Sacred Love

Edmonton, AB, CA
Rexall Centrewith Dominic Miller & Annie Lennox
Sweet dreams indeed!

Step forward, Gordon Sumner - Lord of Light Rock, Earl of Easy Listening, Third Essex of World Music Cork: for your chivalrous deed of allowing Dame Annie Lennox to blowest thou off thy stage during last night's performance at the Rexall Place sporting arena, we dub thee Sir Sting!

I'm sure the Queen will get around to the official Sting knighting sooner or later. Until then, this class act of British pop royalty deserves a kudo or two, bravely enduring the critic's slings and arrows of being repeatedly told - written about, anyway - that he's getting upstaged on his own 'Sacred Love' tour. The headlines scream: Vegas Rules Broken in Adult Contemporary Nirvana! In a nutshell: Annie rocks, Sting does not.

The former Policeman even appeared to be opening for Annie Lennox last night. The 13,500 fans whose presence caused a one-night boom in the babysitter market got a nice treat during Dominic Miller's warmup set. Sting's guitarist played a lovely 15 minutes of classical guitar that included what he said was Bach's Air on a G-String; this composer was way ahead of his time - and then surprise! Sting himself came out to sing on 'Shape of My Heart'. The crowd went mild.

Bonus points and a gold-plated codpiece for coming out to personally introduce Annie Lennox as ''an extraordinary talent, an extraordinary human being.''

How was her set? Extraordinary.

She was a slinky soul sister, an ice queen, a rock 'n' roll femme fatale, a torch song temptress, that alien opera singer in the Bruce Willis movie The Fifth Element. Sometimes all in the same song. Lennox displayed an absolute mastery of her voice in music that seamlessly bridges the electronic and organic worlds, soul and techno - the term ''techno'' of course meaning something different today than when the Eurythmics were big during the '80s. The name of her band still fits.

Lennox, who will turn 50 on Christmas Day, moved like a performer half her age, executing kicks, knee drops and interpretive dancing. Her voice conveys powerful emotion; her body follows suit, so to speak. Chills were induced from the first notes that came out of her mouth. Have mercy indeed.

A slow and sultry start that included a captivating version of 'No More I Love Yous' gave way to even more powerful material. At the end of 'Cold' - a heartbreak song of stark and amazing beauty - the entire crowd leapt to its feet for a deafening standing ovation. Lennox seemed taken aback by such spontaneous adulation.

''It's the first time I've been here!'' she exclaimed.

Just getting warmed up, of course. With a dedication to Scottish people, Edmontonians and Sting, Lennox sat behind a piano and deconstructed 'Here Comes the Rain Again'. Just getting warmed up. 'Walking on Broken Glass', 'Waiting In Vain', 'Missionary Man', 'I Need a Man' and the encore, 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)', were still to come.

Can I swear in a family newspaper? OK, she's frickin' brilliant! As one fan put it, ''You know how your memory of something is never as good as the reality? This was better!''

And whither Sir Sting? Aside from being a wee bit anticlimatic after Annie, he was just great - in good voice, good humour, with a pouchful of perfectly nice music professionally performed; he even brought Annie back to wail on 'We'll Be Together'. The show didn't suck. It grooved. There were some wonderful jazzy touches, quirky music hall moments, exotic Latin tastes, mellow magic, finesse, musicianship. There was an abundance of glitz and pizzazz and moving TV screens. The crowd loved it. The worst that could be said is that Sting's heart doesn't seem like it's in rock 'n' roll anymore. And he's no soul singer. And so what?

After opening with the electrofunk of 'Send Your Love Into the Future', the old Police material he did sounded a bit forced and cluttered. It sounded better when the band was here in 1980 with three guys instead of the bombast of two drummers, two keyboardists and Elvis knows what sort of electronic enhancements.

Then again, maybe it's that pesky unreliable memory again.

(c) The Edmonton Sun by Mike Ross

Sweet dreams are made of this...

We all know Sting and Annie Lennox share many similarities. Add commanding stage presence to the list.

While Lennox is the more passionate and animated of the two, Sting is no slouch either.

Perhaps tired of reading countless reviews favouring Lennox's performance, the ex-Police-man upped his game and charisma for Tuesday's arresting double bill at Rexall Place.

He dipped into his grab bag of old and new - appeasing die-hard followers of his '80s super group with songs such as 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', and those who prefer his jazzier, world-beat numbers, including a manic techno/middle eastern version of 'Send Your Love' from 2003's 'Sacred Love'.

''It's nice to be back in Edmonton,'' he said to the roar of 13,500 fans.

''I think I played here in 1980. I must have been nine years old. It was friggin' cold. It's good to be back.''

It was anything but frigid as Sting steamed up the hockey arena with his smart suits, scruffy voice, funky bass lines, astounding seven-piece band, and banks of video screens featuring shots of belly dancers, geometric shapes, and his musicians.

Together, they ploughed through his 25-year career with both finesse and ferocity - only stopping long enough for Sting to introduce his band members.

Highlights included 'Synchronicity II', 'We'll Be Together' with Lennox, the wistful 'Fields Of Gold', the ultra-groovy 'Englishman In New York', and 'Roxanne', which ever-so-briefly segued into 'King Of Pain'.

While journalists like to make fun of Sting for his standoffish attitude and refusal to reunite The Police, he was truly a gracious host and didn't follow the usual traditions of most headlining acts.

Not only did he come out to introduce Lennox, he performed his gentle ballad, 'Shape Of My Heart', with opener/guitarist Dominic Miller. (See, it sometimes pays to be early and sit through the first act.)

After reviewing countless pop tarts with next to no talent, it was a godsend, if not a privilege, to experience the majesty, beauty and sultriness of Lennox.

''It's a great pleasure to be here,'' the 49-year-old smiled after one of her countless standing ovations. ''It's the first time I've been here.''

It's hard to believe Lennox has never played Edmonton with her former act, Eurythmics, but Tuesday's spellbinding set of soul, electro-pop and rock 'n' roll was worth the 21-year wait and a few tears of joy.

Lennox poured her heart, soul and hips into every one of her numbers - from a slow, piano version of 'Here Comes The Rain Again' to a tour-de-force rendition of 'Pavement Cracks', which showcased her ability to hit both ends of the scale.

Even thought she's performed the same 60-minute set night after night, Lennox made us believe she was singing some of her songs, such as 'Little Bird' or 'Walking On Broken Glass', for the very first time. Her voice was simply amazing - powerful enough to drown out two orchestras and perhaps a few jet engines.

After the honky-tonk of 'Missionary Man' and the soulful 'I Need A Man', Lennox was on her knees.

The crowd, on the other hand, was on its feet.

She then slinked offstage, only to reappear for a quick encore, featuring two of her most notable hits - a rocked-up 'Sweet Dreams' and 'Why' - sending her fans into fits of delirium.

Why, oh why, did it have to end?

(c) The Edmonton Journal by Ed Kaiser