The Police - Despite reworked songs and some age-induced deceleration, reunited trio delights nearly 50,000 at the Oakland Coliseum...
June 13, 2007 

The Police - Despite reworked songs and some age-induced deceleration, reunited trio delights nearly 50,000 at the Oakland Coliseum...

Once upon a time, Sting was arguably the coolest cat on the planet, fronting one sensational rock band.

Many songs from the labyrinth and pretentious posturing later, that varnish has certainly eroded.

But reunited with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers last night at a packed and electric Oakland Coliseum, the 55-year-old tantric practitioner was every bit the massive rock star of is prime, and he had a fantastic catalog of music as his launching pad.

Over two-plus hours, the trio reminded fans that for a five-year period in the late '70s and early '80s, they were the biggest rock band around. This is the most talked-about concert tour of 2007, and it was quite a rush to hear nearly 50,000 people sing along to every song for more than two hours.

The Police broke up 23 years ago, however, and last night the trio's once-frenetic energy was sporadic, the high notes weren't so high, and the tempos were decidedly on the jazzier, mellower side. The last of those changes was a fear of many diehard Police fans who grew disenchanted with Sting's jazzier, adult-contemporary solo material.

There was plenty of that last night, as tracks that exploded off the stage 20 years ago took sharp turns into mellow jazz grooves. But this wasn't just a case of slowing down because you can't keep up with your old self. The slower tempos allowed for some crafty treatments of some tracks, particularly the reggae-inflected 'Walking on the Moon', which gave Copeland plenty of room to show off his deft touch on an array of percussive instruments.

The set started with 'Message in a Bottle', which started in a blaze but slowed substantially after that, although the tempo changes were handled skillfully. The new treatments of many of these songs was surely frustrating for some fans, but the band deserves credit for challenging themselves as musicians to keep things fresh and not just roll out copy-paste versions of their hits.

'Synchronicity II', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', and 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' followed. Each was solid but 'Spirits in the Material World' eclipsed them all, serving as the first of many tracks to which the mostly middle-aged crowd sang and swayed.

Later in the set, during 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' the trio showed a playfulness that was missing from their final years together, as Sting stretched out the song with a bass flourish and forced Copeland and Summers to follow. They all laughed and seemed to enjoy the ride.

The hits just kept coming, from 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Invisible Sun' to 'I Can't Stand Losing You' and 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da'.

"Roxanne" closed out the set and also served as its low point, as the punk-fueled manic energy of the original gave way to a space-out rendition. This time the retreatment just didn't work.

The band was back out quickly to deliver fantastic versions of 'King of Pain' and 'So Lonely'. They left again and returned with 'Every Breath You Take' and, finally, 'Next to You', a punchy track from their debut album almost 30 years ago.

Fans expecting to be beamed back to the 1980s for carbon copies of their favorite Police songs might have been disappointed. But one of the biggest rock bands of that era showed that, despite a two-decade hiatus, they're better than a simple nostalgia tour.

© MP3.com by Jim Welte

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