Nov
03
2007

Atlantic City, NJ, US (Boardwalk Hall)

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With Fiction Plane

SHOW REVIEW

The Police in Atlantic City...

Reunions have become increasingly commonplace, and it's easy to dismiss the musicians involved as money-hungry shells of their former selves. So many of our aging idols seem to be shuffling onto stage just to reconfirm their legacies. But not the Police.

For them, this reunion has been unapologetically self-indulgent, but fans should find no reason to feel slighted. It's the band's very selfishness that makes them so thrilling to watch. There is nothing left to prove at this aged point in their career, and it has made their beloved classics sound outright carefree. The Police bring to life all the spontaneity and improvisational prowess we remember about this power trio. Little is manufactured, tired or routine.

Sure, Andy Summer's fretting hand is a bit clumsy (but it always was), Stewart Copeland might look alarmingly out of breath at moments and Sting might skimp on a few high notes during 'Roxanne', but the three of them still perform with a feverish and spirited virtuosity.

Upon entering Atlantic City's surprisingly intimate Boardwalk Hall, it was hard to sense a great anticipation from the subdued Police crowd of elders. The band has enjoyed remarkable crossover to a wide array of younger fans, but contributing factors like the $225 face value of my ticket might be what frightens them away.

It's a shame too, because ultimately the show suffers without a youthful and participatory crowd. During an inspiring rendition of 'Driven To Tears', a friend quipped that the disinterested rotund gentleman across the aisle inhaling popcorn and soft pretzels ''may have died'' midsong, after suddenly he was nowhere to be found. Let's hope not.

Despite these environmental factors, the band played a smart and diverse set highlighted by a blistering version of 'Can't Stand Losing You'. Also offered up was the Copeland-penned 'Hole In My Life', a rarity for this tour.

It's impressive that the Police find ways to adapt the most complex of studio arrangements into their current trio format. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' sounded strikingly authentic, despite the fact that all the piano hooks had to be mimicked by guitar.

Rest assured, there are still a few moments of backing loops and triggered supporting vocals. This is especially evident on 'Walking In Your Footsteps' (which Sting comically opens sporting a pan flute, a somewhat ''Spinal Tap''-esque moment). The song, routinely mocked by die-hards, serves as mostly a vehicle to showcase Copeland's absurdly elaborate percussion apparatus.

But perhaps what's most refreshing about this latest display by the '80s superstars is the suddenly jovial Summers. He confidently carried the show despite all of Sting's charisma and star power.

This writer remembers being quite disappointed with The Police's ''Live,'' a double-disc of vintage concert recordings released in 1995, due to Summers' sloppy performances (in fairness, he did have to compete with Copeland's accelerated tempo changes). Yet somehow, at 64, he is rejuvenated and his fretwork sounds more innovative than ever before.

His fingers may appear brittle and vein-y up on the Jumbotron, but his solos are fluid and melodically adventurous. 'So Lonely' was a dazzling display of such, despite a noticeably atonal re-entry to the song's final chorus.

Hiccups aside, one should see this tour before it comes to a close. We should be grateful the band has managed to stay this musically sharp after all these years. After all, their first album, 'Outlandos D'Amour' was ''recorded in 1872,'' Sting joked from the stage.

Fiction Plane, who opened the show, offered a surprisingly confident display of arena-ready rock. Singer Joe Sumner's melodically rich soprano filled the venue in a manner that nearly rivaled his famous father.

(c) Billboard by Adam Rubenstein



The Police bring Boardwalk Hall back to the '80s...

The last time The Police took the stage together, the compact disc was making its debut, Michael Jackson was moonwalking to 'Billie Jean' and Donkey Kong was the hottest video game.

Twenty-five years is a long time to wait for anything. But the dynamic trio of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland sounded like they didn't miss a beat when they rocked Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night, proving their music is timeless and their fans' loyalty endless.

A near-capacity crowd plunked down $50 to a staggering $350 to see the eclectic musicians reunite. None seemed disappointed as The Police released an arsenal of their greatest hits with few surprises in a pleasing set that was nostalgic but also instilled hope that the three have put their differences aside and rediscovered their musical magic once again in the studio.

For now, fans have to settle for the tour, which has been a huge success as The Police have played around the U.S. and Europe, selling out arenas no smaller than Boardwalk Hall and stadiums as big as Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.

Saturday night's concert, brought to the resort by Trump Entertainment, spanned The Police's catalog of smash hits. Sting, 56, dressed in a modified ratty white T-shirt, sounds as remarkable as he appears - he's like the Dick Clark of his generation - his boyish looks matching his youthful yet powerful vocals. Copeland, sporting a black headband and bicycle jersey, smashes the drums with amazing dexterity and precision while also looking incredibly fit at 55. Summers, the oldest of the three at 64, hasn't aged as well as his partners, but he remains a virtuoso guitarist, the main reason The Police's sound is so full and tight despite being just a trio.

It was a night of jazz. A night of pop. A night of punk. And a night of rock. But most importantly, it was a night of great music.

Opening with the oldie but goodie 'Message In A Bottle', the Boardwalk Hall crowd was singing along from the first note. The Police then jammed to the mysterious'Synchronicity II' as Sting sang about the paranormal before launching the quirky 'Walking On The Moon'.

As expected, though, The Police, fresh off back-to-back sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, didn't crank out carbon copies of their records. Instead, their superb talent rose to the occasion as the band re-imagined a good deal of songs.

'Wrapped Around Your Finger' had a more hypnotizing aura. 'Invisible Sun' was more upbeat and fun. 'Can't Stand Losing You' had more intensity than ever. 'So Lonely' featured a killer Summers' guitar solo. And nearly never song was extended compared to the albums they came from.

Some of the changes, however, didn't work as well.

The band seems to hold back something on 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'. 'Roxanne' was unfortunately jazzier than its reggae-ish original, and the back-and-forth ''Roxanne-oh'' between Sting and the crowd was tiresome. When the band finally found its proper pace later in the song, the crowd seemed appreciative.

The highlights were ample. 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da' offered a moment of silly fun. 'King of Pain' showed Sting's powerful voice. 'Every Breath You Take' possessed emotion and was a crowd favorite. 'Driven To Tears' and 'Hole in My Life' pleased Police loyalists. And the finale, 'Next To You', was a perfect nightcap.

The Police seemed to be having fun. Sting joked with his bandmates, putting their names into songs. They all smiled a great deal, and that chemistry paid off in their music.

As far as the stage show, The Police kept it to a minimum. Three large screens near the top of Boardwalk Hall almost always featured all three Police members, which was a nice touch. The lighting was strong but nothing fancy. And the sound was solid.

Copeland's expansive drum set, complete with a rear platform for him to stand on, gong and enough cymbals and drums to fill a music store, was impressive. He put it to good use, specifically on 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', when he put on a percussion clinic.

After a rocky start - The Police were getting mixed reviews for their early shows and Copeland himself admitted the band was not at its best - the trio has obviously found synchronicity as the tour progresses. This is a band whose musicianship and originality always melded well with their pop instincts, a rare occurrence. Twenty-five years hasn't changed them a bit.

(c) The Press Of Atlantic City by Scott Cronick

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