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Sting.. can still shake the house down....October 20,1999 Berkeley,Ca.

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.....The capacity crowd didn't know the new material yet. He had not played a show with his touring band in three years. I can't begin to imagine what it feels like stepping in front of a crowd that probably remembers more of your songs than you do and singing that first note. After leaving new wave's most successful rock group, the Police, for an initially rich and rewarding solo career, Sting has been mining his gifts with diminishing returns for the past several years. "Brand New Day," his latest album comes after a hiatus of more than three years. His return to performing was eagerly anticipated enough that he pulled down $125 a ticket for the Berkeley Community Theater shows. The two small-scale performances were a preview of a full tour planned for next year He rearranged the handful of older songs he performed, not always to their advantage. He recast his vampire song, "Moon Over Bourbon Street," as faux Kurt Weill. He redid the famous vocal parts at the end of "Roxanne'' and "Every Step You Take," The new songs, particularly For You?") going unperformed. And fond though Sting" After the Rain Has Fallen" and "Perfect Love ... Gone Wrong," shimmered like diamonds. And "Desert Rose," the most lovely and natural piece of song writing to come from Sting's pen in a long time, truly mesmerized. When he sang its opening verse -- "I dream of rain / I dream of gardens in the desert sand" -- it sent chills down my spine, I have to say I respect" When the World Is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around," a note-perfect "Every Breath You Take" and an unnecessarily long "Roxanne" --counts as a mistake. Playing every song from the 2-week old "Brand New Day" also constitutes a flub, with so many good songs ("King of Pain," "It's Probably Me," "Why Should I Cry may be of the brooding "A Thousand Years," It's kind of hard to believe that the same musicians who made that beautiful "Rose" bloom- made mistakes that anyone but Sting and themselves could only detect. No, the problems with Sting's performance were maybe fans wanting to hear only the songs from his past. Sometimes critics and people should open up and realize that musicians need to grow and playing old music is good for the fans, but not for their creative soul. Still, it was a good evening all told. Sting's voice was rich and clear, and proved he could still shake a house down. The faults lay not with the star,but with his set list.

By Randy Cohen

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