Sacred Love

Detroit, MI, US
Opera Housewith Chris Botti
Sting's focus on new songs gives short shrift to classics...

Introducing the title track from his latest album, 'Sacred Love', at the Detroit Opera House, Sting said the song ''is about my two favorite subjects, sex and religion.''

Maybe so, but it seems that the former Police man's very favorite subject these days is 'Sacred Love' itself.

Sting and his seven-piece band treated the crowd of about 2,800 to 'Sacred Love' in its entirety Thursday, taking up more than half of the nearly two-hour, 21-song show. That's not necessarily a bad thing since it's a finely crafted and conceived work, but it certainly gave short shrift to all that's come before it.

Then again, some of those older favorites didn't fare well, perhaps because Sting and company were so clearly enamored by their new material. The pace of a couple of Police hits, in particular 'Synchronicity II' and 'Roxanne', was slowed considerably, robbing them of the fire they once had. The latter - which Sting preceded with a memory about playing the old Bookie's club on the Police's first tour of America - was rendered turgid with an extended, overvamped arrangement.

Gentler chestnuts, such as 'Fragile' and 'Fields of Gold', fared better, and there was plenty of encore energy to carry 'Desert Rose', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and 'Every Breath You Take'.

But, not surprisingly, most of the highlights came from the 'Sacred Love' repertoire: 'Send Your Love's' chippy polyrhythms, 'Inside's' slinky ambiance, the melodic lope of 'Dead Man's Rope'.

The tightly rehearsed ensemble deftly flowed from the funky, light jazz feel of 'Forget About the Future' to the rock crunch of 'This War'. Backing vocalist Joy Rose provided a stellar step-in for Mary J. Blige on the Grammy-winning 'Whenever I Say Your Name', and guitarist Dominic Miller and pianist Jason Rebello helped make 'Never Coming Home' the kind of fiery workout that there wasn't quite enough of throughout the rest of the show.

Nearly 20 years removed from the Police, Sting's performances tend to shimmer more than rock, soaring on the strength of nuance, subtlety and songcraft. That worked fine in a setting like the Opera House, but should he return to a larger venue, as is planned, here's hoping that Sting is ready to bolster that performance with a bit more oomph.

(c) The Daily Oakland Press by Gary Graff