Soul Cages

Salt Lake City, UT, US
Park Westwith Special Beat, Vinx
Hills were abuzz with adulation for a feel-good Sting...

'I can't wait to see the greatest man alive step up on that stage,' bellowed someone on the row behind us - echoing the enthusiasm of more than 12,000 energetic participants in Sting's first Utah concert since 1985.

That's way too long between shows, according to the predominantly young adult crowd.

That gathering included my daughter, Amy, and her slightly displaced mother. (I did spot a handful of spectators from my 'before-Police' generation.)

Though the 'Soul Cages Tour' 1991 performance featured several cuts from the current recording, the packed house erupted when the first chord sounded for 'Roxanne', Police's hit single from 1978. Sting and his band drew a similar response from older cuts like, 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best of What's Around', 'King of Pain' and 'Fortress Around Your Heart'.

The 'name-that-tune-in-two-notes' crowd rocked in chorus with the familiar lyrics of Sting's earlier works.

Audience reaction prompted the performer to recall his previous appearance at ParkWest: ''I think I've skied this hill before. The last time I was here, 10,000 people were rolling down this hill. The ones in front were in pain,'' Sting quipped.

Painful was an apt description of the mountain-bound crowd, many of whom hiked nearly to the ski lift. But distance did little to hamper the contagious enthusiasm - the mountains rumbled with the rhythms of rock and reggae.

Drawing from his current album, Sting warmed the crowd with the lead-off single, 'All This Time', then moved into the raucous rendition of 'Jeremiah Blues', with jazzy improvisations by David Sancious on the electronically enhanced keyboard.

Innovative impromptu arrangements, a Sting trademark, came together with the support of other band members, Vinnie Colaiuta on bass and Dominic Miller on drums.

Settling back into the tour album, Sting offered a cathartic piece about his father titled 'Wild, Wild Sea', followed by the title cut, 'Soul Cages'.

Rounding out the performance, Sting rolled out a pair of audience requests, 'If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free' and 'Walking on the Moon', then eased into the trademark 'Every Breath You Take'.

Sting closed out with an encore environmental statement, 'Fragile', reminding the crowd of his commitment to social issues.

The multifaceted performer signaled his concerns to a group of concertgoers decked out in 'Save the Rainforest' T-shirts.

Others recognized yet another perspective in the former Police-man. Melanie Cannon recited a Shakespearean sonnet in keeping with the performer's teaching days and to remind the crowd of the multiplicity of intellectual causes he espouses.

'He's an intellectual activist as well as a musician,' Cannon said.

Opening the concert was the group Special Beat, self-proclaimed as 'the best band to pass through Salt Lake City last year.' The reggae bunch from Britain issued an invitation to 'Enjoy Themselves, It's Later Than You Think,' to a crowd that needed no encouragement.

The lead-off act packed aerobic antics into 40 minutes of rollin' reggae and British-inspired rock.

And when those in the crowd reluctantly descended the mountain, they may have wished for an alternative to the 2 hours of plugged parking lots.

An alternative like waiting for a fresh powder run.

(c) The Deseret News by Ann Whiting Allen & Amy Allen