Sacred Love

Bangkok, TH
Impact Arenawith None
A little less than magic...

A subdued Sting took fans on a stroll through songs old and new, with the results veering between the sacred and the profane

Stings Bangkok concert on Wednesday part of his 'Sacred Love' World Tour 2005 went off overwhelmingly well, beginning with the unusually early arrival of the children of the 80s and more fans queuing outside Impact Arena to buy tickets, which held up the show.

The early birds in the hall, who didn't know about the queues outside, endured a long wait with no opening act to fill the time.

Stings appearance at almost 9pm was thus much appreciated, with many in the conservative-looking audience rising to their feet right from the opening bars of 'Send Your Love' from the 'Sacred Love' album.

Prior to the show, Sting pledged US$50,000 (Bt1.94 million) to the tsunami relief effort, so it was surprising that he made no mention of the tragedy during the concert. Instead, he let his music do the talking.

He appeared wearing a pinstripe suit, but doffed it after a minute. In black shirt and designer trousers, he smiled to his music but not the audience.

Send your love into the future / Send your precious love into some distant time / Fix that wounded planet with the love of your healing / Send your love

It was a nice opening for the concert, and fans couldn't believe he was back in Bangkok again so many years after his first performance here.

Sting played his guitar, true to the album original, but this was a live concert, and he could repeat the title phrase as many times as he wished.

Sting next sent his famous SOS via 'Message in a Bottle', and we got the message. Then obviously following the same set list he used in Singapore on Monday came 'Hounds of Winter'.

There were two big video screens on either side of the stage, zooming in on Sting all evening, to the delight of distant fans who otherwise saw him matchstick-size.

His greeting to the crowd, when it came, lasted no longer than a minute. No sawadee or wai, and still no mention of the tsunami.

The next song came from the new album, 'Dead Mans Rope', with back-up singers Donna Gardier and Joy Rose entertaining with their dance moves.

'Brand New Day' was a nice follow-up, its beautiful beginning reminding fans of Stings ability at lush instrumentation and the ethnic rhythms that dominate his pop.

Dominic Miller's guitar playing was outstanding on 'Shape of My Heart', and Sting had everyone up and dancing again to the familiar beat.

'Englishman in New York' enlightened the audience about why they really came. This particular Englishman knows the song is always a crowd-pleaser.

The full band assembled for 'Fragile', but acoustic stylings were the evenings highlight, particularly the xylophone glowing in the background.

'Fields of Gold' came in an acoustic package that most fans relished, singing along happily.

The soulful mood of 'Sacred Love' failed to infect the majority, though, with most people sitting out the sophisticated verses in a tune that varied little from the album and admiring the synchronised lights in changing colours against the white backdrop.

'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' followed, the crowd loving its feel, then 'Whenever I Say Your Name', during which Joy Rose came to the stage front to sing the part Mary J Blige originated.

Her duet with Sting was powerful, with hip-hop beats and a far more cheery rendering than on the album.

'Never Coming Home' was next, Rose and Gardier thrilling again with their voices. Then Sting launched into 'Roxanne' to a roar from the audience, thrilled to hear another signature hit from the Police age.

But it was an unfamiliar flavour, with Roxann-o repeated too often and the band pumping out a heavy techno beat in the background.

Sting paused briefly before the first encore, 'Desert Rose', another much-anticipated song for the fans, but there was disappointment when the Arabic lyrics of Cheb Mami were omitted from the beginning. There should at least have been someone else there to rise to the challenge.

And there was too much synthesiser for such an ethnically tinged piece. Sting hummed most of the remainder and chanted the rest of Mami's part, again and again, before quickly jumping into 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'.

This was a great old treat from 'Ten Summoners Tales', and the audience loved it as much as ever.

'Every Breath You Take' was an unabashed favourite for everyone in the house, and Sting seemed to enjoy himself too.

Another short break, and as the final encore, 'A Thousand Years' from his previous album Brand New Day ended the show. The sweet and sophisticated lyrics by Sting and Kipper floated in the hall.

I still love you / I still want you / A thousand times the mysteries / Unfold themselves / Like galaxies in my head.

Sting had utilised all his experience as a performer, musician and singer-songwriter and put on a fine concert, but at the same time he failed to show much enthusiasm.

He moved a little and danced a little and talked very little. It was only the power of his songs that kept everyone happy.

Most of the highlights were older material, and while Sting tried to blend in his newer songs, the result was merely okay.

(c) The Nation by Vipasai Niyamabha

An Englishman in Bangkok...

Sting demonstrated his musical supremacy with a show that seamlessly fused new tunes and classic hits...

For a man hailed as one of pop's most ingenious maestros, who has played over thousands of concerts all through his career in music, Sting's performance here in Bangkok left no doubts about his technical proficiency.

On the other hand, one might be forgiven for doubting Sting's ability to give depth and meaning to songs he has performed so many times. It was refreshing that Sting, on tracks like 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Roxanne' (that some members of the audience could sing better than their own national anthem), could render them with a feeling of newness and integrity.

The veteran songster and his back-up band proved to onlookers and admirers at Impact Arena on Wednesday that they were quite capable of fusing unfamiliar beats and musical genres, rendering them with flawless technical skill - resulting in re-arrangements of old songs that were both astounding and delightful.

With 800,000 baht generated from the revenue to be donated to charity for victims of tsunami disaster, the two-hour set, comprising hit tracks from previous solo albums, classic tunes of The Police and quite a few picks from his latest outing, 'Sacred Love', glided seamlessly across a musical cocktail of melodic contemporary pop, post punk, college rock, with the injection of techno, Latin and Oriental beats.

Sporting two shirts and sharp, striped trousers, the ex-Police frontman showed no signs of ageing vocally. His is not the kind of voice that sends chills down the spine with a thrilling vibrato, yet it's so instrumental that the vocals were immersed harmoniously in other instruments. Switching between guitar and bass, he managed to capture all eyes with no need to tread all over the place, whereas his veteran guitarist Dominic Miller occasionally hoofed left and right, mostly unnoticed.

Set-opener 'Send Your Love' met with less enthusiasm than it rightfully deserved - perhaps it was too early for the crowd to jump up and down, or they were not yet prepared for this new mix of techno-spun verve.

Several hits followed: 'Message in a Bottle', 'Brand New Day', 'Shape of My Heart', and more.

It took quite an effort on the side of Sting's two tireless backing vocalists to encourage people to forsake their chairs, but they eventually succeeded when the latin-tinged intro crept in for the ode to complacency, 'Englishman in New York'.

Fusing the jazzy keys into the already-danceable beats, the track kick-started a sing-along before cheers and whistles exploded when the tinkling keyboards of 'Fragile' began. Next, introduced by Sting as ``the song about sex and religion'', the title track from his recent record saw the audience sit down, whereas the duet 'Whenever I Say Your Name' brought ear-deafening applause for the mighty vocals rendered by Sting's co-singer - one of his back-up singers - whose hand he held tight throughout the song. She did not disappoint, filling in perfectly for Mary J. Blige, the original artist who sang the duet with Sting.

(c) The Bangkok Post