The Police still on the rock beat - Sting and company follow familiar script in Charlottesville...
November 06, 2007 

When The Police last toured in 1984, the Internet was a foreign concept, gas cost $1.21 a gallon, yet Sting looked the same as he does today.

Maybe it's the yoga. Or maybe he's music's Dorian Gray.

Making their first Virginia appearance since a concert 23 years ago at William & Mary Hall, The Police knocked out a list of ubiquitous radio hits and beloved album tracks at John Paul Jones Arena last night.

Though the band doesn't appear physically depleted from an arduous reunion tour that began in May, there was little spontaneity in the two-hour set, which began with 'Message in a Bottle'.

The Police have always emitted a chilly vibe, and that hasn't changed. The trio of bassist and lead singer Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers don't seem to dislike one another, but theirs is a show of cool professionalism - expertly delivered, filled with phenomenal musicianship but not much warmth.

Even when Sting mused, "What do I know about Charlottesville? It's the home of Thomas Jefferson!", it sounded more like an obligatory insert-city-name-here greeting than anything conversational.

But focusing strictly on the music isn't at all a negative. Sting's throaty rasp was almost as muscular as the rest of his frame, as his neck veins frequently bulged while he "ye-ooh-ooh'ed" through 'Walking on the Moon', his robust playing on his battered bass anchoring the song.

Though slightly lower key changes and rearranged lyrical cadences framed 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da', the songs still resonated with a welcome familiarity.

Copeland, a native Virginian, appeared to enjoy himself the most. Looking like a long-distance bicyclist in his sweatband and white gloves, Copeland showed off an athleticism behind his drum kit that is rarely seen - even holding his drumsticks the proper way (left wrist upward).

The drummer's spotlight moment came during a luxurious 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', given a suave remodeling thanks to his cymbals, chimes and xylophone.

Summers, meanwhile, engaged in a nifty clash of instruments with Sting during 'When the World is Running Down' and peeled off a squealing solo for 'Driven to Tears', a song that benefited from his light touch.

The threesome punched up the energy in the room with 'Can't Stand Losing You' and the requisite singalong of one of the most overrated songs in rock history - the tuneless 'Roxanne', which the audience devoured, as they always do.

As with many dates on this tour, pockets of empty seats were visible in the upper level, but the almost 12,000 in attendance were an appreciative group, standing and singing along most of the show.

The Police wrapped the 20-song set with the still-intoxicating stalker anthem 'Every Breath You Take' and its first small hit, the punk-rockish 'Next to You'. How fitting - to end where they began.

© The Richmond Times-Dispatch by Melissa Ruggieri

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