Nothing Like The Sun

San Antonio, TX, US
Municipal Auditorium
Sting in San Antonio...

Starting with 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', much of Sting's music has been tinged with jazz elements, but there is minimal improvisation on stage.

Kirkland and Marsalis fly some, but the other band members are primarily a supporting cast. The concert runs about two hours, plus a 20-minute intermission. According to Wormworth, there is a constant fine-tuning of the play list.

After Brazil, the band dropped three songs and added five others. 'Bourbon Street' was dropped recently, and prior to the concert last Monday in San Antonio, the band was rehearsing a Frank Zappa tune (not yet ready for the lineup). What San Diego concertgoers can expect in Sting's Sports Arena concert next Tuesday is everything from the new album (except 'History Will Teach Us Nothing', an odd exclusion for a former teacher), a sampling from 'Blue Turtles' and even some Police hits like 'Roxanne', 'Message in a Bottle' and 'King of Pain'.

In San Antonio Sting spiced up the roster with 'Home on the Range', the 'Bonanza' theme and 'The Yellow Rose of Texas' with customized lyrics. Who says Sting is a stuffy pop aristocrat? Little of his work invites levity, but Sting found the odd moment here and there.

In truth, the singer seemed to work very hard at being a regular guy. He shook hands with fans (while grimacing with mock pain), cracked an occasional joke and goofed around with the band. Cool and aloof but loose, much looser than expected. Many of Sting's gestures while singing had an exaggerated, mechanical thespianism to them that was rather endearing, sort of like a schoolboy giving a speech.

The show's wittiest moment: 'Rock Steady', Sting noted at the end of the song, is about TV evangelists, a group he finds ''fascinating and repulsive at the same time.'' That drew lusty cheers. ''Now,'' continued Sting, ''it's not in my nature to kick someone when they're down...''

Quickly reading the direction in which he was headed, the crowd urged him to do exactly that. He did. Sting recalled that four years ago, Jimmy Swaggart denounced a ''song by the Police as written by the devil, performed by Satan...'' He paused, mustering profound indignation, ''I wrote the (bleeping) song!'' To even lustier cheers he plunged into 'Murder by Numbers'.

Unquestionably the emotional high point of the night came with the only non-Sting composition on the list, Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing'. Near the end of the second set, this was the first chance for guitarist Campbell to soar, and soar he did. Not once but twice, with devastating solo attacks. And there are enough arcane '60s-through-'80s references in both Campbell's licks and Sting's tailored lyrics to satisfy any musicologist.

While '...Nothing Like the Sun' is generally regarded as Sting's finest work to date (especially 'They Dance Alone', 'Fragile', 'Sister Moon' and 'Secret Marriage') it was obvious that his fans haven't quite caught up with his music. At least in San Antonio, the newer works received a fairly lukewarm reception.

Nevertheless, this was one of the fastest-selling concerts in recent memory here, according to an hall official. In fact, Performance magazine this week calls Sting the ''king of sellouts,'' citing recent full houses at Madison Square Garden (New York), Maple Leaf Gardens (Toronto), Montreal Forum and Boston Garden.

(c) The San Diego Union-Tribune by Robert J Hawkins