MILAN, Italy Perhaps prompted by a recent swing-inflected
cover version by pop singer George Michael, Sting set out Tuesday to
reclaim one of his most famous songs, the Police's "Roxanne."
Though the British singer/songwriter's rock days are long gone, he turned
back to that sound at least once at the Forum arena, one of the stops on
a European tour continuing through June in support of his recent album
Brand New Day.
Originally recorded in 1978 for the debut album of his former band, the
Police's Outlandos D'Amour, "Roxanne" (RealAudio
excerpt) ripped through the crowd in a guitar-driven rendition
vastly different from the George Michael version included on the covers
album Songs From the Last Century.
As Sting explained to the audience, it was how the song was meant to be
played: as a desperate plea to a prostitute. "Roxanne/ You don't have to
put on the red light/ Those days are over/ You don't have to sell your
body to the light," he sang. Red spotlights flashed from the big stage
to the 12,000 people gathered in the sold-out arena. The audience, enthralled,
"Roxanne" marked the climax of a two-hour, 22-song show centering on
material from Brand New Day, which was released in October. Dressed
head-to-toe in black, the 48-year-old former teacher kicked off the concert
with the album's opening track, the slow and atmospheric "A Thousand Years."
Thereafter, he adhered closely to the bluesy moodiness of such songs as
"After the Rain" and "Moon Over Bourbon Street," the latter from his 1985
solo debut, The Dream of the Blue Turtles.
"He's definitely grown up. It would be nonsense if he acted like a boy,
and the actual sound of his music fits pretty well with that," concert-goer
Cristiana Ottaviano, 30, said.
Performing old hits such as "Englishman in New York" from 1987's Nothing
Like the Sun, as well as more recent tunes, Sting and his seven-piece
band showcased its well-honed ability to fuse genres. Sting, who began
his world tour in Las Vegas in October, was accompanied by two backing
vocalists, Machan Taylor and Darryl Tookes, who added soulful flavoring
to such songs as the country-gospel tune "Fill Her Up" (RealAudio
excerpt). The jazz-tinged lineup also included longtime Sting
sidemen Dominic Miller on guitar and Manu Katche on drums, and newcomers
Chris Botti on trumpet and Jason Rebello and Mark Elridge on keyboards.
Sting also reworked a few vintage tunes from his Police repertoire, including
an acoustic "Message in a Bottle," from Regatta de Blanc (1979),
which he performed alone onstage as the second encore. The concert closed
with the audience singing along with the 1987 acoustic ballad "Fragile."
"Of course he has changed, and so have some of his songs," Ottaviano said.
"But the songs are still great, especially the old ones. And though at
the beginning of the concert he looked a little cold, he demonstrated he's
still a great performer, even if he's now directed toward a more mature