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By RICK KOSTER
Day Arts Writer
For the Common Person, walking into a Sting event is always a dicey proposition. Who knows what he’ll do next — beyond the jazz-musician backing band or an album of 400-year-old lute music?
Has he bought a new castle? Or taught his Irish Wolfhounds to speak Latin? Has he purchased Shakespeare’s skeleton?
Granted: there has always been a sense of “the regal” about rock stars. But Sting seems more than any to want to take that literally — that it somehow pains him he wasn’t born a duke or a baron.
On Saturday night in a sold-out Mohegan Sun Arena, Lord Sting displayed almost none of the characteristics of the heretofore, fiercely harvested Persona d’Haughty.
Indeed, his punningly titled “Back to Bass” tour was just that: Sting on bass guitar — no lutes or Telecasters — with a “back to basics” stage set: no video screens or circus animals or flying through the air. It was a plain black stage — even the keyboard and drum risers were scarcely two-feet high and looked borrowed from a high school chorus room — and the creative but simple visual effects consisted entirely of white Vari-Lites.
Dressed in tight black jeans and a form-clinging white Mr. Clean t-shirt, Sting — looking more fit than any dozen Hawaiian Ironmen — was affable and in terrific voice as he led a stripped-down five-piece band through two-hours of material consisting mostly of hits and divided equally between his solo works and material by the Police.
For the record, just because Sting didn’t have a choir or a horn section, it doesn’t mean he scrimped on the talent. The core group includes three of the finest musicians in the world: drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, guitarist Dominic Miller, and keyboardist David Sancious. Also in the mix were the lesser known but equally amazing vocalist Jo Lawry and neo-Paganini violinist Peter Tickell.
The show started with quick and energetic recitations of “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and the gently whimsical “Englishman in New York.”
Up next was a wonderful version of a personal favorite: an elegaic piece written for his late father, “All This Time” — which was frankly a bit of a surprise since it maybe isn’t at the top of Sting’s biggest or most familiar tunes.
There were similar “deeper cuts” sprinkled throughout the evening — though it’s sort of hard to describe any Sting song as an obscurity when his records are so omnipresent. “I Hung My Head” and “Heavy Cloud No Rain” were similar choices — interspersed against beautifully and emotionally performed classics such as “Message In a Bottle,” “Demolition Man,” “King of Pain,” the jazz-odyssey’d “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” “Hounds of Winter,” “Every Breath You Take” and, yes, “Roxanne.”
It was a comfortable, intimate evening of great music — and Lord Sting was the perfect host.