Brand New Day

George, WA, US
Gorge Amphitheatrewith k.d. lang
Sting at the Gorge...

The Gorge amphitheatre, located near the small town of George, in Washington (yes, that's right, it's George, Washington) overlooks the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. This beautiful and scenic oasis is right in the middle of, well, nowhere. After driving for what seemed like hours through a desolate desert landscape, down narrow two lane roads, attempting to follow a road map, (although the roads were not marked or numbered), we finally approached a caravan of cars, inching their way forward for miles.

But, of course, it is always worth the trouble to see a Sting show, and this one was no exception. With the backdrop of the Columbia River and a setting sun, the amphitheatre was perfectly situated to showcase the performer, and catch a cool breeze for the audience.

Opener k.d. lang was in a beachy, tropical outfit, barefooted and exuberant as she danced, warning the complacent audience: ''Sting's not coming out until you are all on your feet and dancing!'' She also joked ''It's OK to love me, just for an hour, we won't tell anybody!'' Her crowd pleasing hit 'Constant Craving' did get the audience up, and the mood stayed charged right through the break to set up for Sting.

Just as the sun began to set, the familiar chords of 'A Thousand Years' filled the amphitheatre, and the show began. Sting looked relaxed and tanned, wearing familiar tank shirt and cargo pants. He said ''It's great to be back here in Washington''. The audience was up; clapping, dancing and singing along, with few exceptions, although the country intro of 'Fill Her Up' brought some groans in our section. As for the set, there were some minor changes: Sting didn't perform 'Mad About You' one of my all time favourites) or 'I'm So Happy, I Can't Stop Crying' (a sentimental number for me, our one and only duet, Sting and I!) I don't think he did 'Tomorrow We'll See' either. The crowd loved 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' and 'Englishman in New York'. The intro to 'Brand New Day' was so different, we almost didn't recognize it until he started singing!

The high point of the show, 'When the World is Running Down' with the extended keyboard solo of Jason Rebello, was really hot, it seemed Sting let him continue to improvise longer than usual, staying over on Dominic's side for quite a long time. Chris Botti's trumpet work was impressive, and he was definitely a crowd favourite. I missed Cheb Mami on 'Desert Rose', but Sting is doing some of the vocalizations now to fill in, and it sounds pretty good. The audience had to be coaxed a bit on the call and response sections of 'Roxanne' and 'Message in a Bottle' - but they finally joined in.

Overall, it was quite a venue, quite a show and quite an evening! I can understand why Sting chose to do outdoor amphitheatres for his summer spin through the US, the atmosphere is refreshing and pleasant in the open air. (Unfortunately, the summer evenings don't cool off quite as nicely in muggy Houston, so we can only hope for a gentle rain on August 27!)

Footnote: Several days later we bought a 'Brand New Day' CD at the local music store, and the salesgirl said her husband worked setting up and as security at the Gorge concert with Sting. He said he was working, and heard a funny sound, turned around, and there was Sting, down on all fours, pretending to be a monkey, playing with his youngest son. It was his daughter, Coco's 10th birthday, and they had a huge cake in the shape of a guitar, for everyone backstage. Also, Sting and his son were squirting water guns and got the guy wet, so Sting came right over to apologise. The salesgirl said that her husband was impressed at how down to earth, nice, friendly, approachable and family oriented he was for such a big star. It's also nice to know that he travels with his family when he can, and has a good time with his kids, even right before a performance. Well, we know Sting's just a great guy that way!

(c) Tammi Reed for

Sting offers smooth performance...

Sting, with a fine opening set by k.d. lang, churned out some near-perfect yuppie pop during Sunday's show at The Gorge.

Backed by a well-oiled six-piece band, Sting kept the crowd on its feet for most of his almost two-hour set.

He sailed through tunes from his latest CD, 'Brand New Day', deftly handled his earlier solo material, and made the crowd happy by dipping into his Police repertoire. It was all so perfect. Too perfect, in fact.

From the opening strains of his new 'A Thousand Years' to old favorites 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'Roxanne', Sting re-created his studio sound.

But besides offering an opportunity to see the buff singer in his cargo pants and sleeveless T-shirt, Sting's performance was little more electrifying than popping one of his CDs into the player.

Don't get me wrong, though. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Sting is a master at blending cerebral lyrics with inventive time signatures while keeping his tunes impossibly catchy.

Witness the syncopated, toe-tapping chorus of his new album's title track. Or the dreamy refrain of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You'. Or the highly danceable 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. This guy can write a song.

And he performed them in a completely enjoyable fashion Sunday - just without much spark.

He played a sleepy version of 'Englishman in New York' and took a sip of Gatorade midphrase during 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'.

An extended jam on 'When the World Is Running Down You Make The Best of What's Still Around' went on even longer than the song title.

But there were plenty of moments to keep the near-capacity crowd grooving.

Sting's new 'Fill Her Up', the concert's highlight, soared from country twang to fever pitch. His right-on Louis Armstrong impersonation on the bluesy 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' brought smiles to the crowd.

Trumpeter Chris Botti stood out throughout the show, especially during a fine duet with Sting on 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong'.

That song also featured drummer Manu Katche (who has toured with Peter Gabriel) on a French rap interlude.

Leave it to Sting to find a way to make rap palatable to the baby boomer masses.

Pop chanteuse k.d. lang burbled with energy during her lush opening set. In a sunshine yellow blouse, lang hopped and pirouetted across the stage while belting out tunes from her new 'Invincible Summer' album.

The album's catchy single, 'Summerfling', could well unseat lang's beautiful 'Constant Craving' as her signature tune.

If only Sting could have siphoned a bit of lang's energy.

(c) The Spokesman-Review by Heather Lalley

Sting pleases but breezes through concert at The Gorge...

It was a perfect Sunday evening in the middle of Washington, complete with a soft summer's breeze, a dying sun, k.d. lang and two decades' worth of music from Sting.

The yoga-practicing singer from Newcastle, England, delved deep into his extensive catalog, quickly moving through songs from his solo career and his early days as the leader of The Police.

Dressed in a tight, sleeveless black T-shirt and dark green parachute pants, the 49-year-old singer and his six-piece band started Sunday's show at The Gorge Amphitheatre with the Far Eastern-influenced 'A Thousand Years' from his most recent CD, 'Brand New Day'.

Sting also breezed through the title song and the current radio single 'Desert Rose'. He updated and enlivened 'Englishman in New York' and 'Moon Over Bourbon Street' with variant tempos and a Louis Armstrong delivery on the latter.

Sting moved the material West with back-to-back country songs 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying', a sad tale of divorce, and 'Fill Her Up, which along with other songs was filled with a complex jazz interlude.

Sting made a medley of solo material 'After the Rain Has Fallen' and 'We'll Be Together' and later with Police stuff 'Bring on the Night' and 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'.

Trumpet player and Corvallis, Ore., native Chris Botti was this year's answer to Branford Marsalis, who was Sting's right-hand man on previous tours. An established horn player, Botti drew cheers from the crowd as he played around Sting like a snake charmer.
During 'Perfect Love...Gone Wrong', Botti crept toward Sting, his trumpet pointed like a weapon. Sting looked genuinely worried during the interplay.

Likely the most pleasant surprise was 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' from The Police's 'Ghost in the Machine' CD. Its sweet, Caribbean melody had all of the thirty and fortysomethings in the audience bobbing and singing along with the chorus.

Second to that may have been a dipped-in-reggae version of 'Roxanne'. Sting stood shrouded in red and white light, the spotlight twinkling on his bass keys. Repeatedly he howled ''Roxanne-O!'' and the audience, hidden in darkness, returned the call.

Fans up high on the grass may have felt shortchanged because there was no video screen on stage to enlarge Sting's image. Aside from a trio of umbrellalike shapes behind the drummer, the stage was relatively bare. It was lit in purples, reds and blues, similar to a jazz club.

And Sting could have stopped in his litany of songs to say a few words, to tell the audience how he was doing. Instead, he barreled through his 20-song set saying very little.

Even the encore, a trademark solo rendition of 'Message in the Bottle', seemed hurried.

Singer/songwriter k.d. lang was a perfect opener for Sting. Dressed in a loose, long-sleeved yellow shirt and white pants, lang sang a handful of songs, including some from her cheerful new CD, 'Invincible Summer'.

Lang was energetic and fun on stage, dancing, frolicking and leaping like a ballerina. It was her first Gorge performance. She said she would be back in the Seattle area by November. Openly gay, lang joked and made the crowd laugh when she said, ''It's okay if you really like me, it won't send anybody the wrong signal.''

Lang's voice was as smooth as expensive brandy as she sang, 'Constant Craving', 'The Consequence of Falling' and 'Miss Chatelaine'.

(c) The Seattle Post-Intelligencer by Myke Folger