The first thing The Police did, on stage in Wellington for the first time since the early 1980s, was send out "an SOS". The audience answered, and so began an evening of singalong participation.
'Message in a Bottle' was swiftly followed by 'Synchronicity Part II' and 'Walking on the Moon', highlighting the clipped reggae-punk chords of Andy Summers' guitar, the split-tempo drumming of Stewart Copeland and that pure voice of Sting's (say what you like about his naff rhyming couplets, his Tantric abilities in the bedroom and his law-of-diminishing returns solo career, the man can still sing).
Tearing through a set packed with classics, Sting pulled off one of the greatest live vocal performances I have ever heard in his purposeful, jazzed-up punk of 'Driven to Tears', the pop and bounce rhythm of 'Hole in My Life', the nonsense but-brilliant-to-singalong-with 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and a driving rework of 'Invisible Sun'.
The Police disbanded acrimoniously at the height of their commercial fame, and while Summers and Copeland have kept at least as busy as Sting, the career of the band's frontman and chief songwriter has garnered the most success.
Still, theirs is a reunion that really does work, simply because this rocking three-piece comprises top musicians committed to bringing out the best in each other.
Copeland is one of the world's greatest rock drummers, a player capable of straddling several genres all within a unified groove. Metronomes could probably come off the production line and be tested against his playing.
Summers, meanwhile, is an astonishingly good guitarist. And Sting, well, he is still one of the best singers in the world ¬ó when it comes to sounding like Sting.
But it is Summers and Copeland who anchor Sting, their jazz-inflected, reggae/ punk chops obscuring the simple nature of some of his lyrics and helping him create great compositions.
'Wrapped around Your Finger' showcased Copeland's percussive flair, hovering over tympani and splash-cymbals. 'Can't Stand Losing You' leapt out of the gates with the band's original punk spirit and feel.
And 'Roxanne' capped a night rock anthems.
Returning to run through 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely' and 'Every Breath You Take', The Police delivered the goods.
Fergie from The Black Eyed Peas might have seemed an incongruous opening act, but she put on a dynamic show with eight dancers, a funky backing band and a medley of classic rock songs, some songs from her hip-hop band and the pop hits from her solo album 'The Duchess'.
© The Dominion Post by Simon Sweetman