Sacred Love

Wallingford, CT, US
Oakdale Theatrewith Chris Botti
Sting' solid sound - high energy at Oakdale...

For all the mellowing of his sound, Sting is one of the few artists whose new work remains consistently interesting and commercially viable. Wednesday night, an enthusiastic full house at Oakdale Theatre capped off St. Patrick's Day with a high-energy show by the 53-year-old performer, a program that had its soft spots but was always remarkably polished.

Former Sting band member Chris Botti opened the show with a half-hour of fluttery jazz, blending his supple trumpet with the light keyboard ring of '1,000 Kisses Deep' and pumping up the R&B chop his four-piece band built into the core of 'Miami Overnight'. There was a pleasantly evocative melancholy when he alloyed his soft phrasing with the spare piano of 'My Funny Valentine', but his smooth jazz offerings were generally generic.

Sting's unique instrumental voice has always been the bass, so his emphasis on that strength was in his show's favor, beginning with his plucking at an acoustic upright bass for a jaunty jazz reinvention of the 1979 Police tune 'Walking on the Moon'. He shifted to an electric model on the pulsing techno-style romp of 'Send Your Love'.

The slithering funkiness of the bright pop-rock number 'Let's Forget About the Future' allowed Sting to work out the yelping high end of his voice, after which he moved to a supple breathiness on 'Dead Man's Rope'. Judged against the high standard of the hugely entertaining bands early in his solo career, Sting's current seven-piece troupe had a difficult time stacking up but was solid and well suited to carving out the thunderous rock of 'Synchronicity II'.

Sting's singing added presence to the catchy 'I Was Brought to My Senses' as Botti re-emerged to briefly adorn its thick bounce. But nothing Sting did with the lyrics of 'Whenever I Say Your Name' could validate its thickly slathered lite rock groove. His emphatically whispered singing gave focus to the consciousness number 'Fragile', but the heavy-handed imagery of bomb-dropping planes on the video screens behind him pushed the electric churn of 'This War' into realms of pretentiousness.

His tour, which will return to Connecticut on a bill with Annie Lennox at the Mohegan Sun Arena July 5, focuses on his current album at the expense of many of his hits. He skipped a couple of his solo albums entirely and avoided many Police highlights, but he did include an almost too-lengthy stroll through the hearty reggae of 'Roxanne' before he closed with the insistently buoyant 'Never Coming Home'.

When he led off his pair of encores with the rippling, Middle Eastern-tinged 'Desert Rose', it was one of several reminders of his interest in world music. Comfort and relaxation were hallmarks of Sting's entire performance, so when he eased off the stage with the hypnotically airy 'A Thousand Years', it was a fitting closer.

(c) The Hartford Courant by Thomas Kintner