Rick Imamoto - Costa Mesa, California
(Huntington Beach News)

Sting, the former lead vocalist, bassist, and chief songwriter of the British rock band The Police, rolled through Southern California this past week on his "...Nothing Like The Sun" concert tour. I was fortunate enough to catch two of the shows, one at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, and one at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa.

Sting opened both shows with "The Lazarus Heart," the leadoff track of his latest album, "...Nothing Like The Sun." He was, as always, in complete control of the show from the opening note. His vocals were clear and sharp, with his band of jazz musicians providing a more than adequate background for his poetic lyrics. Grammy Winner Branford Marsalis was brilliant on the saxophone, also occaisionally providing Sting with a clowning partner. Mino Cinelu was a manic bundle of energy on percussion, coming up with a variety of mesmerizing sounds on his various instruments. Dolette McDonald, who along with Marsalis and keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, is an original member of the "Blue Turtles" band, provided Sting with a smooth stepping dance partner as well as excellent background vocals. Jeff Campbell helped show the crowd that Sting still knows how to rock with a searing guitar solo on the band's remake of Jimi Hendrix' "Little Wing."

If you've ever seen Sting's 1985 video, "Bring On The Night" and think you know what his latest tour is all about, then think again.Just upscale the lighting system and turn up the energy levels about twenty notches and you'd have a better picture. While his previous solo tour was rather subdued, Sting gets his unique blend of rock and jazz on display by pulling out a few classics from his earlier days with The Police. His Latest version of "Don't Stand So Close To Me" (which is closer to the 1986 version than the one on "Zenyatta Mondatta") just about brought down the house at the Forum. Just try to imagine thirty five thousand hands clapping together in rhythmic unison.

Just when you thought the place would explode, Sting would pull out one of his quieter, mellow, introspective tunes, and the crowd was brought to an almost hypnotic state, performing the standard, "Someone To Watch Over Me" (the Forum only) and "They Dance Alone" (both shows). He also demonstrated his command of the acoustic guitar on the touching "Fragile."

At both shows, Sting dedicated "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" to Nelson Mandela and the victims of Apartheid. At the Pacific he made a dedication to President Reagan in reference to the upcoming election that would make the Democratic party very happy. The song was entitled "Consider Me Gone," from his first solo album, "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles." In another light moment, he complained about not ever being invited to perform at Farm Aid benefit concerts and then went on to sing "Home On The Range."

The real highlights of the show were the songs from his former band, The Police. Some of the classics included were, "Every Breath You Take," "King Of Pain," the aforementioned "Don't Stand So Close To Me," and a stunning acoustic rendition of "Message In A Bottle." The new versions were more jazz-flavored than the originals, but the quality level was maintained. Just like members of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, Sting will always have his fans begging for songs from his days with The Police.

In a time when the airwaves are filled with some who could be considered an insult to the collective intellegence, it's nice to hear someone like Sting who sings with a genuine concern for the directions in which the world is going. Unlike many of today's recording artists, all of Sting's songs seem to have some sort of deep meaning to them, whether they are songs about a love relationship, world violence, and/or global politics. And so, while some other performers are worrying about what color underwear to wear for their next music video, Sting will be joining Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, and Tracy Chapman on the 1988 Amnesty International Benefit For Human Rights Tour. The Amnesty tour will be in Southern California at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 19. The concert tour will benefit the human rights of political prisoners and such around the world. If you wanted to see Sting, but couldn't be there this time around, you still have another chance.

 

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