Sting, Saturday October 19, 1996

Perth Entertainment Centre

REDRAFT. For inclusion in The Australian, Tuesday October 22

Firmly and forever entrenched on the conservative FM airwaves through his distinguished solo career and those heady days with The Police nearly twenty years ago, Sting is still musing on affairs of love and continues to send his now middle aged, middle class audience’s hearts aflutter.

Far from the overblown extravaganza of a flashy, cult-like sermon reflecting the price of the event’s tickets, Sting needed none of the extravagant staging we have come to expect from his musical and equally costly peers. In fact, the opening show of this Mercury Falling Australian tour shows Sting adjusting the focus slightly away from his domineering role as a celebrated solo performer to instead encompass his entire band. And to his unbounded credit, with simple songsmithery, a few well-placed gags and the sheer power of his vocal cords, he manages to steal the limelight nonetheless.

Striding tall, very tall, upon the stage to the opening strains of his latest album, Mercury Falling, Sting continues to play bass in the live arena, somewhat easing any preconception that his on-stage world revolves around his occupation as a solo performer. His gaunt, blue singleted guitarist Dominic Miller, keyboardist Kenny Kirkland, drummer Vincent Colaruta (whose recording credits include work with Frank Zappa) and the horn section of Clark Gayton and Butch Thomas are the perfect foils for their main attraction. The group’s roving boisterousness truly feeds the great singer and songwriter with magnificent variation in such diverse musical genres as the balladry of Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot, the guitar power of Demolition Man and the pseudo-Calypso of Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.

While the first part of the performance concentrated on the sentimental and slower paced tracks which dominate his latest album, it wasn’t until the full range and variation of the Sting back-catalogue came to the fore that the audience as a whole embraced the group. In danger at critical stages of being mired in the keyboard-orientated wistfulness of Hounds of Winter, I Hung My Head and All Four Seasons, the big radio-friendly classics burst forth, particularly If You Love Somebody Set Them Free and their renditions of The Police’s Roxanne and Synchronicity 2.

And while the band as a whole shone marvellously, at the forefront Sting towered – dressed all in black, his head near-shaven, a roving eyebrow attached to his bottom lip – driving proceedings with quick wit and his unmistakable vocal range begging adoration. When his live standard of bringing up an audience member to join him in song (I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying) turned into a brilliant rapport between a Scouse and the Geordie, you couldn’t but love the guy, this simple touching of an audience member being almost a trademark of Sting who is consistantly referred to in the glossies for his humanitarian deeds.

By the dual encore of If I Ever Lose My Faith, Every Breath You Take and his final submission to an acoustic guitar for Fragile, the long awaited return of Sting was sealed with some definitive vocal gymnastics, bows and the rattling of jewellery from the front rows. A truly great performer and a musical statesman, Sting continues to hold his now firmly established audience in the palm of his hand.