano,'' she quipped before sitting behind a baby grand and delivering a haunting version of 'Here Comes the Rain Again'. 'I Need a Man' was grittier yet less spastic than Eurythmics' recorded version, while the band's biggest hit, 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)', was somewhat reserved and restrained.

Even when Lennox doled out her most heartbroken songs, such as 'No More 'I Love You's' from her much overlooked 'Medusa' album, she delivered them with a decided sense of strength and even a dash of playfulness.

No slouch in the charm department himself, Sting delighted the crowd with hits old and new and dazzled all with a Bonneville-busting light show and huge, moving video screens.

Of course, having carefully crafted songs, a familiar voice that is aging like fine wine and a crackerjack band helped push the show along as well.

Clad in black and sporting slightly outgrown hair, Sting opened his set with the midtempo 'Send Your Love' from his most recent album, 'Sacred Love'.

Nostalgia was quick to follow with a reverent take on the Police's dissection of urban-industrial horrors, Synchronicity II, from his former band's final album.

Lennox appeared onstage and arguably upstaged Sting during 'We'll Be Together', which received a touch of funk and demonstrated the mutual admiration and chemistry between the two icons.

'Fragile' was understated and delicate, the sombre mood aided by video images of oil pumps and falling bombs, while the following 'Fields of Gold' was equally touching and tender.

Sting's career was practically re-launched when 'Desert Rose' was used in a Jaguar commercial, and though he performed the song reverently to a rapt audience, he did poke some fun at the fact that 'Sacred Love' was sold at about 900 lingerie stores, introducing the title track as a song ''about religion and Victoria's Secret.''

Sting's regular set ended with a 'Roxanne' jam, but the star was right back for two encores.

The show's most poignant moment came during the rousing ballad, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'. When Sting delivered the line ''You could say I'd lost my belief in our politicians,'' there was a small roar from the crowd and a decidedly wry look back from him.

After the band took its bows and before he waved goodbye, Sting advised, ''Don't forget to vote.''

Wisdom and awareness, it appears, benefit the aging process.

(c) The Oregonian by Scott D. Lewis