The Police at Western Springs...
January 19, 2008 

So here we are again - nearly 24 years after the Police last played Western Springs at what was the height of the band's fame and what turned out to be the beginning of the end.

Back then a record 60,000 or so of us packed into the arena in an era before $300-plus front row seats and video screens.

This time 30,000 - well according to Sting but looking rather less - trundled along to the second New Zealand date of the world's biggest rock reunion tour of the past year. And they got what they paid for pretty much - a slick 90-minute wander down the Police's five album-long memory lane with all the bells and whistles.

It leaned heavily on the earlier more poptastic works delivered with an energy and skill which belied the age of the songs or those playing them. But as an occasion, it didn't really feel anything special, just an enjoyable reminder of a once-huge band's impressive hitlist.

Love him or loathe him, Sting was a sexy beast with his beard, amulet, tight T-shirt and trou making him look like he had come straight from his audition for Pirates of the Caribbean IV.

If he made it look easy as the playing of his battered bass and keening voice worked in seemingly contradictory rhythms, his bandmates, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland, were pictures of intense concentration.

Behind the kit or wandering up to his vast percussion rack on 'Wrapped Around My Finger', Copeland was a rhythmic wonder while Summers' effects-heavy guitar with finicky arpeggios reminded how he helped define the sound of the instrument in the '80s.

However, all those muso tendencies did get in the way. Whether it was the jazz orbit that 'Walking on the Moon' spun off into early on, the similar improvisatory urges towards that poor old girl 'Roxanne', or a couple of extended jazz-funk escapades with guitar solos, the interludes only served to remind that those old Police albums sure started to get boring towards the end huh?

But the Police's earlier rock'n' reggae approach still proved highly infectious with all those singalong yo-yo-yos, and de-da-das-das.

Some of the most powerful moments of the night weren't the deep and meaningful numbers, but the fuzzy likes of 'Can't Stand Losing You', 'So Lonely' and the last-encore finale of 'Next To You'.

Yes, it might have got lost a little along the way but the Police proved suitably arresting.

After a forgettable opening set by English unknowns Fiction Plane fronted by Joe Sumner - son and voice-heir of Sting - it was the song and dance extravaganza of solo Black Eyed Pea, Fergie.

The Californian and her dancers sure worked hard to make an impression on an indifferent audience - nice one-handed somersault that woman! - but the rock covers medley that followed the fizzy bubblegum hip-hop hits of her album was excruciating, especially in front of an audience old enough to remember the songs before Fergie's ADD got hold of them.

© The New Zealand Herald by Russell Baillie

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