Christchurch, NZ
CBS Canterbury Arenawith None

Sting in Christchurch...

My opinion of Sting has always seen the music overshadowed by the public profile of the musician and my open-mindedness is certainly not helped by recent scandals involving ruffled egos and arena bans.

But he claims to be offering new discoveries, so perhaps I should listen with new ears? After all, he has written some of the most enduring popular music of the past four decades.

Sting has talked up the new "depths" and "nuances" to be found in orchestrations of his classics but, to be honest, the world and his wife are doing that shtick nowadays. Much of his career has progressed beyond the Police trio format anyway, as has his ability to apply a broader brush in his art, so there's little genuinely fresh or audacious in songs ('Russians', 'Fields of Gold' and plenty more) that were already painted from a wider palette.

New ears or not, I still find the jaunty bounce of 'An Englishman In New York' irritating in the extreme, but I do have to admit there are occasional moments when my resistance weakens and I am intrigued by what he is attempting.

'Bourbon Street' is pure Les Miserables and 'You Will Be My Ain True Love' delivers on the haunting star turn Alison Krauss gave it in the movie Cold Mountain. Sting even manages to wrestle a piece of 'I Hung My Head' back from Johnny Cash by painting it into an impressive Western cinescape.

Sting is undoubtedly a consummate performer in truly exceptional voice. He is surrounded by a small core of regular musical collaborators and the ever-dependable NZSO, conducted with style by Steven Mercurio.

But I can't help but notice that Mercurio's flourishes make him by far the most animated man in the CBS Barn. All around me, fans nod heads almost imperceptibly or tap their thighs delicately. This is their $150 hero! When did music fail to move them so? One man danced with his tween daughter for one song but the rest of the capacity crowd seem stiff, mannequin-like.

The whole thing is pitched so conservatively into the middle of the road that all Canterbury seems stirred to do is politely clap. By the last half hour, a few people are on their feet and I guess the standing ovation means they all enjoyed it. I remain curiously unmoved.

(c) The Press by Steve Carter