Monday, May 16, 2005

Sting Strips

The New York Times tries to figure out what sting is up to:

No keyboards, no horns, no backup singers, no video screens showing rain-forest fantasies. Sting came to Jones Beach Theater here on Friday night with just a four-piece band for the last public show of his Broken Music tour. It was a rejuvenating return to the kind of lean, limber band that Sting hasn't led since the Police, a trio, broke up in 1986.

...Sting promised to play songs he hadn't performed in "many, many years" (not counting previous tour stops). That meant going back to his songs for the Police and the way they turned rock inside out. With Sting on bass as the band's main songwriter, and with ears tuned as much to reggae and jazz as to punk rock, the Police often used the guitar for translucent washes of harmony and texture while bass and drums moved into the foreground.

At Jones Beach, Sting revived Police songs like "Demolition Man" and "Spirits in the Material World" in which bass lines are the true hooks. His band unabashedly reclaimed the Police sound, from the crisp snare-drum snickers and cymbal flurries of Josh Freese (from A Perfect Circle) on drums to the watery effects of Dominic Miller and Shane Fontayne on guitars.

... Through his solo career, determined to keep trying new things, Sting has piled on instruments and exotica, literary flourishes and sometimes strained concepts. Peeling them away for this tour is partly a retreat, an admission that some of his best music was made two decades ago in a fractious band, before he was fully in charge. But it could also be a turning point: a rediscovery of the old artistic axiom that less can be more.
I saw Sting on David Letterman's show. (That particular show, by the way, was hilarious. I haven't watched it in a really long time, so it was good to see that he is still funny.) The drummer was amazing, but I felt sorry for the guys playing guitar. At least one of them has been playing with Sting a long time and presumably writes some with him, so it must be a real drag playing Police stuff that he had no hand in.

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