Header Quote

"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out."
— Louis Armstrong

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sting: Live in Berlin

Was there any better pop music in the 1980s than The Police?  Compelling tunes, a clever mixture of punk and pop and reggae, and one of the best voices in commercial radio from Mr. Gordon Sumner—Sting.

In 1985, Sting blew up the band to go solo, and that was initially pretty great too.  Dream of the Blue Turtles was a remarkable solo debut, and it didn't hurt that it featured a killer band of jazz musicians: Branford Marsalis on saxophone, Kenny Kirkland on keys, Darryl Jones on bass, and Omar Hakim on drums.  The documentary about forming that band, Bring on the Night (check out my review of the DVD release HERE), was also terrific, funny, revealing.

But it didn't take long for Sting's solo career, despite brilliant middle-of-the-road success, to grow fat and happy.  (Not Sting—he's still chiseled and vaguely royal.)  So it was surely just a matter of time before he demanded the Sting With Strings treatment.  2010 brought the album Smphonicities and now we have the full-on live treatment, a CD/DVD combo document the tour, Live in Berlin.  My PopMatters review is HERE.

When it's good, it's okay.  Some of this music sounds right and proper with all the woodwinds and harp and French horns and such.  When it's wrong, of course, it's an overproduced mess.  The highlight of the whole thing, for a jazz fan like me, is in the DVD extras where Branford Marsalis (who strolls out occasionally on this tour to take a droll soprano solo, looking amazingly bored with things) chats with the camera and with Sting, treating the Big Star like he was just some guy, albeit a guy who writes great tunes.  The recording and film work is top-notch, and Sting has never sounded in better voice.  But the edge left Sting so long ago that you may not care that this all seems like entertainment for your most middle-aged chum who no longer really digs those old Police records. 

If you still have affection for your youth, this may be asking too much of you.  Let's hope so.

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