Monday, July 30, 2007

Summer of Music Nostalgia II -- The Police

The Police barreled their way through Fenway Park this weekend and might I say that I suffer from post-concert euphoria this morning as a result. If waking up with ears ringing and a seriously sore throat (not to mention being seriously dehydrated) is any indication of the success of a show, then give them props for that!

I guess I expected to be majorly disappointed. After all, this had been one of the most hyped reunion tours in my recent memory, we agonized over ticket prices, debated trading up for better seats than those that we bought 5 months ago, paid up for the fan club to get better seats (although the fan club yields you exactly nothing after the ticket purchase itself) and suffered through the first 6 weeks of some mediocre to downright scary reviews from other shows in other cities. We also felt duped when we found out just a month ago that they'd be back in the fall to play the Garden, which was a much preferrable location in our eyes....we'd thought the Fenway shows would be our one shot....but more on that later.

But to say we were delighted is an understatement. As a proponent of a dynamic setlist (my U2 fan friends can roll their eyes now), I can admit that I now understand how a static setlist works out in some situations (U2 not being one of them!) In the case of The Police, we have a band who hasn't put out anything new or notable in the last 25 years (the 1986 remix of Don't Stand So Close to Me does not count), so there was no material to promote, thankfully, because everyone attending these shows wanted two hours of the band's greatest hits and that is exactly what they got.

Opening with Message in a Bottle (IMHO one of the best written lyrics ever) and immediately shifting into Synchronicity II, the band came out on fire. "Message" worked, but Synchronicity felt very disconnected, with three separate people playing their own intepretations of the song. Whether that was the case or they just couldn't hear each other, I'm not sure. But that was really the last noticeable weakness in the entire show. Somehow they managed to get back on track and continued to throw extended versions and updated compositions at us one after the other.

After a lull of Bed's Too Big and Truth Hits Everybody, The Police shifted up again and delivered one of the tightest sets of songs I've ever witnessed: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Wrapped Around Your Finger, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Invisible Sun, Walking In Your Footsteps, Can't Stand Losing You, Roxanne, King Of Pain, So Lonely, Every Breath You Take. This 45 minutes or so was just breathtaking. "Can't Stand" did feel a bit less edgy, as did Roxanne, which suffered from a lengthy jam session that made it feel more tired than the red light district vamp it was portraying. But otherwise, this was solid and well-delivered. In particular, King of Pain and So Lonely were just brilliant. KoP was slightly extended but to good effect. So Lonely had an energy and vibe that is completely missing on the album version (and let's not forget one of these guys is older than my Dad and had been playing for nearly 2 hours at this point!)

Andy Summers, in short, is the most skilled guitarist I have ever seen (sorry Edge!). There was nothing he couldn't handle, and several times he brought the crowd to its feet just on his ability alone.

Stewart Copeland clearly has been waiting for this reunion for ages, not so much to recapture the good old days (because from many accounts, they were far from good in many cases) but because he truly loves what he does, and it shows. He was on perma-grin from the get go and played like Animal from The Muppets for the entire set. I've never seen a drummer with a more robust set of percussion tools and he uses them to excellent effect, particularly in Walking in Your Footsteps.

Sting, well...I've seen Sting at least a half-dozen times as a solo artist and have always loved his performance and have never been disappointed. This time though, I felt he was overly-smug. This tour was done on Sting's terms, when he was ready to do it (or when his album of Old English lute songs didn't make him as much as expected). As much as he was very much the same as when I'd seen him before, I really felt like he was doing this to cash in. And it was obvious at times that he might just want to be somewhere else.

But the band's disharmony was what made them good, I'm convinced of it. Secretly, some of us were hoping that this show would be the one where they would finally climb over the drum kit and pummel the hell out of each other just to get it out of the way. That would have been preferable to Sting's lyrical digs taken mid-song when the others were clearly defenseless, such as at the end of So Lonely: "I've been told I play this too slow, I KNOW." Enough already, grow up, collect your (lofty) earnings from this tour and move on. But that aside, we thank you for the return and a two-hour return to our pre-teen was heavenly.

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