Blue Turtles

Omaha, NE, US
Civic Auditorium
Sting Stands Fans Up on Their Chairs...

Sting worries about the world... but he still enjoys himself playing for ''a great audience.''

Have you ever before seen half of the main - floor crowd standing on chairs 20 minutes BEFORE a concert started?

Neither had I until I walked into the City Auditorium Arena Friday night. That was just before 8; nobody sat down until Sting and his band took the stage shortly after 8:15 and played for two hours, including three encores.

By the end, everybody was standing and cheering and singing along.

The Auditorium announced the crowd at 4,997. Sting, returning to the stage for the third encore, pronounced it ''a great audience.''

''I don't know what to say, really,'' he added, standing alone except for his guitar. ''I'll just say'' and he began playing 'Message in a Bottle', one of his old hits with the Police.

It was slower, more spare, more thoughtful than the familiar Police version, but its message of hope through reaching out and communicating brought the show to an appropriate end.

Sting worries about the world. He sang about war ('Children's Crusade'), about the plight of British coal miners ('We Work the Black Seam'), about the difficulty of keeping a relationship alive ('If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'), about a relationship that didn't make it ('Consider Me Gone').

The songs were thought - provoking but never depressing because of the driving music that went with the sometimes - somber words. Even some of the ''downer'' songs were quite danceable.

Sting also has a cheery side, exemplified by 'One World Is Enough for All of Us', with its bouncy Jamaican - style music and its calliopelike ''doot - doot'' backing vocals.

He followed with 'Love Is the Seventh Wave', which he playfully called ''the first surfing song I've written.''

Although he seldom smiled, Sting occasionally joked with the audience and seemed to enjoy himself. He danced around the stage and frequently exhorted the crowd to clap or sing along.

Sting drew his musicians from the jazz world. It showed to various degrees all night, although nearly every song also had a strong rock backbeat.

The featured instrumentalist was Branford Marsalis on tenor and soprano saxophones. He was sensationally good, whether playing solos or staying in the background.

He blended the soprano especially beautifully with Sting's voice on 'Roxanne', the Police's first hit, which Sting sang to open the first encore.

Keyboardist Kenny Kirkland got only a couple of solos, but he made the most of them. His playing on 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' was especially hot.

Drummer Omar Hakim, bassist Darryl Jones and singers Dollette McDonald and Janice Pendaris also were superb.

The group played a few other Police tunes, the best - known being 'Every Breath You Take'; everything from Sting's solo album, 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles', except 'Russians'; and a few other odds and ends.

The musical variety was considerable: a little straight - ahead jazz, a lot of the quirky rock Sting has been creating alone or with the Police for years, a couple of pretty straightforward blues songs, even a nod to the old Tin Pan Alley days with 'Moon Over Bourbon Street', which was extremely reminiscent in both melody and melancholy of 'Autumn Leaves'.

The exceptional lighting effects alone drew several bursts of cheers.

(c) Omaha World-Herald by Steve Millburg