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Music Review

At Bank of America Pavilion, Sting plays the hits

Sting (pictured performing in Amsterdam last year) played to a sold-out crowd at the Bank of America Pavilion Friday.

FERDY DAMMAN/EPA/FILE

Sting (pictured performing in Amsterdam last year) played to a sold-out crowd at the Bank of America Pavilion Friday.

In recent years, Sting has launched tours focusing on his interest in lute music, symphonic renditions of his catalog, and shows for his winter-themed release. In September he will release a new solo album containing songs related to the Broadway musical on which he is currently working.

But for the aptly named “Back to Bass” jaunt, which came to the Bank of America Pavilion on Friday, the mono-monikered musician and his phenomenal five-piece put the focus squarely on the music that made the English rocker a household name.

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For two vibrant hours, a cheerful Sting played for an amped-up, sold-out crowd happy to sing along to the Police favorites and solo hits that have become ubiquitous radio fodder, and a few choice album cuts. (It is a testament to his catalog that the set list had considerable differences from the October 2011 “Back to Bass” show at the Citi Wang Theatre.)

While many of the songs were given straightforward readings, the wisely generous bandleader let his musicians shine.

Longtime drummer Vinnie Colaiuta remains Sting’s ace in the hole, anchoring the proceedings with an unerring tastefulness. Whether laying down a simple cross-stick accent on “Fields of Gold,” shifting dynamics with ease on the playful “Seven Days” or the careering “Driven to Tears,” or miraculously keeping time in nine on the “country” tune “I Hung My Head,” Colaiuta shone.

Jo Lawry bayed at the moon with otherworldly power on “The Hounds of Winter.” Dominic Miller, with Sting for over 20 years, spun spidery guitar passages by turns warped (“Demolition Man”) and lyrical (“Shape of My Heart.”) Peter Tickell drew a huge ovation for his manic violin flourishes, and he, Sting, Colaiuta, and veteran keyboardist David Sancious engaged in a post-
“De Do Do Do De Da Da Da” jam that took the proceedings to another plane.

After years of playing a slowed-and-stripped version of “Message in a Bottle” it was a treat to hear the Police rocker revved back up and sending out an SOS at full power.

Vocally, Sting has lost very little, if any, of his fastball, singing high and sustained notes, yelping and crooning and indulging his signature “eee-oh” ad-libs on tunes like “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” with nary a grimace or strain.

He took time to acknowledge Boston’s history in his own story and even, in a bizarre but good-natured bit, invited folks in bear suits sporting Bruins jerseys onstage to dance during “Next to You.”

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.
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