May
23
2008

Las Vegas, NV, US (MGM Grand Garden Arena)

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With Elvis Costello & The Imposters

SHOW REVIEW

Sting Tells Fans To Have Sex, But He Doesn't Seem To Want To Get It On With His Old Band All That Much...

On stage Friday night, everyone in the Police wore nostalgia clothes that could have passed for outfits they donned during the New Wave of 1984. The hoodie-type thing on guitarist Andy Summers' chest was adorned with skeleton bone images. Drummer Stewart Copeland's black shirt featured white ''Tron''-esque squares. And Sting's open-neck black shirt had strategically placed holes in it.

I pointed that out to my life partner Stephanie, and she said, yeah, that's true, but Sting probably paid ,000 for that shirt at Versace or something, and he could have bought it in a punk store in 1978 for about .

That pretty much sums up the feel of the Police concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Like every Flashback Friday everywhere, what was lacking was the energy of youthful striving that created the original moment it was meant to flashback to. In the place of youthful energy was designer reinvention: Metro Retro.

I like Sting, even though he doesn't call or write anymore, and I liked his running bit about how everyone in the crowd should have sex together. But Sting was the weak link, which is odd to say, since his voice sounded great technically. He just didn't seem to be in the moment. He screwed up a few licks of bass guitar (on bass that was well-worn and distressed, proving his street cred, yo'), and he smile-grimaced when he played clunker notes.

Then, Sting, Andy and Stewart never seemed to look at each other. No love lost there?

And the biggest too-bad was, you could infer Sting is somewhat sick of singing all the old Police hits, because he didn't want to vocalize lines faithfully to the way they sounded originally.

Now, it's understandable when musicians get tired of playing old songs for the 5,000th time. And if they can improve old melody lines in concert, more power to them. But do you know how often bands succeed when they alter old arrangements? Oh, approximately 1 percent of the time.

This percentage was true Friday. It did nothing but detract from Police hits when Sting changed stanzas by turning famous word plays into little staccato bursts. And by the way, whenever singers anywhere change old hits on stage, that's how they change them most often: by ditching original sustain notes into machine-gun burps.

Having said all that, I'm glad I finally saw the Police. I missed their tours when I was a kid. Like most of the 10,000 people at the MGM (perhaps such as these ladies in this picture), I felt a joy of bittersweet look-back-ity to see the Police do 'Message In A Bottle', 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Roxanne'.

But I also wished I'd seen them in 1984 for the 'Synchronicity' tour. That moment is dead. This tour they're on now reminds you that that moment in music is six feet under.

The tour also makes you realize Sting used to love singing happy-nonsense phrases like ''oh-oh-oh'' in 'Every Little Thing She Does in Magic', and ''de do do do, de da da da'' in the song of the same name, and ''ee-ohh-ohh'' in 'Can't Stand Losing You'. That was always a catchy little singalong gimmick of Sting's. It still was, Friday.

I would have left happier if they'd done 'Synchronicity II', as they did earlier on the tour. Yeah, that makes me one of those fans who says, ''They didn't play my favourite song, but whatever. This was a hits tour. Where was my hit? I need my hit, man!

By contrast, Van Halen just came to town again and trotted out David Lee Roth for a much more fun flashback concert. Van Halen did all the hits you'd think they would, including my favourite, 'Hot For Teacher', which rocked, Rocked, ROCKED, I tell you, it RAAWWWKED. And Diamond Dave and Eddie van Halen were present in the moment of 1984 nostalgia the whole time in all the right ways.

So even though Diamond Dave's voice was in and out of tune, his shining performance trumped Sting's technically proficient presentation. I never would have thought that would have happened this spring, but it did. So now, I'll go back to listening to 'Synchronicity II' on my Mac or whatever, and I will be content to hear it exactly as it was released in 1 Billion B.C.

(c) Las Vegas Review Journal by Doug Elfman

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