Anchored by the strong material on hisnew A&M album “Ten Summoner’s Tales,” Sting delivered an intense, often jumping set at the Greek Theatre Saturday that seemed not a minute too long.
The 41-year-old ex-teacher from Newcastle now commands one of the more durable song catalogues in rock, dating back some 15 years to his days with the Police.
So deep is Sting’s catalogue that he could leave out entire solo albums from his 107-minute set and still not resort to inferior padding.
“Ten Summoner’s Tales”– a pun on Sting’s name, Gordon Sumner — banishes the downcast mood of its predecessor “The Soul Cages” with lighter, more pop-flavored textures and sometimes mocking lyrics.
Though his political impulses are somewhat muted, the old musical tension is still in force, as are remnants of the jazz flavors of the ’80s and always, a fine deep-pile groove.
For a concert audience that wanted to boogie, many of the new songs were made-to-order, particularly the hard-hitting opening pair, “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” and “Heavy Cloud No Rain.”
The best groove of all — somewhat diluted here by the blaring sound system — gets going in “Epilogue (Nothing ‘Bout Me),” in which Sting playfully slaps his critics around, riposting, “You’ll still know nothing ’bout me.”
Sting reached back to the Police for several obvious crowd-pleasing hits like “Roxanne,””Every Breath You Take” and “King of Pain.”
In a wide detour, he took on the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” in a reverently faithful, not very illuminating cover version.
But there was little to be heard from “… Nothing Like the Sun” and nothing at all from “The Soul Cages” or “The Dream of the Blue Turtles.”
With obvious self-confidence, in bold voice, pounding out insistent bass lines, Sting lets his new songs carry the show — and they don’t let him down.
Sting has assembled a first-class backing band — tight, punching, focused — though one laments the absence of Branford Marsalis’ saxophone weaving in and out of the mix like a silk ribbon.
Jazz/rock veteran David Sancious received most of the limited solo space, building his own ovations with repetitive, hammering keyboard work.
There was little extraneous rock-star grandstanding, and dry ice buffs would have to be content with a single burst in “King of Pain.”
Thankfully, the music — intelligently crafted, swinging, vital, played by rock virtuosos — still comes first at Sting’s concerts.