05.20.07 THE NEW YORK POST


Police Presence - Legendary trio improving 'new muic', friendshp for reunion tour...

Most of the Police fans who helped the band sell out its summer reunion tour think they're going to see the classic pop-rock trio revisit glory days. But Stewart Copeland says they're in for a surprise.

"It's all-new music we'll be playing," he says.

What? When the Police headline the Live Earth festival on July 7 and play their sold-out solo dates at Madison Square Garden (Aug. 1 and 3) and Giants Stadium (Aug. 5), there won't be any 'Roxanne', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' or 'King of Pain'?

Not exactly.

In a band comprising three musicians famously obsessed with their craft - including Sting on bass and vocals and Andy Summers on guitar - drummer Copeland is actually referring to group's effort to return to the virtuoso form it attained before breaking up in 1985.

"Basically, the band's agenda is delivering energy and excitement in the service of really great songs," Copeland says. "It's all new music we'll be playing, but not new songs. We're not ready for new songs, we don't even deserve new songs yet."

Yeah, right. Like Sting, Copeland and Summers are just another neighborhood bar band.

They deserve respect for refusing to take their classic status for granted. The band could get drunk, drop acid and slam out sloppy versions of 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Invisible Sun', and fans would still go wild. But two decades later, they're still perfectionists.

"We're still getting our act together and finding our groove as a band," Copeland says. "Last time we toured together, we were 24 years old. After all this time [apart], we had a lot of melding to do. We can see and hear where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on."

That dedication helped make the band one of the most distinctive voices to emerge from England's punk rock scene of the late '70s. While early incarnations of the Sex Pistols and the Clash championed amateurism, the Police harnessed profound musicianship to the energy of the times in singles like 'Fall Out' and 'So Lonely'. They even played ballads, although 'Roxanne' did tweak the genre by being an aching love letter to a prostitute.

In its sinewy melding of island rhythms with jazz-inflected guitar and Brechtian drama, 'Roxanne' came to reflect everything that was revolutionary about the Police.

In a succinct moment of self-assessment, Copeland says, "Our biggest innovation was the introduction of reggae into white mainstream pop."

As the band's founder and drummer, Copeland ought to be able to take credit for it, but he bristles at the notion.

"It was really a team effort - it's impossible to differentiate where one band member's contribution began and the other's ended," he says. "Reggae doesn't work until you have three elements together. The drum part alone isn't reggae until you get the guitar up-chick supported by the proper bass line. The Police were always a team, and we're learning to be a team again."

Teamwork, though, wasn't always the trio's strongest trait. With each player so accomplished in his own right, the Police's creative process was fractious. But Copeland says the group's infamous quarreling - which occasionally led to backstage fistfights - has been overstated.

"We used to read in the papers about how we were fighting all the time," he says. "I don't know what we were doing, but it wasn't fighting. When we did argue, it wasn't about petty stuff, it was about the music, because we're passionate about what we do."

That was then - before Sting went solo and the band dissolved. While the group made a few impromptu reunions at parties and weddings, the full-scale assault it is now undertaking has brought back a few old feelings.

"It was harder to get back together than any of us thought it would be," Copeland says. "Sting, Andy and I have each been master of his own universe for more than 20 years and we've not used to collaborating."

It's been even tougher for Sting.

"The difference between solo Sting and band Sting is noticeable," Copeland says. "He's a very different character when he's doing his own music than when he's doing Police songs. When he finally gives himself to the band and relinquishes total ownership of everything, he becomes loose, relaxed."

Fans, of course, want to see that old Sting, the one who used to dance crazily to 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' or 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'. The tour doesn't start until next week, but the band has already netted 8 million in combined ticket presales.

Without having even played a club gig, the Police have already got the biggest tour of 2007. And while they'll be visiting huge stadiums, Copeland says the shows will be stripped-down affairs.

"We haven't got a floating pig," he says, referring to Pink Floyd's famous concert accessory. "The stage setup is really simple - it's the music that's complex."

© New York Post by Dan Aquilante
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