Sacred Love

Cleveland, OH, US
State Theatrewith Chris Botti
Sting mixes hits and misses for swarm of swooning fans...

Former Police chief Sting played good cop/bad cop during a sold-out concert Monday night at Playhouse Square's State Theatre.

Good Sting aimed to please with solo hits and selections from his old band's catalog. Bad Sting aimlessly took liberties with arrangements and focused too much on his new album, 'Sacred Love'.

Either way, the singer-bassist drove the soccer moms in the audience crazy - to a point. When their British idol belted out the exotic Jaguar jingle 'Desert Rose', a few ladies politely asked a beefy security guard if they could rush the stage. He politely sent them back to their seats.

The opening number, 'Walking on the Moon', was reworked in cocktail-lounge mode, with disappointing results. It's bad enough Rod Stewart had a go at the Great American Songbook. But we must draw the line at taking a page from the Great Police Songbook and giving it the Cole Porter treatment.

Sting hit his stride soon enough with a soaring new tune, 'Inside'. As the 52-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer waxed polysyllabic about love's complexities, electric-blue cyber-nymphs cavorted on three large video screens.

'Dead Man's Rope', a touching ballad, was embellished with video of a topless Ani DiFranco lookalike twirling a hula hoop. Discuss.

The imagery was less cryptic during 'This War'. ''You may have won this war we're fighting/But would you tolerate the peace?'' Sting crooned pointedly against a backdrop of oil rigs and bomb-dropping fighter planes. A handful of fans walked out, although there was no telling if the miniexodus was a protest or merely a potty break.

Sting missed four gigs within the past two weeks because of an unspecified illness, although his voice was in fine fettle as he packed 21 songs into this two-hour performance.

Trumpet-blowing opening act Chris Botti sauntered onstage for a squiggly solo in the middle of 'I Was Brought to My Senses'. His own set of sedated smooth jazz paid tribute to Miles Davis, although it owed more to Chuck Mangione.

Amid 'Fragile', 'Fields of Gold', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' and other past glories, Sting did nine tunes from his latest album - at least five new tunes too many. Sparks flew during 'Whenever I Say Your Name', a sizzling duet with backing vocalist Joy Rose. On the other hand, the former Gordon Sumner should've ditched 'Stolen Car', a silly ditty about a psychic car thief.

A faithful rendition of the Police oldie 'Hole in My Life' was a treat. But Sting's genteel seven-piece backing band didn't do justice to 'Synchronicity II'. The momentum-killing reggae break in the middle of 'Roxanne', complete with a bit of 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', was a pity, too.

Sting rebounded during the encore, peaking with a breathtaking 'Every Breath You Take'. Unfortunately, he ended the evening on a lackluster note with 'A Thousand Years'.

Poor chap. After years of tantric sex, it seems he no longer has any concept of climax.

(c) The Plain Dealer by Jon Soeder