The Dream of the Blue Turtles
The Dream Of The Blue Turtles was Sting's first solo album and represented a very real risk. He had given up the safe option of continuing with The Police in order to got it alone. Summer 1984 found Sting in London working on his first new songs since the split of The Police. When friend and journalist Vic Garbarini visited him he found Sting working on a ballad about a vampire, a reggae-waltz that linked the Great War and heroin addiction, and a Slavic minor-key melody in a classical orchestration. There was also, he noted, an uptempo catchy tune called 'Set Them Free'. "Trust me," Sting told him, "It'll come together."
In January 1985, Sting went to New York to recruit a new band, enlisting Garbarini to help him. "First of all I need a keyboardist. That's the foundation. And I'll need a drummer, saxophonist, and maybe a trombone...and a bass player. I'll play guitar and dabble with the Synclavier a bit. I guess what I'm looking for are jazz musicians who'd be willing to play pop - and maybe stretch the boundaries of both." He quickly gathered the cream of the crop - Kenny Kirkland (Keyboards), Darryl Jones (Bass), Branford Marsalis (Sax), Omar Hakim (Drums), and Janice Pendarvis and Dollette McDonald on backing vocals. With very little rehearsal time they booked a short series of shows at New York's tiny Ritz Club, Sting's idea being "To put the band through a baptism of fire to help fuse our identity before recording."
The band, together with producer Pete Smith, assembled at Eddy Grant's Blue Wave studios in Barbados in early March to record the album. The first track to be recorded was an old Police song, Shadows In The Rain which Sting wanted to record more in the R&B vein of his original demo. The waltz time Children's Crusade followed, dragging some wonderful saxaphone playing from Branford, and then Consider Me Gone - the latter helped by the band being pushed by the presence of the president of Guyana who was a surprise studio visitor.
Some in-studio improvisation led to the foundation of the tune that would become Love Is The Seventh Wave, and the next week saw the basic tracks for Russians, We Work The Black Seam, and Fortress Around Your Heart also being recorded.
Only seven weeks after recording began, Sting was back in New York playing the unmixed tapes to A&M, and making plans to head to Le Studio in Quebec for final mixing. The album was released in June 1985 and quickly topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The success of the album, a successful solo appearance at Live Aid, and the subsequent world tour convinced Sting that the safety net of potentially reforming The Police was no longer necessary - he had not only a retained a fan base he had gathered another one.
About the Tracks
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free - “This was the first single I did on my own away from the Police. I'm not sure if the phrase is mine. I probably read it somewhere. But it's the first time it's been used in a song, I think. And it's true, you can't imprison someone in a relationship. It's an antidote song to Every Breath You Take. One song is about constricting, possessive love, and one is about being free. I suppose the truth is somewhere in the middle. It has a Motown sort of vibe, and my attempt at soulful singing. I had a great band at the time.”
Love Is The Seventh Wave - “In popular myth, if you count the waves on a sea shore, the seventh wave is supposed to be the strongest, the most profound. And I felt that at present the world is undergoing a wave of evil, if you like. The world's never been as polluted. We've never had as many missiles pointing across the borders, or as many armies in waiting. We seem to be in the grip of this growing sense of doom. And the song is uncharacteristically hopeful, saying that behind this wave there's a much more profound one. It's love, beyond selfishness. And I think if there isn't this wave, then we are finished. So it's singing about something and hoping that by singing about it you'll create it. The alternative, thinking that in five years time the world will end, isn't that helpful. It might sell records, but it doesn't help the people listening.”
Russians - “Of course the Russians love their children, but I don't think we're meant to think that. If we're to consider them our enemies it would be easier if we thought of them as being unfeeling, robotic, insects almost. I'm not defending the Soviet model at all,” he insists. “I'm just saying that if we're going to save ourselves we have to learn about them and they about us. I don't know how they'll react. Maybe they'll think, 'Who the hell is he to even imply that we don't love our children!' That might piss them off. But really, the song's neither pro-Western nor pro-Soviet... it's pro-children.”
Children’s Crusade - “Children's Crusade is a fairly bitter song. The original children's crusade took place in the 11th century and two monks had the great idea of recruiting children from the streets of Europe and telling them that they were going to be an army to fight for Christ in Palestine, and to fight the Saracens. The intention all along was to sell them as slaves in Africa. And that's what they did; they recruited thousands of children and sold them as slaves. It seemed a very wonderful symbol of cynicism and the perversion of youthful idealism. Having thought about this for awhile, I realized this wasn't the only children's crusade in history - there have been many. So I look for examples. And the examples in the song I used are the first World War, where millions of young men, Germans, French, English, were killed for reasons that even today we don't understand. A whole generation was wiped out in a very foolish and cynical manner. And then I looked around today for an example of a children's crusade and I think the heroin industry is a good example, where businessmen are making vast fortunes by selling drugs to people who can't deal with them. In England for example, it's cheaper to buy heroin than it is to buy marijuana. They're giving heroin away to schoolchildren outside of the school gates, just to get them hooked. Or if you buy grass, sometimes in the grass there is heroin so you become an addict. This too is a children's crusade, and the same people who sold slaves in the 11th century, and the same people who sent young men to their deaths in the first World War are the same people selling these drugs. The song is really wishing them to hell.”
Shadows In The Rain - “That's a got a great opening line, 'Woke up in my clothes again this morning'. John Scott, bassist with Albertos Los Y Trios Paranois who the Police supported in 1978 was a complete madman and loony, used to appear in the morning and say things like 'Slept in my clothes again last night'. That led me to 'Don't know exactly where I am' and so on.”
We Work The Black Seam - “I'm from Wallsend which had two industries: Swan Hunters shipyard, which I was born right next to, and on the other side of town was the Rising Sun pit. So if you didn't go to grammar school, which I did, there were two choices open to you for work in the town, the shipyard or the pit. And now they're closed. I taught in a mining village in Northumberland, all the children's fathers were miners. The area I was brought up in was literally built on coal. There are 300 years of coal supplies left, and they're closing all these pits. And five miles from where I lived they're now building a nuclear power station, where they have to import uranium from South Africa. And I frankly think the government has got its head up its arse. They're destroying communities that are culturally very rich. And the government's offering them no alternative, saying you're completely useless.”
Consider Me Gone - “Brecht wrote two kinds of songs, what he called friendly songs and unfriendly songs. And I'm the same, in that I have a strain of song that is quite evil - a song like Demolition Man, Every Breath You Take, basically spiteful, mean songs. Consider Me Gone is quite cold, unfriendly. But I do use songwriting and performing as therapy, and I'm allowed to play those roles. I like doing it, as long as I can play the other side and balance it out. In Jungian terms it's 'bringing the shadow out'. My theory is that unless you admit to having a dark side, a potential for evil, then you can't control it. People who do evil have no idea, they think all they do is good. I think Hitler thought he was good, or he couldn't have behaved in that way. I'm sure Margaret Thatcher thinks she's wonderful for the country...”
The Dream Of The Blue Turtles - “The overriding feeling I had in that dream was joy, watching this spectacle of my garden getting wrecked. And the analogy is this band. By going through this process with this band, I shall destroy a lot of easy options. An easy option is to make a Police record. So it's a frivolous title. I'll give you that, but it offsets the heaviness of most of the album. I didn't want to call it 'Sting Addresses Doom and Destruction', I wanted something more oblique. I did Jungian analysis for a while, and one of the things you're encouraged to do is use your dreams creatively. In my case, I wrote this music. So it's not entirely stupid, there's a grotesque logic somewhere.”
Moon Over Bourbon Street - “The song was inspired by a book that was just given to me, somebody just handed to me after a gig - I think it was in New Orleans. We were staying in the French quarter, and I started to read this book late one night. It was one of those books I read in one sitting, I was totally enchanted by this story. Not so much by the character Lestat who everybody seemed to like, but by the other character. The Louis character interested me far more, he seemed to be much more reflective and much more interesting in a way, and I wrote Moon Over Bourbon Street based on that one reading. The idea of being a vampire and being a predator, but regretting it all the time knowing that there was something morally wrong with your lusts and your hunger, and I love the struggle that is going on in that character's head. There was a kind of movement of people who thought that Lestat who became a rock star in resulting books was based on me. He wasn't the character I was interested in at all.”
Fortress Around Your Heart - “Fortress Around Your Heart is about appeasement, about trying to bridge the gaps between individuals. The central image is a minefield that you've laid around this other person to try and protect them. Then you realise that you have to walk back through it. I think it's one of the best choruses I've ever written.”
'There's as much
excitement about the record...'
There's as much excitement about the record in the record company as there would be for a Police record, which is quite thrilling. It's not Oh, Sting's got to have his little hobby, humour him and let him make his jazz record." - NME, 6/85
'This new band is
more clearly defined...'
"This new band is more clearly defined. I hired them to play, and I'm the songwriter and singer. So there are no arguments about roles, which makes the process a lot easier. But there's still room for the dialectic to and fro. They're not sidemen, they're too good for that. It was my intention all along to have a band, not a super-session bunch of hirelings. They're too proud to be that, and I'm too clever to want that. I didn't want to be seen as a patrician white pop star with his minstrel band. That's not the idea..." - NME, 6/85
'It wasn't my intention...'
"It wasn't my intention to draw comparisons between the Police and this record, I'm just playing with different musicians. It's as simple as that. I'm not intimidated by great players. On this record I've recruited some of the best young players in America but I think I'm the best songwriter, so I'm not being immodest, the band has a good pedigree, and I'm part of the pedigree. I didn't do this out of any dissatisfaction with the Police. I needed to change. When you've been together eight years, there are no surprises." - The Courier Mail, 7/85
'It's a pretty good
"First of all there's Branford Marsalis, who isn't good at anything. Then there's Omar, who thinks he's a good drummer but really he's nowhere as good as me. But I like him. Then there's Darryl, whom I'm trying to teach to play the bass. He's kind of cute. Finally there's this joker called Kenny Kirkland who sounds as if he's playing with boxing gloves on. It's a pretty good band." - Musician, 7-8/85
'In many ways it's
a confirming dream...'
"The four blue turtles are the four musicians in my band. They're a good symbol: The turtle is a creature who lives both under the sea and out of it. The sea is a good symbol of the subconscious. I feel black people are closer to that unconscious and blue is a good colour for jazz musicians anyway. What they're doing is destroying my safe formula, my safe back yard. They're wrecking that safety, that formularised easy option, which is making a Police record. Churning up the land is what a farmer does when he wants it to be fruitful a year hence. In many ways it's a confirming dream. Yes, it's frightening and dramatic, but ultimately you'll be rewarded." - Los Angeles News, 6/85
'My threshold for
boredom is very, very low...'
"The album certainly would have been different with Andy and Stewart. You'd know exactly what to expect and how it would sound. Once you're in a successful group you become part of people's gestalt, and you're not allowed to escape from it. Freedom is everything to me - freedom to change my mind, freedom to be seen differently. The more people pigeonhole me the more my freedom is impaired. I want to be able to change what I do. I get bored very easily. My threshold for boredom is very, very low." - Record, '85
'It's not a concept
"It's not a concept album. There's no consistent theme running throughout - but there's also no song on the record that doesn't have an issue. It's not just a riff of a guitar with nonsense lyrics. A lot of thought and energy went into it. The songs are more didactic than they've ever been before. I have to be inspired before I write, but then when you're writing about issues like the miners' strike, the proliferation of nuclear power, and the arms race, then you have to have a certain responsibility to those issues. You have to think about them. I think time is running out. You can't really make records that are about nothing anymore." - Record, '85
'I think it's my
"I think it's my best work, the most refined piece of work I've done. And I'm proud that it's not going to be easily formularised. It's not going to fit terribly well on radio formats, for example. But I'll be intrigued as to how they treat it. The whole idea is to keep people confused, because that allows you freedom. As soon as they're sure about who you are and what you're gonna come up with next, then you're dead, stagnant and useless - which is why rock & roll is dead; I know what MTV is going to look like today. I don't want to be in that kind of prison. I like people to go, "What the f*** is that boy gonna do next?" - International Musician, '85
'In this band the
roles are very clear...'
"In this band, the roles were very clear. I hired the musicians and my function was to sing and to write the songs. I have the advantage, Andy and Stewart are forced to go into more esoteric areas, which obviously doesn't have as much commercial cachet as a guy singing songs. I'm probably in the top five commercial song writers in the world, so I am assured some kind of guarantee of success. Let's face it, the bigger the hit the more pleased I'll be." - The Courier Mail ( Australia), 7/85
'I'm very pleased
with the record...'
"I'm very pleased with the record. It's live, it's obviously played by musicians and not by machines - in fact, it's rough as hell - and yet it satisfies a lot of ingredients that needed to be satisfied in order for it to be a commercial record. And I wanted it to be as commercial as possible." - International Musician, '85
'I'm not precious
about my ability as a musician...'
"Darryl is one of those bass players who started to play the bass. I was a guitarist first, then a double bassist, then, at about nineteen, an electric-bass player. Darryl has a very pure approach to bass playing. However, there are some things, I'm happy to say, I did on the album; I played the reggae/calypso song, Love Is the Seventh Wave. I played on Fortress Around Your Heart, only because I was writing it in the studio, and basically I just put down the bass straightaway and it seemed fine, so I kept it on. And I also played double bass on Moon Over Bourbon Street. So I did play some of the bass, but the motherlode of the work was done by Darryl, largely because he's just a wonderful player and can do things I can't. And I'm not precious about my ability as a musician. I think that my function in this group is as a concept organiser. I'm working with musicians who are technically much, much better than I am." - International Musician, '85
'I really had to
assess what I was...'
"These musicians, who were all ten years younger than me and middle-class blacks at that, did things so naturally and so easily. I found the way they played and learned to be incredibly stimulating. It opened me up a bit. Here I'm not sure what my position is. Am I the patrician white rock star? Or am I the novice? I really had to assess what I was." - Timeout, 10/87
'There's a lot of
nervous energy in it...'
"Jazz musicians are forced to play standards. I wanted to give them a new springboard. I provided the lyrics, the harmony and melody for them to explore. The first album was a new position for me. I’d left the Police, I felt like a duck out of water. There’s a lot of nervous energy in it." - Sky Magazine, 11/87
'I don't see them
as my back up band...'
"We're using Wynton's (Marsalis) argument that I've stained the purity of black music. These arguments are used by the South African government to defend apartheid: "We have to be separate!" If I believe that music is a force for good in this world, then what better way of demonstrating it than musicians of black and white working together. Aghh! It makes me want to give up, in a way. Talking about my band, all the people in my band are from middle-class backgrounds; I'm the only working-class kid in the band. I'm from my own kind of ghetto. I'm not a spoiled, middle-class rich kid. I'm rich now, and have all the trappings of wealth. The band made a decision to play with me, and it wasn't just because I was paying well. I think these guys are of such personal and musical stature, they wouldn't want to play with me if they didn't think it was worth doing. I don't see them as my back-up band. It wasn't as if I were in the spotlight and these guys were...they were given the stage. I felt it was a band. I wrote the songs, and I was more famous and I sang, so I had an advantage, but there was no way that they were my sidemen. I didn't want it to be perceived as that. I wanted it to be a band as far as possible. If you listen to the live album I think it sounds like a band. People took solos, took the spotlight. So I can't really take that kind of stuff seriously." - Musician, 12/87
'They were allowed
input to play what they wanted...'
"It was a band in as much as what they were good at playing; and as jazz musicians, they were used to composing or arranging on the spot. It was a band in the sense that they were allowed to do that. I had arrangements and we worked from there. They were allowed input to play what they wanted, as long as I liked it. On the live album, I paid the band royalties, because I thought a lot of the stuff was theirs too. So we shared the royalties." - Musician, 12/87
'I've recruited some
of the best young players...'
"It wasn't my intention to draw comparisons between the Police and this record, I'm just playing with different musicians. It's as simple as that. I'm not intimidated by great players. On this record I've recruited some of the best young players in America but I think I'm the best songwriter, so I'm not being immodest, the band has a good pedigree, and I'm part of the pedigree. I didn't do this out of any dissatisfaction with the Police. I needed to change. When you've been together eight years, there are no surprises." - The Courier Mail (Australia), 7/85
'There's a grotesque
"The overriding feeling I had in the dream was joy, watching this spectacle of my garden getting wrecked. And the analogy is this band. By going through this process with this band, I shall destroy a lot of easy options. An easy option is to make a Police record. So it's a frivolous title. I'll give you that, but it offsets the heaviness of most of the album. I didn't want to call it 'Sting Addresses Doom and Destruction', I wanted something more oblique. I did Jungian analysis for a while, and one of the things you're encouraged to do is use your dreams creatively. In my case, I wrote this music. So it's not entirely stupid, there's a grotesque logic somewhere." - NME, 6/85
'I woke up laughing...'
"Suddenly a big hole appears in the wall, and out of it come four massive, prehistoric blue turtles with long, scaly necks. They're very macho and athletic and drunk on their own virility. They start doing back flips and somersaults, and in the process they destroy this garden, just wreck it. In the dream I'm watching this spectacle, and instead of being angry I'm laughing. I woke up laughing." - Los Angeles News, 6/85
'I had a dream that
I was back home...'
"Let me explain. During the week of rehearsals for the Ritz shows, I had a dream that I was back home in Hampshire, looking out the window into this big walled-in garden I have out back with its very neat flower bed and foliage. Suddenly, out of a hole in the wall came these large, macho, aggressive and quite drunk blue turtles. They started doing back- flips and other acrobatics, in the process utterly destroying my garden. So anyway, I'm somehow enjoying this curious spectacle, and the dream is so strong I remembered it perfectly when I woke up, to the point where it became part of my juggernaut to complete this record. Having undergone Jungian analysis, I've gotten proficient at interpreting my own dreams, Carl Jung; having believed that there're doors into the innermost parts of your psyche. For me, the turtles are symbols of the sub-conscious, living under the sea, full of unrealised potential, very Jungian in their meaning. I have dreams where I create the most unbelievable music, music like Mozart, that I don't consciously have the knowledge to write. It's there, I'm writing it, and it's real. So with the album I wanted to destroy a lot of preconceptions and expectations, and do something unsettlingly different. These blue turtles, these musicians, were gonna help me. And they did." - Spin, 7/85
'A lot of people
will be surprised...'
"They're probably the best young jazz musicians in the country, and I'm very privileged and honoured that they agreed to come work with me. My intention was to use musicians who had the finesse of playing jazz, but to make music without that label. I think we got enough spontaneity on the record and yet enough discipline to have gone into areas that most pop records don't go. A lot of people will be surprised at how this album sounds, because it isn't jazz but nor is it a mainstream pop album. It will be interesting to see how radio adjusts to it. If they adjust at all." - Record, '85
'I didn't want to
make a jazz album...'
"Pop music at it's best is a great mongrel, taking in sources from everywhere. I think pop music was at it's best in the '60s, when there were no barriers, no demarcation lines of jazz, classical, whatever. So, I wanted to inject some of that dialectic into this project, and I managed to get the best young jazz musicians in the country. They all wanted to do it, which I think is a great tribute to me, because they don't particularly like rock music. But also, I didn't want to make a jazz album. I wanted to stretch myself, I wanted to be challenged by what they could do, and I also wanted them to stretch too. I don't think they found it particularly easy, and I was very demanding about what I wanted. I didn't want them to just slip into their jazz mould and go off and do what they can do falling off a log." - International Musician, '85
'I challenge any
band to blow us off stage...'
"I'm not really interested in the spirit of rock & roll. I don't know what rock & roll is, or if it's valid anymore. I'm interested in the spirit of live music, and I don't think Branford, Omar, Kenny, Darryl or myself miss the spirit of rock & roll at all. I think we're right in there, and I would hereby challenge any band to blow us off stage!" - International Musician, '85
'I trusted Branford...'
"I composed a lot of the songs on keyboard anyway, so those basic parts were already written. I didn't write any sax part as such; I trusted Branford to come up with my vision of it. Like, for The Children's Crusade, I said, "I want something that's kind of military," and he played something that was totally, utterly appropriate. He wouldn't be improvising just with the changes and the chords, he'd be improvising with the lyrics, and you can hear it in the sensitivity of his playing." - International Musician, '85
'Basically the whole
project was designed...'
"Basically, the whole project was designed to create a new kind of hybrid that was neither rock'n'roll nor jazz, but was hopefully another country - another country that I'd have to make a journey to, just as the band did. So we don't play like Weather Report or Miles Davis - but neither are we going to sound like uh, Van Halen! Or the Police!" - The Charlotte Observer, 10/85
'Thank God we didn't
"There was never any intention of it being a jazz record. That was an easy label that journalists put on it. It wasn't marketed that way. It has some flavour of jazz, hopefully the sensibility of jazz. I'm not that interested in jazz to produce a jazz record. I'm interested in selling songs. We got a jazz Grammy nomination for the album. Thank God we didn't win. That would have been too much." - Musician, 12/87
'I was in such a
position of power...'
"Blue Turtles had songs on it that I thought would never get on the radio, but because I was in such a position of power it was a challenge. A song like 'Bourbon Street' was a massive hit in Europe; 'Russians' was in the Top 20 here. I put this on the record and thought, "This is really going to put the cat among the pigeons - how are they going to play it in their format?" And they did. I think it's my duty to use the power to, if not revolutionise it, then push the boundaries of what they're willing to play." - Musician, 12/87
'That's what the
album is about...'
"Dream was more about a band meeting a pop star. That's what the album's about, going through that filter. I didn't want to extend what the Police had done because that would have sounded like a Police album. It was something we really didn't think about. We knew about space, less is more, and simplicity. We didn't really think about "Let's play that chord here." It wasn't a philosophical thing." - Musician, 12/87
'That was me exercising
"It's a song selection, rather than an album that sounds like a unified piece of work. If I have to look for a blueprint for what I hope to do, it's probably "The White Album" by the Beatles, which was about songs. It wasn't about a group of songs or a direction at all, it was about "Rocky Raccoon" and "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" and "Birthday," so the individual songs drive it. I've never been into having this "sound." My idea is to have this body of work, and every album I just add to it; it's not like each is a separate chapter. I hope I'm getting better at what I'm doing, but I'm just trying to add to what I've done. The modern pop song form was becoming narrow and formulaic again by the time of Blue Turtles, but you felt it could have jazz in it, a Caribbean lilt, and more substance rhythmically and thematically. I needed to exorcise the Police, which in a way had a defined form and structure. I wanted to escape that and present a whole plethora of possibilities. Blue Turtles does that-it's all over the place, and by some definitions, that's not a unified piece of art. But for me it was just a banner, saying, "Here, I can do this! I can fly here, I can fly there, up, down, go sideways!" That was me exercising my freedom. - Billboard, 9/99
In 1985, Sting effectively quit the Police to commence a solo career. With the help of journalist Vic Garbarini, he recruited the cream of America's young jazz talent - Kenny Kirkland, Omar Hakim, Branford Marsalis and Darryl Jones to record his debut solo album The Dream Of The Blue Turtles, and these musicians together with Janice Pendarvis and Dolette McDonald formed his touring band for the 1985/86 world tour. He debuted some new material in New York at the start of the year, before undertaking a short series of shows in Paris (see the Bring On The Night video for a visual documentary of this period) and then kicked the tour off officially in Japan in August. The tour was spectacular - the band excellent. For some of the highlights see below…
The Ritz Club, New
York - First Night
...Sting's new songs sounded rougher but extremely promising; he is clearly eager to move outside the Police's light, international groove. He sang a blues and a soul song, featuring his own lead guitar and Mr. Marsalis's down-home tenor saxophone, and some fine new hybrids. The most striking song was I Burn For You, from Sting's soundtrack music for "Brimstone and Treacle." it opened with a quiet, steady-state melodic pattern, as Sting and Mr. Marsalis traded phrases of melody, reedy saxophone echoing reedy voice. In the next five minutes, the song crescendoed seamlessly - like a Weather Report composition - until the whole band was knocking out a driving, danceable bass line... - The New York Times
The Mogador Theatre,
...From the opening number Shadows In The Rain - a frantic amalgam of the obvious elements of the Police and jazz featuring a ferocious display of keyboards from Kenny Kirkland - the show didn’t fail to hold the attention. New songs like Consider Me Gone - a cool and languid work-out - and Fortress Around My Heart - a typical piece of Sting melody and an insistent bass riff - contained all the hallmarks of his work with the Police but fleshed out with some outstanding musicianship from Omar Hakim and Branford Marsalis. The highlights of the new songs were the slower numbers where the tight song construction was enhanced by the easy style of the band. We Work The Black Seam - a song about the follies of Thatcherism and the death of the mining communities - was easily the most moving song of the night... - Record Mirror
...The searing two hours drew heavily from the composer/singer/bass player's new LP, The Dream of the Blue Turtles. It proved to be Professor Sting's seminar in mixing progressive music-making with message rock, presented with a keen sense of showmanship. If this is education, let's all go back to school. During the encores, he sang both Roxanne and Message In A Bottle similar to his solo versions except here augmented by Marsalis' saxophone. His chilling tenor soared into the clear August night like a shooting star. Sting has something to teach us, all right, but it's a music lesson you can jive to... - USA Today
Berkeley Greek Theatre,
...From the first note to the last, he seemed intent on freeing himself and his fans from any preconceived musical notions - a risky effort that few stars of his magnitude ever attempt, and one that yielded stunning rewards. The show seemed to be a compilation of everything that Sting always wanted to do musically, but was unable to do with the Police. The real delight of this show was the fact that both Sting and his listeners seemed to enjoy this challenge. And the Star and his fans urged each other on, with the exhilaration that comes from conquering new territory... - San Jose Mercury News
Alpine Valley Music
Theatre, East Troy
...It's a show long on music and relatively short on special effects and staging. Fog billows from the back of the utilitarian battleship-gray set during one extended instrumental segment. Sting and the band members occasionally kick up their heels and shake their hips and that's about it. But Sting is a likeable, compelling performer whose first solo tour finds him in fine form, and the show bristles with energy, excitement and plenty of good music... - The Chicago Tribune
Blossom Music Centre,
…Although it may not be quite as accessible as the reggae-inflected pop-rock that carried him to the top of the charts with the Police, it is loaded with depth, energy and emotion and presented in such epic fashion that it is all but irresistible - at least for those willing to take the time to properly digest it. Without doubt, the evening's centrepiece was a devastating version of 'I Burn for You' that fairly ignited the crowd of about 8,000. From Marsalis' searing alto sax licks, through Hakim's relentless, incendiary drumming, the tune seemed locked in an ever-accelerating upward swirl that threatened to lift the roof off the pavilion... – The Akron Beacon-Journal
...Songs such as the Police's Driven to Tears, Bring on the Night, Demolition Man, the instrumental The Dream of the Blue Turtles and a hyperkinetic Fortress Around Your Heart provided plenty of space for powerful statements from Marsalis and Kirkland, and less often from Hakim and Jones, who powered the proceedings the way Michael Spinks powered Larry Holmes into retirement. Kirkland sounded particulary inspired during a long workout in Bring on the Night, at times echoing Joe Zawinul, Oscar Peterson and Jimmy Smith. But with Sting maintaining a low profile on guitar, it was Marsalis who was the standout soloist. On the up-tempo songs, he'd blow up a storm in the manner of Wayne Shorter and Roland Kirk, or on Driven to Tears, of King Curtis. Yet he could be reflective, almost introspective on a neo-cabaret tune like Moon Over Bourbon Street... - The Washington Post
...The crack jazz players have helped Sting successfully reach beyond his Police work into a jazzier pop mode that's accessible enough to keep 14-year-olds singing along while still offering some challenging music. Solos by Marsalis and Kirkland were particularly engaging. Marsalis's soprano sax took on eerie shades of Hitchcock during Moon Over Bourbon Street, and Kirkland's keyboards were cool and swirling one minute, steaming with soul the next. The Jones-Hakim rhythm team kept things moving in style. Hakim even managed to create real emotional tension with a drum solo during I Burn For You - something no arena rock drummer I've seen could ever dream of doing... - The Charlotte Observer
Maurice Richard Arena,
Some 6,800 fans sold out this resurrected venue in minutes to prove that the hooks on his new album and his wicked visual charm haven't diminished an iota. More importantly, some of the fans who came to scream left with new names on their lips - names like Branford Marsalis, Omar Hakim, Darryl Jones and Kenny Kirkland. "Let's go!" roared Sting to start the two-hour-plus concert, and took things from there. A driving 'Shadows in the Rain' set the tone, with both Kirkland and Marsalis building extended solos on keyboards and tenor sax respectively. The neat reprise of 'Driven To Tears' showed the band's subtlety and rhythmic flexibility despite auditorium sound that one suspects was worse through the stage monitors than in the house, where it actually wasn't that bad at all. Emotionally, though, the show belonged to Sting, whose talent, vision and sheer will power brought together people and sounds from different backgrounds to truly reflect a world that is, as he and the entire house sang last night, "enough for all of us." – The Montreal Gazette
Radio City Music
Hall , New York
Stepping away from the Police line-up, the trio that he fronts as lead vocalist and bassist, Sting opened a seven-night, sold-out stand at the Music Hall. The 2½ hour show was a musical tour de force, successfully mixing rock, reggae, rhythm-and-blues, and a healthy dose of jazz. It also blended Police songs with tunes from Sting's best-selling solo album, The 'Dream of the Blue Turtles'. As good as the entire show was, it was in the three encores that Sting really showcased his virtuosity. With just Marsalis providing musical support, Sting tenderly sang 'Roxanne' before switching gears, and getting the band together, for some gritty blues and a full-bodied rendition of 'Every Breath You Take'. Sting then went solo, concluding the show with a gentle but moving 'Message in a Bottle'. – The Bergen Record
...It has been said that Beethoven and many other classical composers were constantly in the process of revision, forever searching and probing the limits of their themes. The same thing is now happening in rock. Take Sting, the popular rock songwriter of Police fame. He has undertaken the task of reshaping some of his best-known hit-song material, and has enlisted five talented young jazz musicians and two background vocalists to do it with him. The results are dramatic. Thursday night at the Hollywood Sportatorium, the Sting band delivered an a cappella, doo-wop version of The Police's formerly reggae One World, a haunting, slinky reading of Driven to Tears, and even introduced a Branford Marsalis rap during When the World Is Running Down. Sometimes Sting declined wholesale make-overs, as on We Work the Black Seam and other material from The Dream of the Blue Turtles LP, but still everything rang fresh, spacious, and primed for spontaneous flourishes of interpretation... - The Miami Herald
Reunion Arena, Dallas
...Sting assembled a most impressive line-up of non-rock musicians to assist, and they pulled it off with intelligence, restraint and impeccable taste. There were few of the thrills and chills - the strutting and the grandstanding - obligatory in most rock concerts, and it's to Sting's credit that he had the courage to walk away, even if temporarily, from the sure thing he had with the Police... - The Dallas Morning News
Royal Albert Hall,
…From the very first note of his Albert Hall concert the audience was taken on an exciting journey which, while not breaking new musical ground, revealed just how powerful and varied jazz funk can be. Some of the songs boogied along for fifteen minutes with no jot of tedium, and the unusual balance of instruments added a freshness rare in performances by superstars.
Sting concentrates on singing and is currently in sweet voice. Dominating on bass is Darryl Jones, who can actually make it sound emotional, while instead of a lead guitar there is Branford Marsalis on an array of saxophones. Behind them drummer Omar Hakin is unobtrusively powerful while Kenny Kirkland plugs the gaps on keyboards. For over two continuous hours the quintet roars through music which combires the melodic artfulness of pop with the/challenging thrust of jazz. The crowd was on its feet within minutes and Sting provided the material, and the stage dominance, to steadily intensify the stimulation. Even the slower songs, like 'The Children's Crusade', are done at full throttle and there are singalongs, like "One world's enough for all of us" to make the audience feel needed… – The Financial Times
Festival Hall, Melbourne
"... They called it fusion a decade or so ago, when jazz musicians flirted with rock, but the music served up last night by British rock musician Sting and his formidable band of jazzmen to a packed, sweltering Festival Hall crowd was anchored firmly in funky rhythm and blues. Sting's fans crowded the aisles screamed at each song, waving their arms 'Countdown' style, clapping to the rhythm and singing along to Police favourites that included 'Roxanne', 'Every Breath You Take' and a solo finale of 'Message In A Bottle'. Sting, strumming his guitar, moved confidently up and down the central staircase, one of the few props on the stage. He exuded good-natured charisma as he exhorted the audience and danced with his colleagues to the music. It is the best band a Melbourne rock audience has heard..." – The Age
Memorial Drive, Adelaide
...The band tackled the performance in a relaxed, almost effortless manner, dancing merrily around the stage with a supremely confident Sting. His time to shine came during the final run of hits, singing superbly over the minimal accompaniment of Roxanne and Message In A Bottle and soaring in a euphoric rendition of Every Breath You Take. But the most memorable moment of the concert, and certainly the most heartening for Sting, was during the evocative Russians when the entire crowd helped to sing his plea for international understanding and peace. The show of support for such poignant sentiments, coupled with the appreciation of a dazzling musical display, was proof that Sting stands tall as one of today's most crucial pop artists... - The Advertiser