Police trade glitz for cool and calculated passion...
They sang about spiritual matters, yet excited their fans to physical frenzy.
They sang about sadness and pain, yet their followers displayed nothing but joy.
On stage they were cool and calculating, yet the end result was passion.
Those were but a few of the ironies the members of The Police created during their performance before a perspiring crowd of 17,500 at Edmonton's sweltering Northlands Coliseum (of which approximately 5,000 came from Calgary).
From the pressing throng at the front of the stage to the voices echoing back the choruses of songs, the crossover appeal of this trio of blondes is unmatched by any new act which has emerged in the post-punk era.
The Police uncannily fused the spirit of the '60s (peace, love and spiritual understanding) with the spirit of the '80s (reggae, regret and searching for better ways) to create a unique sound which left the unusual sight of teenyboppers humming phrases from the song Synchronicity, which were inspired by the psychological musings of Carl Jung.
There was truly a strange magical sense at The Police show, a curious meeting of artistic expression with the crudity of rock idolatry, embodied nicely by the band's two backup female singers adorned in black Arabic robes (like symbols of death).
The members of The Police - led by bassist, movie star and resident sex symbol Sting - walked a cultural tightrope between these two poles, yet never fell off into the abyss of glitzy showmanship.
Instead, there was a persistent ethereal angst to such songs as 'O My God', 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Tea In The Sahara'.
The tunes were given an added intriguing dimension by the fact that Sting, the object of mass adulation, was constantly baring his heart and soul revealing how alone he is before the greater mysteries of the world, from human love to God.
No matter how cynical one might be over this trio's success, there can be no denying its songwriting sincerity. Sting proved Monday night, as he has album after album, that he has the ability to write catchy hooks like Paul McCartney but give them the personal urgency and drama of John Lennon.
Which is undoubtedly why The Police are so popular. To hold this against the group, as many reactionary rock'n'roll fans do, would be the same as saying The Beatles weren't a good band, otherwise they wouldn't have been so popular.
And Sting's knack for individualism in the midst of commercialism was fuelled musically by the lean guitar work of Andy Summers and the sparse but passionate percussion work of drummer Stewart Copeland.
Copeland was particularly interesting, creating strong rhythms without flailing away at his skins like a man possessed. Instead his use of cymbals and timely percussive riffs only added to the subtle intensity of the band's music.
This was truly intelligent rock music, embodying reggae and jazz influences too, a veritable melting pot of all that is rock'n'roll in the '80s.
The Police were so captivating, so unique and engrossing, that the opening act of The Thompson Twins became but a distant memory as the evening ended - despite its impressive set of progressive dance music for the nuclear age of disenchanted romantics.
The Thompson Twins - playing mostly songs from its last album - created an interesting fusion between dance rhythms and allusions to love, often reaching joyful heights due to their energy on stage.
But despite the enthusiasm of this up and coming band, the night belonged to The Police. Its sedate but soaring, spiritual but steamy concert left so many doors to be opened before this trio's creative capacities have been exhausted.
Unlike the million album sales by bands such as Journey or Loverboy, The Police are a group with something on its collective mind. Needless to say, it was nice to see a crowd go wild Monday night over a band which can rise above the pubescent concerns of most commercial acts and offer its listeners songs of substance.
(c) The Calgary Herald by James Muretich