Nothing Like The Sun

Salem, OR, US
L B Day Amphitheater
Sting, all-star band dazzle Salem crowd...

It seemed Sting was as eager to leave Salem as he was to arrive for his sold out ',,,Nothing Like The Sun' concert July 19 at L.B. Day Amphitheater on the State Fairgrounds.

Apologising for taking the stage an hour late, Sting told the crowd of about 9,000 people that "we just flew in from Canada, where the U.S. Customs found us very interesting."

All was forgiven when Sting and his all-0star band whipped through an intense jazz-pop-rock and Third World rhythm musical performance that was high in quality if short on quantity. The 15 song, 1¾ hour show included only a one song encore - The Police's 'Don't Stand So Close To Me '86'.

Seeing former Police lead singer and songwriter Sting and his talented group in Salem was more than worth the trip, despite the abbreviated length of the show.

The band displayed its varied musical backgrounds and diverse style by soothing the audience with melodic pop-jazz tunes ('Be Still My Beating Heart'); making the crowd stomp its feet to jazzy be-bop sounds ('Englishman In New York') and rocking their socks off with Jimi Hendrix' 'Little Wing', which featured two grinding guitar solos by Jeff Campbell.

The band was at its musical showcase best on 'Consider Me Gone', a cool jazz song from Sting's previous 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' album.

Sting and alto saxophonist Branford Marsalis employed a call-and-response style as Sting would sing ''consider me'', and Marsalis would answer back with sax.

A snappy use of breaks highlighted the group's solos during the song - among the best being Delmar Brown's scat singing that matched the keyboard riff.

Also impressive was keyboardist Kenny Kirkland's choppy, piercing blue note-filled piano solo reminiscent of Thelonius Monk on 'Bring On The Night'. The piece was particularly fitting as the 95-degree weather cooled and dusk settled in on the cosy arena.

This was only the second non-State Fair event to be held at the battleship gray concrete amphitheater since its construction last summer. The venue, named after the late state senator noted for his legislative support for the State Fair, features comfortably contoured seating, impressive acoustics and crow's nest look-alike spotlight towers located behind the audience.

As day turned into night, Sting set a romantic Latin mood with his politically potent songs about Third World injustice.

He dedicated 'If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)' to South African political prisoner Nelson Mandela, saying, "He's been in prison a long time" and adding that he would also like to dedicate the song to all the "children in South Africa's jails."

He underscored his political themes with passionately played versions of 'They Dance Alone', which acknowledges the Chilean dance of the mothers of "the disappeared" ("their only form of protest," Sting said), and the acoustic guitar-laden 'Fragile', written for Portlander Ben Linder, who was fatally shot during a Contra attack in Nicaragua.

Sting had dedicated the song to Linder at his March 29 Portland Memorial Coliseum show, which was considerably longer - three hours - than the Salem performance.

I had seen both shows and left Salem disappointed that Sting omitted a lump-in-the-throat solo acoustic version of the Police's 'Message In A Bottle', which was a successful crowd sing-along hit in Portland.

Also mysteriously absent from the Salem concert was 'We'll Be Together' - the first and biggest single from '...Nothing Like The Sun'.

The Salem audience saved its biggest ovations of the night for the classic Police tunes 'King Of Pain' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me '86'.

It was intriguing how Sting and the group revealed new dimensions in the Police songs. In the middle of 'King Of Pain', following Campbell's rock guitar riff, Marsalis slid into a raging jazz rock tenor sax solo. The duo did the same again on 'Don't Stand So Close To Me '88' as Sting took off his black captain's jacket and unveiled himself bare-chested, while singing the lyrics dealing with an adolescent girl's infatuation with her young male schoolteacher.

Then without a goodbye, Sting left the stage for good, leaving the audience wanting more.

(c) Eugene Register-Guard by Ron Gullberg