Aug
01
2007

New York City, NY, US (Madison Square Garden)

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With Fiction Plane

SHOW REVIEW

Night of the Exuberant Chuckleheads - No amount of dorky, proggy wankery can squash the joy of a Police reunion...

I understand the aversion here. These dudes are old. Sting reigns supreme in the pantheon of pedantic, self-aggrandizing, lute-plucking chuckleheads. (This is admittedly a small pantheon.) And the glorious Police reunion, tearing a trail from Vancouver eastward lo these past few months, is a towering monolith of no$$$talgia, magically transforming Madison Square Garden into Scrooge McDuck's vault of glittering gold coins for Sting and Andy Summers and Stuart Copeland to dive into and paddle through Wednesday night. To once again delight in Sting's vocal tics at the band's first headlining NYC show in 15 years or so cost you about $20 per eeee-yo. And oh, did the masses pay, snappily dressed oily gentlemen slapping their conspicuously more attractive lady friends on the ass in perfect time to 'Every Breath You Take.'

Loved it, loved it, loved it. I am not going to pretend to be objective about this - as a kid, I had two goldfish named Stuart and Andy. (Naming a goldfish Sting seemed absurd.) Crass as one might understandably find the cash-grab reunion extravaganza, for true believers, whether your religion involves the Pixies, Squeeze, or Rage Against the Machine, such a second coming can inspire rapture indeed.

Consider the case of one guy in absolute rapture Wednesday night: Stuart Copeland. The Police's revered drummer, the heartbeat - manic, erratic, regularly irregular - of the trio's half-propulsive, half-forgivably pretentious reggae-rock hybrid, looked absolutely overjoyed to be up there, the ol' band back together again, bashing out those first few snare shots of 'Message in a Bottle' with the gleeful aplomb of a two-year-old whacking an overturned box with a soup ladle. His noggin slapped up on one of the three JumboTrons, Stu looked like a long- retired Egon from Ghostbusters, a headband barely suppressing a weedy shock of gray hair permanently threatening to engulf his professorial glasses and secretarial headset for the occasional backup vocal. He looked absolutely shocked to be there, shocked and overjoyed, like he wasn't the Police's drummer at all, but a superfan who'd won some sort of contest, and now he got to jam at MSG with his Favorite Band of All Time, rattling off fills within fills, Russian nesting dolls of exuberant overplaying. Whenever he broke a stick (which was often), he'd whip it high in the air, where it'd clank to the ground 20 feet behind him, offstage. Reunions are indulgent, absolutely, but it ain't always about the money.

On to the somewhat objective criticism: The slow, atmospheric tunes were slightly better, the punked-up rockers slightly worse. Nobody can screw up 'Message In A Bottle,' but 'Synchronicity II' followed and slogged about, muddy and stuttering, a jumble of verses, pre-choruses, and pre-pre-choruses with less clarity and tangible form than the Loch Ness Monster itself. Anything aggressive and steely - Outlandos D'Amour tracks, basically, along with a lurching 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' (the only visceral stinker of the evening, dopey key change and all) - suffered thus, but not horribly. Hell, even the crowd call-and-response on the stinker was pretty great:

Sting: ''De do do do!''

Besotted crowd: ''De da da da!''

Sting can still boom out those eee-yo's, though at a slightly lower pitch, craftily dodging the high notes and keeping a little in reserve on everything but, oddly enough, the forlorn rocksteady of 'The Bed's Too Big Without You,' probably the least famous song in the entire two-hour set. Probably not a coincidence. He hit his marks and kept things moving. The true danger of this show was that the boys would go all Jazz Odyssey on us, unleashing wan, wonky jams that'd turn every three-minute pop grenade into a 10-minute dunce-prog ordeal. But Sting kept his lute-plucking chuckleheadedness in check, literally and metaphorically, leaving the histrionics to drums (the JumboTron flips back to Stu, merrily bashing away) and guitar.

Indeed, Andy Summers was the evening's true show-off, evidently hellbent on justifying all those Guitar World accolades of yore with blistering bouts of shredding, a bit of cock-rock bravado on 'Driven To Tears' and more high-concept King Crimson hysteria on 'Don't Stand So Close to Me,' a brutally elegant showcase of flippant Frippery. (Frippantry?) Stu won the equipment battle, though: He leapt onto a small platform and pounded on what looked like Home Depot's entire wind-chimes section for quieter, moodier fare like 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'King of Pain' and 'Walking in Your Footsteps' (underrated), once again whipping his sticks in the air and jumping back down to the main kit when he got bored and decided to provide a steadier backbeat. Like a hyperactive, starry-eyed kid handed two (or 20) mallets and set loose in a Sam Ash.

Given all this fanciness, it's fair to say the three didn't play with each other so much as over each other, messy but playful, born of rampant enthusiasm rather than show-offy pretension, every mega-hit you'd care to name ('Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,' 'So Lonely,' 'Roxanne' with a now-expected Jazz Odyssey interlude) sketched out roughly but still recognizably. And there's an undeniable thrill when the theatrics cease and these guys really, truly click, even (especially) given that it only happened once: 'Walking On The Moon.' Simple bassline, a sing-song melody and direct lyrics (''I hope my legs don't break'') perfect for a little kid with two goldfish named after the two less-famous guys in the band, ringing guitar chords that reverberate for 10 seconds or so apiece, yawning vacuums of negative space for Stu to have another exuberant seizure or Sting to let fly with $1,000 or so worth of ee-yo, ee-yoyoyo's.

Perfect. It was the fourth song - another 16 or so to go, some raucous, some sloppy, some corny, some wonky. No one much cared regardless, with everyone too excited to nitpick, both the chucklehead singing De do do do and the clamoring masses responding De da da da. And certainly not Stuart Copeland. When the cacophony of their second encore ('Next To You,' the first song on their first album) finally died down and the bows began, Stu finally spoke to the crowd directly, finally got to verbally convey his feelings about all this. And this is what he said: 'Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!'

(c) Village Voice by Rob Harvilla



New York's finest together again...

The Police performed at Madison Square Garden for the first time in 1981. It was a big step up for them at the time, and disaster nearly struck when the skin of Stewart Copeland's bass drum broke. It couldn't be fixed quickly so, to kill time, frontman Sting told jokes and sang 'The Yellow Rose of Texas'.

They've had other memorable New York shows. They kicked off their first American tour at CBGB, in 1978, and performed for 67,000 at Shea Stadium in 1983.

Their return engagement at the Garden, Wednesday, may not qualify as a landmark on the level of the others. But it was still a big night - the first of five New York and New Jersey concerts on the band's reunion tour. There will be two more Garden shows, as well as one-night stands at Giants Stadium and Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.

There are other rock reunions this summer - Genesis, Squeeze, Crowded House. But this one is by far the most notable. It's not just that The Police were hugely popular and influential from the late 1970s until they broke up in the mid-'80s. But there was a chemistry to the trio (Sting, Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers) that is impossible to reproduce with other musicians. Everyone played a vital role, like The Beatles, or The Who in their Townshend/Daltrey/Moon/Entwistle prime. Subtract Copeland's inventive drumming or Summers' imaginative guitar licks or, obviously, Sting's distinctive vocals and solid bass playing, and everything falls apart.

Wednesday's show was wisely designed to give the old music space to breathe. There were no new songs, no other musicians and few video distractions. Sting, Copeland and Summers never turned the songs upside down, but they did stretch them out.

Copeland brought enough exotic percussion instruments to stock a music store, and used them to add unexpected accents to songs like 'King of Pain', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Walking in Your Footsteps'. Sting sang 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Walking on Your Moon' with a conversational casualness. Summers took an epic solo on 'So Lonely'.

'Next To You', their punkiest number, grew into an all-out raveup, visually complemented by black-and-white photos from the band's early days.

The musicians sounded a little tentative early in the show, even on potentially explosive numbers like 'Synchronicity II' and 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'. But they hit their stride about halfway through the evening, with the irresistible 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', and nailed everything (except an oddly lifeless 'Invisible Sun') from then on. They sounded particularly sharp on 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Roxanne'.

The evening's leading feel-good number was 'Every Breath You Take', which closed the first set of encores. This is one of the band's darkest songs (it's written from the point of view of a bitter, rejected lover) and features an uncharacteristically simple beat. But it's also the band's biggest hit, and received a roaring reception.

Fiction Plane, led by Sting's son Joe Sumner, was the opening act, and will continue in this role through the tour's end. Sumner sings, sounding eerily like his father, and plays bass. Like the Police, the band also features a guitarist and a drummer, and occasionally adds reggae accents to its rock'n' roll.

Sumner, 30, is clearly talented. But one wonders if he shouldn't make more of an effort to avoid unwanted comparisons.

(c) Newark Star Ledger by Jay Lustig



Sing Along With Sting, One More Time...

During their exultant encore at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, the Police played songs from their first and last albums, released only five years apart. For the few people in the arena who weren't singing along, it was a reminder of the actual brevity of this band's reign. And when Sting altered the lyrics to one of the older songs, singing ''Welcome to the Andy Summers show'' in a verse of 'So Lonely', it was a reminder of why ages passed before this reunion tour.

Surely Sting was sincere in his plugging of Mr. Summers, the band's ingenious guitarist. He must have meant it, too, when he repeated the line with the name of Stewart Copeland, the band's wickedly cunning drummer. (Right?) But the Police were rarely such a magnanimous cooperative in their day. And in the two decades or so since, Sting has basked contentedly in the spotlight, while his former band mates tended to quieter solo careers.

The tour, which has been going all summer, bypasses this drama to get to the heart of what was there, and still is, among the three players: a lean and flexible group dynamic, spring-loaded with vital tensions. It seems the only rigid thing about the reincarnated Police is their set list, which hasn't changed substantially from one city to the next. (Sting has sung those modified lyrics on more than one occasion, too.)

Some sly liberties were taken with the songs, though not with respect to melody. On 'Synchronicity II', strange new chords underscored a spirit of portent, and Mr. Copeland periodically pulled back the tempo, imposing an artificial restraint. 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' opened into an extended jam that was loose-limbed but inspired. Less productively, there was the mellowing out of 'Truth Hits Everybody', which was originally a jittery punk screed and now resembles a sober reflection.

At times it really was the Andy Summers show. He took a handful of engrossing solos, including a customarily scabrous wail in 'Driven To Tears'. His improvisations were full of small but surprising turns, conveying much more substance than flash. He's a better musician now than he was during the band's original run, and it shows especially at the core of a song, where his playing provides the guts and the glue.

On a few tunes Mr. Copeland climbed onto a riser to play a rack of cymbals, bells and chimes, as well as several timpanis and an enormous gong. But his chief calling was naturally behind the drum kit, where he got mileage out of each twittering hi-hat ellipsis. On 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', there was excitement simply in his backbeat on the snare, which crackled like a recurring pistol report.

Sting was in superb voice as a singer, and in fine form as a bassist - he guides the band from both extremes of register - and he appeared almost suspiciously well preserved. So did his songs, which of course are the engine behind the Police's success, now as then. Because even the mega-hits hew to a fundamental sound, there was little differentiation in the show between what were once singles and B-sides. Except perhaps the reception: obviously there were bigger cheers for 'Roxanne' than for 'Voices Inside My Head'.

''We have a long history with this city,'' Sting said early in the show, pointing out that the band had played at CBGB in 1978. ''Eventually we played Madison Square Garden,'' he added nonchalantly. He didn't mention that the last time the Police performed in New York City was in 1983 at Shea Stadium, on what would be their acrimonious final tour. Why would he? Some history is better left unsaid, especially when it's being revised.

(c) New York Times by Nate Chinen



The Police's First New York Show in Twenty-Four Years: A Trio Playing In Sync...

It was obvious from the opening crash and sprint of 'Message In A Bottle' - the first number of the Police's August 1st show at Madison Square Garden - that two ingredients missing from Sting's solo life for the past two decades have been a drummer that plays too fast and a guitarist with elastic ideas about harmonics and an aversion to conventional chords.

There would be no Police reunion this year if Sting had not willed it. The band made him a superstar, and he has never been embarrassed to wield that clout, even as his own records have explored worlds far away, and even a few centuries back, from the lean power-trio dynamics of the Police's Econoline-van years. But at the Garden, the group's first New York City show since 1983, Sting was not the main attraction. He was, with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers, one-third of an extraordinary rhythm-and-hit-chorus machine. Copeland and Summers needed Sting to say yes to this tour. But Sting needed them to make his greatest hits - 'Roxanne', 'Can't Stand Losing You', 'Synchronicity II', even that maypole-dance hook in 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' - boom and glow like rock again.

Frankly, it was hard to tell how much of the new minutaie I saw Sting drilling into the old arrangements, during the Police's Vancouver rehearsals three months ago, had survived the first two months of concerts. Two songs from early set lists, 'Spirits in the Material World' and 'Murder by Numbers', didn't even make it to New York. But there was no missing the transformative drama of Copeland's tom-tom bombs in 'Driven To Tears' and Summers' shivering-Hendrix screams in the Jamaican galactica of 'Walking On The Moon'. There isn't much of a song in 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', just white-reggae anguish and the unison gunfire of the vocal, guitar and drums in the chorus, just before the last two words. But that rat-a-tat erupted in the Garden's echo like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Sting's high, keening voice was an enduring miracle in itself. He has not had much occasion on recent solo records to push it that hard, and that far up, but he did not coast through first-Police-album grenades such as 'So Lonely' or 'Truth Hits Everybody' in noticeably lower keys or tempered speeds. And in the constant sing-along by the crowd, you could hear Sting's triumph as the Police's dominant songwriter: how he used jazzy flourishes and rhythmic turnarounds that broke most Top Forty-radio laws to make punk-driven, pop-wise platinum. The Police were the biggest band of the New Wave era; Sting delivered the songs to get them there.

He still sings many of them in his own shows, often in different, more careful form. But at the Garden, he played the songs with Copeland and Summers the way the three invented them together - with arresting force.

(c) Rolling Stone by David Fricke



The Police: Still a force - Rock trio reprise the legend...

The Police broke up back in '84, but last night at Madison Square Garden, for the most anticipated rock show of 2007, the trio was definitely together.

Twenty-three years later The Police line-up is the usual suspects - Stewart Copeland on drums, Andy Summers strumming guitar and a singing bassist named Sting. They were still able to deliver their trademark mix of pop, jazz and reggae at the first of three area shows.

The gig was outstanding, strat to finish (although hardly worth the nearly $3,000 some fans are reported to have paid scalpers for a single ticket). To some celebreity fans like Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, hanging designer Donna Karen, zillionaire Ron Perelman and rock impresario Ron Delsener, the price of tickets meant nothing compared to seeing this concert.

One of the reasons this band commanded respect with stars and regular fans alike was they've remained true to their original melodies, but playful with the arrangements.

That toying and tinkering, for instance, twisted 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' into a new song. It was that kind of musical inventiveness that kept this from becoming a sappy nostalgia show.

Police crowd control was effective right from the start, getting the fans up and dancing from the first song, 'Message In A Bottle'.

From there it was pretty much a nonstop hit-fest that followed with the trio pumping new blood into well-worn No.1 radio singles like 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Invisible Sun' and, of course, 'Roxanne', played under red lights.

In all, there were more than 20 songs during the two-hour set, which the band played on a small stage with multiple video screens above. Without standard flash-pot razzle-dazzle this show had an unusual intimacy about it that let the focus stay on the music.

Earlier this year when The Police played the Grammys, they were ''Sting and the other two guys.'' Last night they looked and sounded like a band again.

At the heart of every song were Copeland's fast and furious temp switch-ups that kept his sticks a blur for most of the performance. His drumming today is even more experimental than when The Police were at their zenith and he hit his stride during 'Walking In Your Footsteps'.

Summers' fret-work was often heady as he intertwined off-centre jazz chords with Sting's bass thumps. Some of his solos noodled a little too hard, but he still has virtuosity and velocity in his fingers. He was excellent on the unexpected rocker 'Driven To Tears'.

The there was Sting.

The tantric singer is as physically buff as his beat-up Fender bass is decrepit. Sting stung the house with his signature reedy tenor and emotional delivery that said the words, some 30 years old, that still held meaning for him. When he introduced The Police schoolgirl jail-bait tune 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' he made the number even more personal when he reminded the house, ''You Know, before all this, I used to be a teacher.''

There's nothing unrehearsed about Sting. Despite his natural magnetism and charisma, he's a practiced musician who never makes the mistake of forgetting he has to entertain when on stage.

He didn't forget at this Garden party.

The Police presence will continue with another MSG show tomorrow and at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands Sunday. The Police return to New York for a one-night stand, back at the Garden, on Halloween.

(c) New York Post by Dan Aquilante



The Police fresh as ever at MSG...

Before guitarist Andy Summers became a sometime photographer, before drummer Stewart Copeland became a film-score composer and before singer-bassist Gordon ''Sting'' Sumner became a purveyor of pillowy jazz-pop, they were, collectively, The Police, an edgy, tough-minded rock band and one of the best around. After five ambitious albums they broke up in 1984 as each member yearned to pursue his own path - but on Wednesday night they regrouped, took their places on stage and picked up pretty much exactly where they left off.

Expectations have been high for The Police's 30th anniversary tour (the band formed in 1977) ever since they hinted at a reunion by performing at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for their 2003 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A harsh review of the tour's Vancouver kick-off show in May came from the usual place - a blog - but from a surprising author, Copeland, who called it ''a disaster'' and ''unbelievably lame.'' Still, that didn't stop the band from adding dates, like the one on Oct. 31 at Madison Square Garden.

On Wednesday, The Police never seemed like a nostalgia act, despite their most recent material dating to 1983. They played on a clean, sleek stage free of rugs, backdrops or props (save for a small, Oriental-style table that held a mug of liquid for Sting). The show began with straightforward versions of 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Synchronicity II', but a spaced-out take on 'Walking on the Moon' signaled a shift in approach, and the band took to stretching and shaping its old material into new forms.

'Voices Inside My Head' gave way to 'When The World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' a frayed-nerve song that now sounded strangely dreamy. Summers added tough, taut guitar to 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and 'Driven To Tears', and Copeland briefly stole the show by playing an intricate array of percussion objects (and one giant gong) on the exquisite mood-piece 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'.

Sting, looking fit in combat boots and tight black pants, often ceded the stage to his bandmates, crouching next to Summers during his solos and following Copeland's lead on trickier songs like 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', a simple pop number that turned into a rhythmic brain-teaser.

The crowd added its own production touches on 'Roxanne' and 'King of Pain', filling in the backing vocals that the trio couldn't produce on its own. The show ended with 'Next To You', a lesser-known but somewhat symbolic song: It's the first cut from the band's first album, 'Outlandos d'Amour'.

The opening act, Fiction Plane, led by Joe Sumner, Sting's son, clearly didn't mind the appearance of nepotism. Still, its clamorous, moody rock got a decent rise from the crowd.

(c) Newsday by Rafer Guzmán



The Police roll out old siren songs...

The last time the Police played the city, Ronald Reagan ruled the White House and ''Dynasty'' dominated the television ratings. Given their long time away, let's just say the band had a lot to live up to.

Luckily, at their first local reunion performance, held at Madison Square Garden last night, the Police retained all the lean sinew and pop flair that made them the world's biggest band back when they last hit town in August 1983 at Shea Stadium. Certainly, they didn't stint on the hits. They stuck almost entirely to their best-known material in a nearly two-hour show that started with a full-throttle take on 'Message In A Bottle'.

In songs like this, or its chaser, 'Synchronicity', Stewart Copeland smacked the drums with a spidery command that made it sound like his arms had quadrupled in reach. Guitarist Andy Summers ran bright rings around the beat, while Sting sent his trademark ''oh-eee-ohs'' around the arena with boyish ease.

Buoyed by the added years of experience, and a sense of the occasion, the Police took their old numbers at a brisker clip, yielding an almost fat-free performance. Though they rendered the material with the essential reverence fans require, they gingerly shook up some tunes and rhythms for a dash of the fresh.

In 'Walking On The Moon', Summers stitched a solo out of new chord structures. For 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', Sting compacted the melody in the verses. In 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', they turned the chorus tune upside down, making it more reflective.

Only one semiobscure number surfaced, 1978's pop gem 'The Truth Hits Everybody'. But all the material served to underscore the brilliant notion that launched the band - to recast the sensuality of reggae with the resolve of British new wave.

The show could have benefited from more looseness. The furthest they went in that regard were several long, angular guitar solos. But given so long a layoff, the direct approach made sense.

And it's hard to carp about any show that highlighted a catalogue so rich in winning tunes and clever hooks, let alone one that delivered them with so much zest.

(c) New York Daily News by Jim Farber

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