As the adage says, “You can’t please all the people all the time,” and at Sting’s sold-out show Tuesday there were two distinct types of listeners to be pleased: Those who came hoping for songs by his great former band the Police and those who love the jazzy, adult-rock stylings of Sting’s more recent solo music.
So guess who went home happy?
The show (the first of four sold-out nights) started promisingly enough, with the riveting “A Thousand Years,” the lead number on Sting’s so-so new A&M album, “Brand New Day,” which (like many of the new tunes) celebrates the power of love.
This was followed strongly by a romping version of his first solo hit, 1985’s “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” which found the smiling Sting swinging his hips as he played his custom six-string bass.
But much of the rest of the two-hour show (part of a Compaq Computer-sponsored U.S. tour) was a far less interesting mix of slow-moving, middle-of-the-road numbers, including many more from “Brand New Day” (Sting’s seventh solo effort), as well as updated versions of Police songs that would anger any self-respecting fan.
The live band, anchored by longtime drummer Manu Katche and talented young guitarist Dominic Miller, and including three backing vocalists, was topnotch, especially when members were given a (rare) chance to step up and show off their talents.
Show was highlighted by a guest turn from French singer Cheb Mami (who also opened the concert with a set of his own material) on the song “Desert Rose,” featuring a wonderful two-part vocal performance between Sting and Mami, with an incredible and otherworldly voice.
The jazzy swing of 1987’s “Englishman in New York” was a bright spot, as was the country twang of “Fill Her Up” and the trumpet-filled “Perfect Love … Gone Wrong.”
As for the Police tunes played, a by-rote take on 1981’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” was notable only for the tight interplay between Sting’s bass and Katche’s drums, while the encore “Every Breath You Take” was a snoozer.
Worse, the band’s classics “Roxanne” and “When the World Is Running Down” were shown no respect by Sting, who ruined both by turning them into painful audience-participation exercises.