Sacred Love

Washington DC, DC, US
Warner Theatrewith Chris Botti
Sting but no burn - Pop star lets his fans get the exercise...

Admit it, men of America. You secretly hate Sting.

Or you publicly hate Sting. You might also secretly or publicly admire the guy, too, and you might even buy his albums and really enjoy his music, but part of you loathes him, and that is perfectly reasonable. Few characters on the planet are easier to resent.

Where to begin? He earns a fortune. He's fit and hunky at the age of 52, and he knows that he's fit and hunky at the age of 52. He has that rain-forest Romeo persona that says, 'Not only am I rich and attractive, but I actually care about the planet,' which makes him irresistible to women. He was once in the Police, a bona-fide rock band, and now he's making world-music pop that parents think is pretty good. He once starred in a Jaguar TV commercial, and instead of inspiring shrieks of 'sellout!' the cameo sent a solo album sailing up the charts.

Also, his stage name is ridiculous.

Now, you can add this to the list of grievances: Sting doesn't sweat. More precisely, Sting didn't sweat during his two-hour concert at the Warner Theatre on Thursday night. At the end of the show, the bass-playing smoothie was strutting serenely while everyone else in the place was bouncing like Lotto balls. Yes, he offered a song-ending leap or two, and he shouted out the 'Whoa-ohhh-ohhhs' that open 'Synchronicity' with gusto. But many fans in this sold-out house - particularly the ladies - were burning far more calories than he was.

As a performance, it was supremely effortless, uncannily smooth and, for a good long run in the beginning, quite dull. Casually plucking at a stand-up bass, Sting opened with a beboppy version of 'Walkin' on the Moon', raising the terrible spectre that we were all in for an evening of adult contemporary jazz. Apart from 'Synchronicity', the first handful of tunes were above-average world beat juiced up by a fine five-piece band.

The most rousing moment early on came from Joy Rose, one of two backup singers, who chipped in on the duet 'Whenever I Say Your Name', a song that recently won a Grammy for Sting and Mary J. Blige. Rose ended her portion of the song by stretching out the final note and doing something close to jumping jacks at the same time.

But often the videos on a trio of screens eclipsed the music. As Sting sang one of his preachier tunes, 'The War', columns of vintage war planes were shown streaming across a yellow sky, a tableau that was more arresting than the song.

In hindsight, it's clear that the semi-snoozy pace was part of Sting's plan. He knew that his 35-and-over audience couldn't stand up for two straight hours, so with about 60 minutes to go, he told them that he liked it when they danced. After that, no one sat down. Not when he sang the reggae-flavored 'Englishman in New York', and not when he plunged into a 10-minute version of 'Roxanne', which he ended with snippets of 'Bed's Too Big Without You'. They stood through 'Desert Rose', the tune that Jaguar made famous, and they sang along and swayed to the stalker anthem 'Every Breath You Take'.

When he wants to, Sting can still summon that duck-call voice he favored during his days with the Police, a honk with a vaguely Jamaican accent. But the punk in the man was body-snatched many platinum albums ago, replaced by a New Age country squire who knows his way around a yoga mat and worries about ozone. Although other rock stars fret about how to get old with grace, Sting is quietly morphing into a brand.

(c) The Washington Post by David Segal

All class, no sass - Sting shows his distance from past...

If any rock star has refined himself enough to play the classy Warner Theatre, it's Sting. The 52-year-old former Police frontman, now also a memoirist and luxury-car salesman, reeks of class.

Last Thursday at the gilded palace of the Warner, Sting came dressed in what has become his trademark boho-aristo look: flaring trousers and pec-hugging shirt, with unfastened French cuffs, that flashed just enough chest.

It was the kind of number that might get you roughed up in the Bowery neighborhood of New York's CBGB nightclub, where the Police played some legendary early gigs.

The opening song Thursday, with Sting on upright bass, was a slow-swing, classicized version of the Police's 'Walking on the Moon'. Later came a neutered offering of 'Synchronicity I' and a long and torpid 'Roxanne'.

Now, I realize I'm being a little ungenerous here, possibly over-nostalgic. So I'll stop. I'll judge Thursday's show based on the contemporary mold Sting has created for himself: the mature, reflective singer-songwriter and happily married man, the superb technician with a sense of world-musical adventure.

On these terms, Sting is flawless. His tenor voice hasn't lost an iota of clarity. His supporting musicians, including guitarist Dominic Miller and keyboardist Jason Rebello, are consummate pros.

And on the R&B number 'Whenever I Say Your Name', an energetic backup singer, Joy Rose, was actually better than Mary J. Blige, the leading brand who duets with Sting on the song as heard on last year's 'Sacred Love' album.

Speaking of 'Sacred Love', it's impressive that Sting puts so much faith into it. According to SoundScan, it sold respectably [just under 1 million units] but was quickly forgotten.

Still, on Thursday, he played the album nearly in its entirety - even songs such as the moody 'Dead Man's Rope' that have little chance of connecting with fortysomethings who'd probably rather jam to 'So Lonely.'

If it's fair to say that Sting challenged the audience to give up the ghost of the Police, as he largely has; it's also fair to say he wasn't sure our attention spans were up to the task.

A trio of expensive video screens loomed behind the stage, scrolling little filmlets from left to right during each song. On 'This War', it was an animated reel of B-52 warplanes and oil refineries - pretty clear what the message was there.

On 'Sacred Love', there were whirling dervishes. For 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You', we got an ecumenical hodgepodge of Stars of David and crescent moons.

It's at times like these that I wish Sting still played in a rock band.

Who cares about presentation when the meal is so bland?

(c) The Washington Times by Scott Galupo

Every little thing is magic...

To err is human. To be Sting is divine.

Well, maybe not, but it usually looks that way.

With more than 25 years of radio smashes and platinum albums, enough awards to sink his Tuscan villa, mostly respectable acting turns (we'll forgive that 'Dune' codpiece) and an unwavering ability to make his achingly cocksure demeanor engaging, Sting is one of the few relevant artists still striding onto a tour bus.

At 52, his yoga-taut bod and cheekbones that reach Delta altitudes haven't sagged a millimeter and his throaty rasp nails those trademark yee-ohh-ohhs the same as when Reagan held office.

Does that make him an annoying Dorian Gray or a respectable pop star who still knows how to do things right? Perhaps a little of both.

His 'Sacred Love' album, released last fall, is a cumbersome effort, one that doesn't immediately gratify with soaring choruses or insta-hit ballads. So it was no surprise that the decision to perform nearly every song from the album kept the first 40 minutes of Sting's two-hour show cemented.

There were a few early old-school teases - the opening 'Walking on the Moon,' complete with stand-up bass, and a frantic 'Synchronicity II,' whose tense, frustrated core gradually unfurled into a howling catharsis. But 'Dead Man's Rope' and the ponderous and plodding 'This War' nudged the sold-out audience into Snoozeville.

One bright spot was power-lunged backup singer Joy Rose, who handled Mary J. Blige's duty on 'Whenever I Say Your Name.' Rose and Sting generated real heat when they clasped hands at the beginning of the sultry ballad, eyeing each other with cautious passion.

Former Sting trumpet player - and show opener - Chris Botti appeared to solo on 1996's 'I Was Brought to My Senses,' but the song's jazz tones were so fluid it could have been background music, and Sting and his fantastic five-piece band don't need to waste their time with such pedestrian musicianship.

Much like Paul McCartney, Sting's bass playing is more than a rhythmic anchor for his songs - those notes form his most incisive melodies.

By the time Sting plucked the gentle opening lines of 'Fields of Gold,' the crowd responded rapturously because of its familiarity. His is a well-heeled fan base of thirtysomethings and above who might not be able to get him played on the radio but can eagerly dip into their 401(k)s to support his performances.

They're also the ones responsible for his career resurgence in 1999 after his appearance in that ubiquitous Jaguar commercial. If there was ever a doubt that 'Desert Rose' is now Sting's most popular song this side of 'Roxanne,' it was obliterated Thursday.

Of course, Sting is too much of a proper Englishman to indulge in anything resembling actual silliness, and for most of the night he was workmanlike and invested in his music. There wasn't much banter, but he occasionally winked with a motion such as sipping his mug of tea during the intro to 'Englishman in New York,' a spirited song that finally unleashed some playfulness.

Encores of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,' which triggered a wall of cheers from this Washington crowd on the 'You could say I'd lost my belief in our politicians - they all seemed like game show hosts to me' lyric, and a slick sing-along of 'Every Breath You Take' reminded what a solid song crafter Sting has been - and largely still is.

It is understandable that his colossal catalog prevents him from playing many fan favorites, but what a pity that all of the phenomenal tunes on 'Dream of the Blue Turtles' were ignored.

Sting is also notorious for sticking to a rigid set list every night - odd for a musician who loves to jam - which will inevitably lead to habitual performances. With a summer tour with Annie Lennox on the docket, Sting would be advised to rattle the routine a bit.

Then again, he's Sting. He can do whatever he wants.

(c) Richmond Times-Dispatch by Melissa Ruggieri