Jul
02
2007

St. Louis, MO, US (Scottrade Center)

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With Fiction Plane

SHOW REVIEW

The Police in St. Louis...

Like most of the 20,000 fans who poured into the Scottrade Center on Monday night, July 2, I'd been daydreaming of seeing the Police live since the band's performance on the Grammys earlier this year, even if it meant shelling out beaucoup bucks for a decent ticket and a road trip to St. Louis. After all, this is the hottest concert ticket of the summer. And then, after shelling out said bucks, I found myself with passes to the pre-show VIP tent thanks to a Best Buy contest I'd entered on a lark.

Once we got inside the arena, we were ushered into a back room done up with Moroccan rugs, tapestries and a nice spread of free appetizers. The 30 or so contest winners in the room were buzzing about in hopes of meeting Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers in person. The Best Buy winning statement was kind of vague about this point. But hey, they're serving mint tea and Moroccan food, Sting should just magically appear, right? Sadly, no. Instead, our consolation prize was an autograph opportunity with the openers, Fiction Plane.

Suddenly, I felt like we'd been sucked into a time-share presentation. The frontman for Fiction Plane is, of course, Sting's kid, Joe Sumner. That's one hell of a contract stipulation. Before the band entered the room, the Best Buy rep running the VIP area came around to each of our tables to get us pumped up about Fiction Plane. Only one person in the room seemed to be slightly familiar with the younger Sumner, a crusty gal in her late 30s who had been following the Police from city to city for the past six or seven shows. But after she asked Sumner if he was influenced by Stuart Copeland (to which he politely replied, ''Not really. I'm not a drummer'') it became pretty obvious to me that it wouldn't be worth leaving our little Moroccan paradise early to go see Fiction Plane actually play.

Halfway into Fiction Plane's set, the Best Buy rep (who got slightly offended when I turned down a free Geek Squad shirt) took us to our seats. Sumner sounds quite a bit like his father, but when it comes to songwriting and stage presence, the apple has fallen far from the tree.

During the intermission, a group of sorority girls, who were quite possibly the youngest attendees at the show, took their seats next to us. I'd find out later that these girls came equipped with only one dance move, which would be repeated throughout the concert's entirely, or at least until one lost her balance, dumping her $8 beer and falling on top of the couple in their 50s in the row in front of us.

Once Bob Marley's 'Get Up, Stand Up' came over the loud speakers, the lights went out and the place went apeshit. Stewart Copeland banged a huge gong and the band kicked into 'Message In A Bottle'. For over two hours, the crowd stayed on its feet while Police played every hit out of its catalogue and then some, each with its own small deviation from the original.

Sting looked and sounded great, although it was obvious on songs like 'Roxanne', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' that his voice can't handle the higher notes like it once did. No matter, though, my eyes were fixed on Copeland for the majority of the show. He's an incredible drummer, enthusiastically hopping from a drum kit to a xylophone to wind chimes while haphazardly tossing drumsticks to the poor souls behind him who were forced to watch the band's backs the entire evening. Guitarist Andy Summers, on the other hand, seemed completely disinterested.

With almost zero banter between Sting and the crowd (and three short encores), the evening chugged along at a pretty fast pace. For a few songs mid-set, such as 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and 'Invisible Sun', it seemed like the band was merely going through the motions, but they made up for it on lesser known selections like 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' and 'Murder By Numbers'. They ended the show on a high note, starting the last encore with 'Every Breath You Take' followed by 'Next To You', quite possibly the most energetic part of the evening. All in all, the Police did not disappoint, but I doubt I'd shell out $225 to see them again, at least, not until they find a better opening act.

(c) The Pitch (Kansas City) by Andy Vihstadt



The Police at the Scottrade Center, St. Louis...

They could have called this ''The i-Tour,'' the letter ''i'' being the center of ''Sting,'' who is the center of the universe that is the newly regathered Police.

This reunion of theirs, he told Rolling Stone, is ''about me having a good time; I want the band to enjoy it, but they can't unless I am.''

Monday night in St. Louis, Sting looked like he was nursing a sore throat (he sprayed it several times with what looked like an over-the-counter medicine/numbing agent), but he also looked like he was having a pretty good time.

Twenty-three years after they quit while they were still way ahead, the Police are playing to rowdy crowds in big venues once again, and many of the 20,000 people in the crowd were (like me) long-time fans catching one of their favorite bands live for the first time. Can you be nostalgic about something you've never done? Apparently so.

In the nearly quarter of a century that has passed since the Police disbanded, all three have taken separate journeys and immersed themselves in other musical projects.

Here and there, from drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers, you can hear the effects of those journeys in the new versions of the old songs, but there's no doubt who is running this show: the second wealthiest bass player in the world.

The Police songs are Sting songs, and on this tour they sound even more like Sting's. Or like a hybrid of solo Sting and the Police. At times the effect was sensational: The jam at the end of 'Walking On The Moon' was so fabulous, Sting pointed emphatically at Summers as the crowd roared.

His leads are somehow brilliantly ornate and complex but understated. Sting would give Copeland his props, too. During 'Wrapped Around My Finger', he added some xylophone, chimes and gong. Likewise, the instrumental during 'So Lonely' was an exhilarating fusion of power and finesse.

Sting started flirting with progressive rock and jazz arrangements before he folded the Police, but the band was, at heart, a rock band. Monday night, especially during the longer instrumentals, the Police generated a vibe that evoked the styles and sounds of King Crimson, early Yes and bands like Weather Report.

If this tour illuminates anything, it ought to be what a great band of bona-fide musicians the Police are, including (especially?) Sting on bass. Several times the crowd just stood and admired them as they jammed, the way fans do at a Tool show.

Oddly enough, however, there were a few lulls in the show. Sting doesn't write classic arena-sized sing-along rock anthems. His rhythms and arrangements (and syntax) tend to extinguish momentum.

He got people to join in several times, but there's something odd about trying to sing lines like ''every meeting with his so-called superior is a humiliating kick in the crotch'' or ''caught between the Scylla and Charibides.''

Sting made that one the last song of the main set, which seemed to catch Summers off-guard. Apparently his voice was ailing so much he sliced a song or two off the setlist. They did come back for four encores, but the show clocked in about five minutes under two hours.

But this tour was started with a premise: When the guy who sings isn't feeling well, its time to go home.

A note about the opening band: Fiction Plane is a three-piece rock band from England with a bass player as a lead vocalist. His name is Joe Sumner. His dad is Sting. He sounds a lot like Sting, the way Julian Lennon sounded (eerily) a lot like his father.

His band's music sounds, at times, like a heavier version of Sting's early solo material.

Fiction Plane is learning that in the beginning, you may play before a room barely half-filled with complete strangers.

The good news for them: When your bass player's dad is Sting, those ''rooms'' are hockey arenas with about 8,000 people watching and listening. And after Fiction Plane's set, about 300 lined up for autographs.

(c) The Kansas City Star by Timothy Finn



The Police in St. Louis, July 2, 2007...

Despite the Best Buy sponsorship, break-the-bank ticket prices and vast array of merch (although the rug featuring the cover of 'Outlandos d'Amour' screened on it was rather cool) - the Police didn't sell out by doing a reunion tour.

For starters, this jaunt wasn't a straight nostalgia trip where the band trotted out its biggest hits in their original form. The trio radically reworked many of its familiar hits - i.e., different melodies, unexpected harmonies, intricate arrangements - rendering a few nearly unrecognizable until the lyrics kicked in. While a commendable move - after all, the path of least resistance would have been for them to re-learn how to play the original versions, and some of the new versions were insanely good - these experiments were extremely hit-or-miss.

'Don't Stand So Close to Me' appeared to start like the original, all slow and murky. But then the chorus switched into a minor key, over which Sting sang a completely different melody line than either version of the song (even if one could sing the chorus of the 1986 version of the song over the new music, and it would have fit like a glove). Either way, the arrangement never meshed, and the song felt clunky.

The roller-coaster-speed 'Synchronicity II' also dragged; despite featuring near-operatic wails from Sting (perhaps all of that Tantric sex or power yoga keeps his voice strong), the song kept building and building, but never reached a satisfying or transcendent resolution. An encore rendition of 'Roxanne' featured a loping, stroll-in-the-park reggae jam in the middle that negated its taut spark. (Sting's been doing this version of the song in his solo sets for years, and frankly he needs to stop.)

'Invisible Sun', originally a deliciously ominous slow-burn, instead felt plodding and ponderous - if not weighed down by the serious, black-and-white photos of the band and underprivileged children flashed on the video screens above the stage. (Shades of U2 and its political gravitas, honestly - which isn't surprising, seeing as how Bono dueted with the Police on that song in 1986.)

Now, don't get me wrong: The sheer number and scope of these tweaks overall was often awe-inspiring; in fact, the entire show was technically impressive, from an ex-marching-band-geek standpoint, and more than handily demonstrated the immense musical talent of the Police. And I can't fault the band for experimenting to keep itself interested in its own music.

But the new versions of old hits were often boring and self-indulgent, and deflated the excitement and energy in the crowd. (The couple sitting behind me actually left about halfway through.) Casual fans who came for the hits seemed sorely disappointed in the lack of familiarity; a few around me even resorted to smoking some seriously strong doobage to get through the tail-end of the set. I have to wonder how the vast number of kids there with their parents - and there were a ton - felt about the songs.

Whether stubbornly refusing to rely on the past, casino-circuit-style, was the band's condition for reuniting (or maybe because Sting couldn't hit some of the higher notes in the songs, despite his still-impressive voice) is unclear; either way, the concert contained the songs as the Police wanted them to sound in 2007 - and it didn't seem to care how they were received or perceived. (Which, admittedly, is pretty fucking punk rock.)

Now, that's not to say that the entire set was sub-par. In fact, the second half of the show showed flashes of brilliance. A slowed-down version of the 1978 new-wave thrasher 'Truth Hits Everybody' was dynamic, while a faithful-to-the-original renditions of 'King of Pain' (here's a great clip of the current version here; I think it was my favorite song of the night) and 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' were inspiring. 'Every Breath You Take' was thankfully brisker - if not the most perfunctory song of the set (which isn't surprising, considering it felt like the song the band least wanted to perform, the hit it ''had'' to play).

'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was even better. Stewart Copeland emerged from behind his drumkit to an auxiliary percussion rig - which contained, among other trinkets, mini cymbals hanging from strings, xylophone and timpani - for the early verses and choruses, creating a mystical, wind-chime-like shimmer of beats in the background. At some point in the middle, where the song builds to Sting singing, ''I will turn your flesh to alabaster / Then you will find your servant is your master,'' he ran back behind his drumkit to add forceful; the song's dynamic build was the best of the night. (See examples of his shenanigans here.)

The bookish-looking Copeland really was the star of the show. He received the most applause when introduced, and looked like he was having the most fun performing and experimenting - based on the frequent smiles, looks of beatific concentration and mouthing-along to songs. (Heck, during 'King of Pain', he even ended up playing the drums using multiple drumsticks in each hand.) And to its credit, the trio showed few signs of the fractures and in-fighting that people expected from the band. Sting and guitarist Andy Summers often hammed it up with each other - especially during 'So Lonely', during which the former put his head on the latter's shoulder while they were playing (aww).

To his credit, Sting playfully mocked the band's longevity, at one point saying, ''The first time we came to St. Louis in 1875...'' and trying to remember where the band played its first time in town: ''Mississippi something...'' Then the light dawned on him: ''Mississippi NIGHTS!'' he exclaimed, and tossed his hands in the air, messianic-style, before inserting the venue name at the start of 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', to rapturous applause.

For such a high-profile reunion, the atmosphere was incredibly low-key. Copeland sported a headband and what looked like a bicyclist jersey, as if he had just come from the gym and hopped behind his drumkit. Sting looked like he just dropped by after yoga class, with his plain black pants and muscle shirt. And as my show companion noted, guitarist Andy Summers seemed like he was about ready to serve you some wine, with his classy black outfit and demeanor. The stage set-up was similarly unadorned, with crystal-clear screens projecting images of the band and a tasteful, impressive light show the only indulgences.

When the band came out for the third encore of 'Next To You' - played closely in spirit to the punkish original - it was bittersweet. The galloping tempo and energetic riffing demonstrated urgency was lacking through much of the set. Then again, the Police conquered the world nearly 25 years ago; do its members need to prove themselves again to anyone? Probably not. In fact, this reunion tour in the end seemed like a fun way for the band to spend its summer vacation - hanging out with old friends, fooling around and playing music and having a grand old time.

(c) The Riverfront Times by Annie Zaleski



Three's company: Sting, Copeland and Summers tear through the hits with few misses...

While it's hard to imagine the Sting of yore sipping a cup of tea - which had its own bright and multi-colored wooden stand, looking like it was blessed by the Dalai Lama - he did frequently Monday night, for a packed house at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

It's a reunion tour 30 years in the making for the Police, and besides the tea sips, muscled Sting still looked and sounded fantastic, while his brethren, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, have aged some, looking more like quirky uncles than rock stars.

But appearances aside - all three were in dark shades of blue and black - it was the music that brought out 10s of thousands, kicking off a holiday week, and the Police delivered the goods - for the most part.

A couple bigger hits for the group - who became music legends even though they were together little more than half a decade - suffered due to the reducing range of Sting's voice and the fact that the only musicians on stage were the three: Sting on bass, Summers on guitar and Copeland slamming away on his massive drum kit - more on that later.

'Don't Stand So Close to Me' was sour-sounding and off both vocally and with Summers' strumming. And while it was nice to see the audience bathed in red light for 'Roxanne', both it and 'Every Breath You Take', massive hits for the group, were lowlights in a set heavy with high ones.

That's all the negativity I can muster for this top-notch show, though, that seemed to see the trio feeding off the manic energy of a St. Louis crowd.

It was refreshing to see the Police bravely put themselves out there alone, with no backing players or singers, so any note that wasn't hit was heard by all. An open set with fine, but low-key lighting allowed everyone in the house to get a decent view - even for the people who sat all the way back, behind the stage, who got an extended showcase of Sting's bum.

Amazingly what sounded superior were the early, reggae-influenced tunes dug up for our enjoyment. 'Can't Stand Losing You' saw the typically serene Summers hopping about the stage in a bit of frenzy, the manic pace closing out the set before a lengthy encore.

Sting sounded a man half his age when launching into 'So Lonely', hitting high notes he seemed to strive for all evening.

Hearing nearly all of the band's hits in one night - 'Spirits in the Material World' was oddly omitted - I was reminded that many of the group's tunes are not full-on rockers, so when they tore into cuts like 'Synchronicity II' and the evening's closer, 'Next To You', the energy level went from 8 to 11.

The cheers Copeland - one of the most revered rock drummers ever - received nearly rivaled those of Sting, and, donned in a jogging suit and his typical bandana, he riveted the room with his playing. It was magical to watch him toss off drumsticks, only to see a new set instantly appear in his clutches.

For some tracks, like the delightful 'Walking in Your Footsteps', a set of dangling percussion instruments rose from the stage so Copeland could play what looked like grandma's backyard with wind chimes and other assorted metal flutterers. The small set also held his huge gong, which he used to kick off the festivities.

While Summers no longer looks like a rocker, he calmly was remarkable and fresh on 'Driven To Tears' and 'Truth Hits Everybody'.

It was Sting, though, that led the way, getting the crowd to sing 'De Da Da Da' and 'ooh' along in an extended, guitar-heavy 'Roxanne.'

It was a nostalgic evening, as surprised faces lit up for 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', realizing, 'Wow, these guys had a lot of hits.'

They packed a whole bunch of them into a nearly two-hour set, leaving the crowd wanting one more as the trio - notoriously not always on good terms - joined hands for a quick succession of bows.

(c) The Telegraph by Corey Stulce



The Police satisfy in reunion tour at Scottrade...

The Police honestly had to do little more than show up Monday night at the Scottrade Center.

That alone would be worth the wait - and expense - for many of the 20,000 or so fans who came to the St. Louis stop of the classic rock trio's unlikely reunion tour, which is shaping up into the concert tour of the year. After all, it's been over two decades since Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland have gotten together for a trek like this.

But the classic rockers did a lot more than show up and collect their massive paychecks at the near sold-out gig Monday (only rear of stage upper-level seats were left).

The reggae sounds of a piped-in 'Get Up, Stand Up' by Bob Marley appropriately brought out the three gentlemen, who unleashed the equally familiar chords of their own 'Message In A Bottle', performed faithfully on a big, open stage with a ramp circling the back of the stage.

The large stage gave the band plenty of room to move, and it turns out they needed it. That's not to allow for space to better hold egos or maintain any residual strain between band members. If there was any of that, it wasn't obvious between singer Sting, guitarist Summers, and drummer Copeland, who were still often connecting and clicking where it counts. Copeland in particular came off like a real MVP.

What the Police needed the extra room for were the songs themselves at times. Rather than rest on its laurels and just pump out the hits the way they were recorded, the rock-reggae band gets points for using this opportunity to stretch some of its biggest hits into new shapes and sizes, even when it didn't always work. The heavily-debated reinterpretations could be as creative as they were aggravating.

'Voices Inside My Head', an example of the latter, felt tentative and grooveless - words that could've never described the song originally. When 'Voices Inside My Head' transitioned to the hyperactive 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', it didn't sound so much like as segue as it did as if it had been aborted.

'Don't Stand So Close to Me' posed a particular challenge for the band, Copeland told the Post-Dispatch last week, to the point the band is considering dropping it. While the song wasn't as poor as Copeland suggested, it's also nothing especially memorable either.

The wailing 'Synchronicity II', bouncy 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and the percussive 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' were among the songs close enough to their original versions to keep those resistant to change happy.

And the guys couldn't go wrong with 'Roxanne', from obviously bathing the set in red light to expanding the song, taking it in different directions as if it were the jam of the year, and bringing it back during the encore. The encore also included a stirring 'King of Pain' and easy-going 'Every Breath You Take'.

The boyish Sting, in strong enough voice, didn't address the crowd often, but he did twice try to recall the name of the St. Louis nightclub where the band played its first-ever St. Louis concert. He felt relieved when fans reminded him that was Mississippi Nights. He joked it was back in 1875; the Police made its St. Louis debut there on March 16, 1978 (the show drew about a dozen people).

The two-hour, frills-free show felt as if it moved too quickly, and may have even had a ''is that all there is?'' feel for some. It's not the slam-dunk, off-the-rails bonanza it could've been. And one could argue that a couple of songs be deleted from the set list to make room for 'Demolition Man' and 'Spirits in the Material World' (which had been in the set).

Still, the band's adventuresome nature, and the fact they may never tour again, easily made it the one water cooler musical event that'll leave fans talking for a long time to come.

The opening slot on the Police tour went to Fiction Plane, a band that probably didn't have to work too hard to get this prime gig. Fiction Plane lead singer Joe Sumner is Sting's son - not that Fiction Plane is anything less than deserving. Songs from the band's new CD 'Left Side of the Brain' proves Fiction Plane has some of what it takes, including Sumner's boasting a voice so close to his father's it was almost eerie.

(c) The St.Louis Post-Dispatch by Kevin C. Johnson

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