Soul Cages

Tampa, FL, US
Sun Domewith Concrete Blonde, Vinx
Sting alternates between boil and simmer...

Sting, miner of pain and maker of elegant, unavoidably catchy modern rock, in recent years has seemed like something of a wayward pop genius.

His first two solo albums, while marked by a few polished song gems, have come off as transitional and grandiose, seriously flawed in comparison with such Police masterworks as 'Synchronicity' and 'Ghost in the Machine'.

The same holds true of 'The Soul Cages', an ambitious song cycle about Sting's escape from the confines of a bleak seaside town in England and the death of his father.

The album, thanks to infectious first single 'All This Time', is No. 3 on Billboard's pop albums chart in only its third week of release.

That song, logically enough, was first up when Sting and his new band uitarist Dominic Miller, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta - played to a packed house of 8,452 at the University of South Florida Sun Dome on Tuesday night.

The show, though, seemed to slow to little more than a simmer through the album's other cuts.

Take 'Mad About You', or 'Why Should I Cry For You?' or 'The Wild Wild Sea'. The lyrics were thoughtful, of course, Sting's bass lines were propulsive and Sancious and Miller took turns at painting tasty sound colorations.

The 95-minute show, though, with the exception of a scorching workout on the title song and Jimi Hendrix's 'Purple Haze', only really came to life when Sting turned to more familiar songs: Police favorites 'Roxanne', as concise and powerful as ever, 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' and a cranked-up 'Message in a Bottle'; and solo hits 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'Fortress Around Your Heart'.

The jazz-fusion textures and high-caliber performances were admirable. Der Stingle, though, seldom let loose.

If the rugged, riveting opening set by Los Angeles band Concrete Blonde was any indication, hard rock's most expressive female voice may belong to Johnette Napolitano.

Napolitano, jet-black straggly hair dangling in her face, led the alternative rock trio through a too-brief 40 minutes of music, dominated by material from last year's memorable 'Bloodletting'.

Thunder-and-lightning sound effects and a creep-crawling bass line punched the album's title song.

Napolitano, throughout, spit words like bullets and injected the maximum possible emotional output into her songs of life, love and loss.

(c) The Tampa Tribune by Philip Booth

Sting concert fails to inspire...

Sting is a tough act to follow; perhaps toughest for Sting himself.

The mercurial British star has enjoyed great nights in Tampa, but Tuesday at the University of South Florida Sun Dome he delivered a flat show.

After setting the world on its ear with the Police, then departing to carve out an innovative, jazz-inflected solo career, Sting has charted yet another course with 'The Soul Cages', a pop-rock confessional that is solid but underwhelming. The 100-minute set, played for a sold-out arena, was far from bad, just missing the magic.

Sting's quartet possessed neither the taut muscle of the Police nor the swinging splendour of his previous large touring ensembles. The new band, though quite talented, needs to jell. The group was notably slack in the jamming sections. 'The Soul Cages' tour, more than any previous period of Sting's career, is a star vehicle. He was front-and-center, four-square in the spotlight. And, despite his considerable charisma, this didn't suit him.

Before taking the stage with his band, Sting emerged to introduce a new discovery: a solo act, singer/ percussionist Vinx. A unique artist, indeed. His sound was African-rooted, hand percussion remarkable, his voice strong and soulful. Vinx then introduced his mentor.

Sting was outfitted in black: tight-fitting T-shirt, high-wasted pants, suspenders and boots. His bass guitar was black. Sting's hair was short but tousled. He opened with a rote version of his latest single 'All This Time', then followed with two more tunes from 'The Soul Cages', 'Mad About You' and 'Jeremiah Blues (Part 1)' neither one packing much zip. Sting then moved into some Police material, starting with a so-so 'Spirits in the Material World', picking it up with Roxanne and gaining momentum with 'King of Pain'.

Bent on showcasing his new album, Sting performed the lightly swinging 'The Wild Wild Sea' and the rocking 'Soul Cages', the latter faring best among the new material. Sting stepped up his crowd-pleasing efforts near show's end with solid turns at 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free' and 'Every Breath You Take'.

The concert was opened by Concrete Blonde, one of those cult bands with an uncompromising sound that hampers it from reaching the masses. Judging by the intensity of its set and crowd reaction, the group made some converts Tuesday night.

(c) The St. Petersburg Times by Eric Snider