Sacred Love

Philadelphia, PA, US
Tower Theaterwith Chris Botti
An Englishman in Philly...

Sting may sing he's an 'Englishman in New York,' but he's also a rarity in pop music. After several decades in a business that can wreak havoc with bodies and souls, Sting is a middle-aged survivor who still sounds terrific.

At his Friday night sold-out stop at the Tower Theater on his 'Sacred Love Tour,' the 52-year-old proved that walking a healthy path has made him more prolific than ever.

Thwacking his stand-up bass, Sting opened with an edgy rendition of 'Walking on the Moon' from his Police days before moving into 'Send Your Love,' one of many new songs he would play from his Sacred Love album.

'I love being back in Philly. I love the Tower Theater,' he said between songs as he looked out to the seats. 'Hi, in the back,' he added, waving toward the upper balcony as patrons screamed back.

With his seven-piece backup band that included two female vocalists, Sting moved from one string instrument to the next, through a world fusion of sounds and rhythms. His songs from Sacred Love were a variation on the theme of love and reflection, but he offered up plenty of updated classics in his mix. From 'Forget About the Future,' and 'Dead Man's Rope' he swooped into a barnstorming 'Synchronicity II,' 'ee-oh-ing' and bringing the crowd to its feet.

A reggae-infused 'Roxanne' turned into a sing-along, with Sting chanting the word Roxanne like a mantra, and the crowd chanting it back to the drumbeat. This lovefest went on a few too many minutes - all that was missing were the cigarette lighters.

Behind the musicians three massive screens projected imagery such as sinewy belly dancers and pulsating psychedelia - in perfect time to the beat. Among this visual feast were black-and-white bomber planes, oil derricks and smokestacks accompanying 'This War' - a loud and thumping diversion with lyrics about deadly weapons and corruption. An apparent technical snafu had loud pops coming from a speaker, at first seeming natural to a song about war. The band persevered and lead guitarist Dominic Miller's guitar was quickly replaced afterward - end of problem.

Sting pulled backup singer Joy Rose to sing the Mary J. Blige part of his duet, 'Whenever I Say Your Name.' Rose built her competent voice from soft and low to a crescendo of wailing to the rafters, sinking to her knees and bringing a delighted audience to its feet.

Encores included uplifting renditions of 'If I Ever Lose My Faith' and 'Every Breath You Take' but the show ended with a whimper with Sting's final encore, a very mellow 'A Thousand Years.'

Friday's show opened with jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, who has been touring with Sting. With his five-piece backup band, Botti and company offered up a sophisticated, layered sound of keyboard, strings and percussion. The Columbia recording artist played highlights from his latest CD, 'A Thousand Kisses', to many empty seats and a chattering, drinking crowd that was sauntering into the theatre midway through his half-hour performance.

At one point, Botti good-naturedly stepped off the stage to soulfully play 'My Funny Valentine' directly to a group of prime offenders in the front rows: A classy way to tame the savage beast with music.

(c) The News of Delaware County by Susan Greenspon

New refrains and classic Sting...

Nattily dressed in an untucked gray shirt with white cuffs and collar over black slacks and plucking a standup bass, Sting began his sold-out show at the Tower on Friday with a slow, haunting - and, unfortunately, truncated - rendition of the Police classic 'Walking on the Moon'.

It's one of many great songs Sting has written, and his nearly two-hour set included a fair share of them. It also included nearly all of his latest album, 'Sacred Love'.

On this disc, Sting proclaims that love is the answer to all woes, political and personal, and he does so in songs that are often little more than lists. 'Send Your Love', which followed 'Walking on the Moon' Friday night, relied on a series of declamations: 'There's no religion but sex and music; there's no religion but sound and dancing; there's no religion but line and color; there's no religion but sacred trance,' and so on. Its vaguely Arabic rhythms had the crowd dancing, but it also established his current formula.

He's not writing songs as much as catalogs, and the effect was numbing on 'Inside', which was ponderous with keyboard-produced strings, and 'This War', which was troubled by either a faulty sound system or deliberately arrhythmic bomblike pops. At least 'Whenever I Say Your Name' - a repetitive list of 'whenevers' - received a dose of genuine gospel fervor when backing singer Joy Rose stepped up to duet, hand-in-hand, with Sting.

Older tunes such as the melancholy 'Fields of Gold' had emotional nuances the newer ones lacked. Sting sang the pulsing ballad 'Fragile' deep in his register and interjected a beautifully jazzy acoustic guitar solo. The simmering 'Synchronicity II', punctuated by his trademark 'ee-yo-ohs,' nearly rocked. And the lighthearted 'Englishman in New York' allowed the five-piece band behind him to stretch out with some funky reggae.

(c) Philadelphia Inquirer by Steve Klinge