05.02.08 The Ottawa Sun: ''Arresting Performance - Police and Elvis Costello deliver stellar performances before packed house at The Bank...''


Arresting Performance - Police and Elvis Costello deliver stellar performances before packed house at The Bank

The Police sure know how to make up for lost time.

After skipping over Ottawa - twice - on their 2007 30th anniversary reunion tour, Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers made amends by launching their latest, and supposedly last ever tour, in the nation's capital last night.

In what could be labelled the "Sorry We Missed You Tour," the Police will visit 14 cities this month, many that were left off the road map last time out.

And the former bleach-blond New Wavers brought along a friend - fellow Class of 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Elvis Costello.

Before a packed house, The Police took the stage amid a mass of Summers' guitar feedback and Copeland's frantic high-hat flutters, lapsing into the sweet nylon-string strains of 'Bring On the Night'.

And with that, the 31-year Police drought in Ottawa was over.

The band took a few songs to find its groove.

'Demolition Man', from 1981's 'Ghost in the Machine', sounded forced, and Sting had difficulty finding his distinctive tenor vocal register. When he did, the cavernous Scotiabank Place swallowed up the lyrics and spat them out in a warbled wash.

At first, the much-hyped return of the jazz and reggae-tinged post-punk songsmiths threatened to turn arena rock spectacle.

But rocky start aside, they hit their stride on 'Walking on the Moon', and never looked back, burning through a hit-laden set that kept delivering reminders of what made The Police the definitive singles band of the 1980s.

'Don't Stand So Close', 'Roxanne', 'King of Pain' and 'Every Breath You Take' were played to impassioned near-perfection.

The bleach-blond is showing more than a few streaks of grey these days, but each of the Police bandmates had his turn to shine, showcasing the immense musical prowess that set the band apart from their contemporaries.

Summers, in a Sgt. Pepper-esque royal guard jacket, ripped through his trademark tension-filled solos, and launched the standout 'Message in a Bottle' with a positively nasty riff.

Copeland, who famously derided his bandmates after a shaky start to last year's tour in Vancouver, was masterful on the drums, floating effortlessly around his massive kit, including percussion, chimes and gong, on the sublime 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'.

And Sting laid down a ribcage-rattling low end bass groove, belted out "eee-yohs" to wild applause, and cavorted about the stage during instrumental breaks.

During an extended mid-set instrumental jam, Sting broke out a sly reference to the band's post-nostalgia tour fate.

"Hit the road Jack, and don't you come back no more," he sang through a grin, while Summers and Copeland rocked-out around him.

Of course, if the band ever did decide to hit the road one more time, they'd be welcome back in Ottawa in a heartbeat.

For all the legendary spats between the three - who were at each other's throats by the time they finally split up in 1986 - they looked positively gleeful by the time they reached their second encore last night, a paint-peeling delivery of Next to You, the lead off track from their 1978 debut, 'Outlandos d'Amour'.

Before the police took the stage, Costello, in trademark black-framed spectacles and backed by The Imposters, delivered a solid 40-minute opening set, blending old favourites with tunes from his latest record, Momofuku.

After ripping through a blistering '(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea', with its lilting reggae one-drop beat, and the rousing 'Every Day I Write the Book', Costello gave fans what they came for with a tender rendition of the 1977 hit 'Alison', from his debut album 'My Aim Is True'.

With Momofuku, Costello makes a slight return to his schizophrenic geek-punk roots, the rocking 'American Gangster Time' and 'Turpentine' striking a sharp contrast to the soft, acoustic ballad 'My Three Sons'.

The highlight came mid-set, with longtime keyboardist Steve Nieve's swirling Wurlitzer giving way to a stark, almost tribal rendering of 'Watching the Detectives', before closing out with frenetic renditions of 'Radio Radio', 'Pump it Up' and the anthemic '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding'. As the song, and set, came to an abrupt close, Costello held his Telecaster aloft and the house lights came up, leaving fans wanting more.

© Ottawa Sun by Aedan Helmer
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