Police hit Philadelphia with a touch of Memphis ska...
For a multi-act show, it really seemed to be a more symbiotic bill than most concerts. With the Police, the Specials, the Go-Go's and Oingo Boingo (the Coasters were a last minute addition) as a drawing card, nearly 20,000 music fans, mostly Philadelphians and Jerseyites, paid fifteen dollars a ticket for a full day's worth of rockin' and rollin'. The event, held at Liberty Bell Racetrack just north of Philadelphia on a warm August Saturday, began at noon with the Coasters. It would stretch to 7:30 before the Police would have the entire throng on their feet for the final encore.
In the large open-air backstage area, there was an incredible communal spirit, since, with the exception of the Coasters, all the acts knew each other well. Three of them - the Police, the Go-Go's and Oingo Boingo - are on the A&M/I.R.S. label. So it was no surprise when the three members of the Police arrived in time to watch the Go-Go's, a full three hours before they themselves were to perform.
Referring to the Go-Go's, five bouncy. female rockers from L.A., Andy Summers, the Police's diminutive guitarist said, ''We jammed with them last night at Miles's (Copeland, the Police's manager) wedding. We had some equipment set up, and we played a bunch of Elvis songs - 'Jailhouse Rock' and a few others. It was some party.''
The Police have just finished recording their fourth album, titled Ghost In The Machine. Andy said it's more up, more raw than the others. It's a fun record. The time we took off to write really helped us.'' It's been a while 9last January) since we've seen the Police in these parts. How is the band feeling?
''I don't know about anybody else, but I'm nervous,'' Andy admitted. ''We did a show in Venezuela two weeks ago, but other than that, we haven't played live in a long time.''
After the Specials and the Go-Go's turned in outstanding sets, the audience began buzzing in anticipation of the Police. Everyone knew this was to the band's only US concert until next year, and just before 6:00, the three reggae-rockers bounced on stage to a thunderous roar. They kicked off the set with 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', followed immediately by 'Walking On The Moon', with Sting using his odd-looking cutaway upright bass. Switching back to his Fender electric, Sting performed a spirited dance during 'Fall Out', the band's first UK hit. 'Man In A Suitcase ' was next, after which Sting told the crowd, ''I fell more relaxed.'' Them by way of introducing 'Bring On The Night', he said, ''This is one of my favourite songs.''
At the song's completion, Sting walked to the mike and looked out at the massive crowd, ''OK,'' he said smiling, ''this is the moment we've all been waiting for. We're going to play a few new songs and you're the first audience to hear them. Not even my mum's heard 'em.''
He slowly counted off 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, and they performed 'Invisible Suns' - a sombre. strong, deliberate tune, slower than most in their repertoire, that featured a biting Andy Summers guitar solo to match the emotional lyrics about Belfast. Then it was back to more familiar territory: 'De Do Do Do...', 'Truth Hits Everybody' (which Sting introduced as 'Truth Kills Everybody') and 'Shadows In The Rain'.
At this point they were joined on stage by their horn section: two saxophonists and a trumpet player. ''This is another first,'' Sting noted with a wave of his hand in their direction. Their first song together was 'When The World Is Running Down'. The horns punctuated the third and fourth beats of the verses, sounding a bit like the old Memphis Horns, and then backed by Sting's vocal for chorus; it was a new and surprisingly compatible evolution for the Police.
Sting announced, ''This is also from our new record, (which was released on October 2, Sting's birthday).''This one is called 'Demolition Man'.''
With that, an entirely new direction for the Police was revealed. 'Demolition Man', like several other songs on their new album, is a ska tune, in a style which is somewhat similar to reggae but is generally played much faster. 'Demolition Man' is one of the most powerful ska tunes in memory, and during this performance, Andy's furious rhythm guitar playing fuelled the song to a blistering conclusion'.
Another new one followed, 'One World (Not Three)'. Again, a ska tune, but this time a slower one, with a stark middle section reminiscent of 'Roxanne'. The horns provided the accenting rhythms, and Andy echoed them with his chord work. The fourth and final song was one called 'We Are Spirits In The Material World', again ska and again slower, with a hypnotic, rhythmic melody line.
The regular set closed following spirited renditions of 'Bed's Too Big Without You', the horns adding muscle to the melody while Sting played synthesiser with his foot; 'Driven To Tears', 'Message In A Bottle', and the expected 'Roxanne'. They encored with the powerhouse 'Can't Stand Losing You', and Sting began to get playful with the crowd.
''Want some more??'' he teased. ''C'mon, we're not gonna play for months!'' The place exploded. ''We did this before, but I like it a lot,'' Sting added as they tore into 'Demolition Man' again. But this time, another bass player came out, freeing Sting to pick up a silver saxophone and join the horn section to everyone's delight.
It was a unique performance and a bold but totally successful experimental show by one of the most innovative bands of the moment. After this, the Police were to take a month off, tour Germany throughout October and retreat to some individual projects. Stewart will be exploring the making of videos and films, Andy is set to record an album with eccentric and brilliant Robert Fripp, and Sting will experience his first lead role as an actor in a production titled 'Brimstone & Treacle', in which (he says) he plays a ''disturbing young man with evil intent.''
That certainly doesn't describe our favourite blond disciple of Bob Marley, but then, that's what acting is all about.
(c) Circus by Steve Weltzman
The Police in Philadelphia...
Not since last Christmas had any of us seen a full Police concert so I was delighted to be able to go along with some of Miles' wedding guests in a special coach from New York to Philadelphia on Saturday August 22.
The Police were once again breaking new ground for rock music at The Liberty Bell Horse Racing Track. The area was vast and even though there were approx.16,000 young people enjoying themselves, there was still room to move around the various stalls in comfort. Another good thing was that although the stage was high enough not to allow anyone to jump on easily, there was no VIP area immediately in front and people could get right up close to the performers. This is so much fairer than having all the 'guests' push in to the front at the last minute after one has been standing in position for several hours.
It was a perfect day for an open-air concert - very warm and dry but cloudy. The show opened just after midday with Miles' wedding party band. The Original Driftas were next followed by the Go-Go 's and then the chart topping Specials - all great bands, especially the four-girl Go-Go's. But by 5.30pm the crowd was beginning buzz... it was ready for The Police!
I managed to squeeze on to the side of the stage, which although not an ideal position, did mean I could see everything that was happening. The band's dressing room was about 200-yards away and the crowd must have see The Police coach drive up to the stage before I did, because suddenly a big cheer went up and while I was still wondering why, on leapt Sting, Andy and Stewart.
I had seen them only half an hour earlier but the impact was just as if it was for the first time since Christmas - they looked magnetic! Sting wore comfortable baggy white jeans and an equally baggy white tee-shirt with the arms shorn off; Stewart was in the inevitable satin shorts and a tee-shirt with broad arrows across the chest; Andy looked smart in his black lurex jacket and black pants.
Without any delay they smashed into their set at 5.45pm, starting with: 'Voices Inside My Head', 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'Walking On The Moon' (Sting playing Brian the bass on this one), 'Death Wish', 'Fall Out', 'Man In A Suitcase', 'Bring On The Night' then one of the new numbers: 'Invisible Sun' (our new single). 'Do-Do-Do-Do, De-Da-Da-Da', 'Truth Hits Everybody', 'Shadows In The Rain', (with bass Brian again) followed and then a big surprise - a brass section of three guys came on to join The Police - standing to one side of the stage for: 'When The World is Running Down' and three more new songs: 'Demolition Man' (magnificent lead guitar work from Andy), 'One World (Not Three)' and 'Spirits In The Material World'.
The brass section strolled off and the set was resumed with some familiar numbers: 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', 'Driven To Tears' and 'Message In A Bottle' before back came the brass boys for 'Roxanne'. The set finished at 7.10pm.
Naturally the crowd, which had stood enthralled for nearly an hour and a half were not going to let it go at that ... roars for an encore eventually brought the three back for 'I Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Be My Girl'. Then Danny Quatrochi took over bass to allow Sting to blow sax on another superb rendering of 'Demolition Man', finally finishing the show at 7.30pm - and the boys ran down the runway and on to the waiting bus while I staggered from the side of the stage, utterly exhausted.
To say that the 'Philly' audience was stunned is putting it mildly. They hadn't seen anything like this before and The Police have acquired lots of new followers among the American music fans.
(c) Dee Boyd for Outlandos/Sting.com