Synchronicity
Aug
27
1983
Winnipeg, CAWinnipeg Arena
With Thompson Twins
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Police easily lives up to expectations...

Charming the masses has never appeared to be one of The Police's musical ambitions - probably because it has become the easiest thing in the world for the band to do.

In this city, the masses translates into (unofficially) the largest paid attendance ever to watch an indoor concert in Winnipeg. A sell-out crowd of 16,300 at the arena bore witness to a rock and roll performance that was, although not any more monumental than those of other high-quality bands, extremely satisfying in the sense that it seemed to meet with everyone's positive expectations.

Musically, The Police has come to represent the agreeable side of super popular rock. From all appearances, the band has remained justifiably self-righteous and altogether uncompromising in its general approach to writing, recording and touring. Each of its five albums has exhibited honest efforts to evolve and divert stylistically, and certainly ho other task a band undertakes validates its remaining in business as much as its showing an honest desire to change and (hopefully) make musical progress.

Although not everyone agrees The Police's sound and ideas embody a positive transformation, the fact that the transformation remains important to the trio almost guarantees they will continue to be visible and worth consideration as long as they exist as a unit.

Obviously, artistic integrity isn't the only factor involved in becoming commercially successful and it is not something that can be quantified in dollars and cents. When it comes right down to whether a band like The Police deserves all the hype, things such as musicianship and charisma become essential. As everyone saw Saturday night, neither of these qualities is in short supply.

Despite being nowhere near ideal acoustically (no concert in the arena has even come close), the sound was adequate (for most of the crowd) considering how well Sting's vocals came across. If, however, anyone wished to appreciate the instrumental abilities of guitarist Andy Summers, drummer Stewart Copeland and bassist Sting, he or she was in the wrong building.

The Police opened with 'Synchronicity II', a song that, besides epitomizing the band's gradual withdrawal from what started out as almost a fixed regard for reggae rhythmic influences, proved to be an excellent vehicle for heightening the crowd's already elevated energy level.

Two songs later, as Sting guided the band and the audience along through 'Walking In Your Footsteps', the vocalist seemed intent upon evoking a mood and visual persona distinct and compatible with each successive number.

'Footsteps' was both ethereal and strangely logical in terms of its abstract philosophism, yet was in no way in danger of becoming just another piece of heavy-handed soul-searching. Sting's levitating vocal delivery and the exultant chorus more than took care of that.

Soon after, 'Oh My God' reverted to the frenetic pacing and thematics of the opening number, although in a much funkier vein. 'Do Do Do Do Da Da Da' operated along the same buoyant lines, only to be followed by the hypersensitive and genuinely distressing balladry of 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'.

This grim tale of despair featured undoubtedly Sting's finest singing performance of the evening, just as the song might be the best example of bold humanism the band has written. Whether he felt it or not, the emotionalism Sting brought forth put the concept of romantic misery combined with defencelessness in relatable terms.

The more familiar hit 'King Of Pain' was The Police's choice for the finale and nearly achieved a comparable degree of lyrical and instrumental sensitivity. In this case, the moodiness and anguished strains of Summers' guitar playing became the keynote of a self-pitying, but believably unhappy piece.

Sting introduced the first encore, 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', as "a piece of history" as the trio made a successful attempt at recreating the sense of mystery and scandalousness which is so much a part of the recording. Also included in the half-dozen encores that were a part of a 110-minute set were the big one, 'Every Breath You Take', and an impassioned and almost nostalgic reading of a song that seemed so many stylistic turns back - 'Roxanne'.

The Thompson Twins opened the show with a vibrancy and aggression that somehow belied the inexpressiveness, that arose from arid production work on their album Side Kicks. Vocalists Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and (particularly) Joe Leeway created a whir of physical movement on stage, all the while managing to handle their respective keyboard duties. While 'Lies' (their current single) and 'Love On Your Side' proved to be especially definitive examples of the Twins' danceability, it was 'In The Name Of Love' that gave best account of the relative merits of finding a well-carved percussive groove.

(c) The Winnipeg Free Press by Frain Cory

16,300 brave heat, acoustics to cheer Police...

'If that's what you have to do to see them, it was worth it.'

"Just think," said the anxious fan on the bus, "they're in there right now!"

'They' were Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, better known as The Police. 'There' was the Winnipeg Arena, And the unknown fan's anticipation typified the attitude of the estimated 16,300 people who, Having paid $15.75 a ticket, jammed the arena Saturday night to see the Police in action.

A dedicated crew, the fans endured dreadful acoustics, a muddy sound and the withering heat inside the arena to hear the band, and came out cheering at the end.

There again, a preshow survey showed the fans - a wide range of characters, mostly teenagers or in their early '20s, from blond Sting carbon copies to the punky wave brigade - were already convinced the long-awaited concert would be a success.

Joanne Bjorklund, 16, and her sister Debbie, 14, were among those who bought their tickets the day they went on sale. What do they like about The Police? "The songs!" they chorused.

And like many of the fans, they were hoping to hear 'Every Breath You Take', the band's latest single.

Jon Pesochin and his friend Gordie Kroft, both 13, also scored their tickets on the first day. They wanted to hear the latest hit. Trevor Paul, 12, on the other hand, wanted to hear 'King Of Pain', and jokingly cited Sting's haircut as one of his favourite features of the band. Seventeen-year-old Mark Leigh took more of a historical approach. "The old material is some of the best music ever made," he enthused (he wanted to hear 'Roxanne' and 'Message In A Bottle', from the first and second albums respectively). "(But) the new stuff is pretty good."

Mike O'Keefe, 22, concurred. "The best stuff is from the first album," he said, adding that while he hoped to hear songs from the 'Outlandos d'Amour' debut, he suspected the band would concentrate on the fifth and latest set, 'Synchronicity'. Leigh wasn't deterred by the crowds and the heat. "Big crowds are always good for a concert. It makes the people really active, and it makes the groups more active."

Musician Keith Jacobsen, 18, offered a practical reason for his initial interest in the trio. "We were in a three-piece band, and we were looking for a three-piece sound."

There was heavy traffic outside the performance area during the Thompson Twins' opening set, even though the English-based band's mix of electronic and percussive dance music had more than one fan bopping in the seats. Much of the action centred around the souvenir tables, where fans could (and did) buy a Police jersey for $15, a T-shirt for $12, a program for $7 or, at the lower end, buttons for $2 (every cent you make ...). The T-shirts in particular proved handy in the heat; two young male fans, eschewing propriety, changed into their new garb in the hall.

To walk up through one of the entrances was to walk into a wall of heat, and it wasn't unusual to see overheated patrons sitting and panting in the halls.

Robin Rupe and his wife, Angie, were two Police fans who weren't about to accept the heat as part of the show. "This is unfair," Angie said. Referring to the many concerts they saw in Los Angeles, she said bitterly that in that city, "People didn't pay $15 a ticket to sweat it out." "I'm sure The Police are going to be great," Robin Rupe said, but he was angry at the apparent lack of air conditioning in the arena. "We get an opportunity to see (The Police) and then we have to see them under these conditions. That's pretty poor," he said.

But if the heat was wearying before the big event began, it wasn't evident when The Police took to the stage. A mighty roar welled as the musicians - bathed in blue, red and yellow lights, a reference to the colour design on the new album - kicked off with 'Synchronicity', the first of 21 songs in a set that lasted nearly two hours.

Every move they made was televised on a huge screen suspended above them. This proved particularly effective when band members moved away from the spotlight, as when drummer Stewart Copeland quit his regular kit during Walking In Your Footsteps to work on a rear platform filled with assorted percussion instruments. Unfortunately, the transmission was lost after the 10th song ('Spirits In The Material World') and was not regained.

For some reason, possibly the arena's notoriously Unsympathetic acoustics, the sound was loud and messy, which made it difficult to recognize even the most popular Police .songs until Sting began to sing.  Fortunately, the band concentrated on its radio favourites, from the first ('Roxanne') to the latest' ('Every Breath You Take', which earned the wildest response). At one point, the band quoted from the old standard 'Jamaican Farewell', which may or may not have been a pointed allusion to the band's move away from Jamaican reggae rhythms.

The finer points of Sting's bass playing were, alas, lost in the noise. Although front-man Sting led the crowd in several sing-alongs, he made few attempts at conversation with the multitude. When he exhorted the crowd to use its chorus voice to "change the shape of the building," thousands joined in, although the arena's dimensions, appeared unmoved by this show of mass force.

Still, nobody was complaining, least of all locally-based promoter Bruce Rathbone (the man who represents concert producers Perryscope Productions in this region). Asked after the concert if he was happy with the  event, he replied: "I think ecstatic is the word."

The concert, he added, will "leave everyone with a nice taste." Similar sentiments were expressed outside the arena by Kim Wilson and Justine Shields, both 14, who reeled off words such as "great", -"excellent" and "terrific" to describe the night, The two fans, who said they were among the first to buy tickets, said that, yes, The Police played all their favourites. But what did they think of the heat? "It was sweltering," Shields  admitted. She- smiled. "But if that's what you've got to do to see them, it was worth it."

(c) The Winnipeg Free Press by Randal Mcllroy

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