UPON ANNOUNCING this tour late last year, Sting made one promise to all who would attend the shows.
The ex-Police leader and certified Renaissance man boldly stated that this would not be an attempt to recreate anything lTC that has been heard on any recording.
Making good on his word, Sting led his newly formed, streamlined quartet through a handpicked selection of career highlights last night at the Capital Centre that showed Sting to be not only bold and daring but also a workaholic in rehearsals before the start of this massive undertaking.
The arrangements in nearly all of last night's 16 songs were wildly different from the studio versions, especially -- and surprisingly -- much of the material from his new album, "The Soul Cages."
Songs such as "Jeremiah Blues" and "Mad About You," which are dirge-like on the album, were transformed into upbeat, almost spiritually lifting tunes that if not for the mopey lyrics could have been considered soulful.
And when Sting wasn't toying with the sounds of the newer, unfamiliar tunes, he threw the crowd several other revamped curves. After beginning "Roxanne" with familiar guitar riffs, the band broke off into a five-minute ska version of the classic.
But following a freight-train reading of "When The World Is Running Down" that seemed to pick up the pace with every beat, Sting followed with an album-perfect version of "King Of Pain."
Good or bad? It's hard to say. But give Sting credit for trying something completely different.
Looking Springsteen-like from a weight-training regimen before the tour, he certainly was having more fun onstage than during previous shows, carefully studying the neck of his bass and playfully using the entire length of the stage to work the crowd.
Although he only dabbled in Police material -- "Every Breath You Take" and "S.O.S. (Message In A Bottle)" were the only other oldie cuts -- he similarly snubbed much of the material from his first two solo albums, opting instead for a pair of cover songs, Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" and Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze."
As for the musicianship of his new players, guitarist Domenic Miller, drummer Vinnie Calleuza and keyboardist David Sancious were workmanlike and precise in their delivery.
But let's face it, replacing pianist Kenny Kirkland, drummer Manu Katche and saxophonist Branford Marsalis is a task nothing short of impossible.
So for the record, let's say this Sting show was enjoyable but certainly very unusual.
The downside to all of the changes is that Sting was almost stingy in the meager offerings from his back catalog, skipping more than a dozen hits from his Police and solo works to perform sometimes overwrought, long-winded versions of songs from "The Soul Cages."