It was the biggest gig of their reunion world tour and, for The Police, their concert at Croke Park was also a sort of homecoming.
"It's good to be back in Dublin, to be back in Ireland. We used to live here," said Sting referring to the time at the height of their fame in the 1980s when he and guitarist Andy Summers took refuge from the taxman in rural Ireland, "we really miss the place".
He introduced 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' by emphasising his knowledge of local geography. "I wrote this song in Connemara... Roundstone... near Clifden in Co Galway".
After a summer of deluges and squalls, there was near perfect weather conditions for the 82,000 fans. So mild was the evening that Sting, who looks about two decades younger than his 56 years, wore a sleeveless white vest.
The Police took to the stage just after 8.30pm and rattled through a near two-hour set starting with 'Message In a Bottle' which brought the capacity crowd to their feet.
They sat down when the band showcased their virtuoso musicianship on lesser known album tracks, but the momentum picked up for again for the encore which featured 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Next to You'.
The crowd were overwhelmingly in their 30s and 40s and many took the opportunity to make a night of it by heading into Dublin city centre afterwards. As befits a crowd of that vintage, there was no trouble. While The Police was busy keeping them entertained, the garda?? had nothing to do and there were no arrests.
The response of fans who turned out on Sunday morning in St Stephen's Green for a book signing by Andy Summers was similarly positive. Summers is promoting 'I'll Be Watching You: Inside The Police 1980-1983', his photographic record of the band's heyday. "I thought they were superb," said Andrew Slattery (32) from Dublin. "They played a really tight set. It would be churlish to complain about the ticket prices. If you pay top dollar, you get a quality act".
"Opening up with 'Message in a Bottle' really got the crowd going," said Gerald Fitzpatrick (45) also from Dublin. "How ironic was it that the weather was the best for any outdoor show this year, even though it was held in October." Mandy Young (37) from Cork said: "It was a once in a lifetime thing. They had no backing singers, no gimmicks. They're great musicians and they looked to be in great shape".
Summers said he and the band were well pleased with the concert. "We were all aware how big the show was going to be. We all went in three different directions very quickly afterwards, so I never got to speak to the others, but we don't need to speak. There is a mental rapport. It was definitely a good one, we had a great gig," he said.
In his acclaimed autobiography, 'One Train Later', published last year, Summers gave an altogether less rosy account than Sting of their time in Ireland where he was faced with the "harsh reality of grey weather, bone-chilling, damp biting wind and bad food - all to beat the taxman".
He now says his memories about his three and a half years here were coloured by the political climate at the time - he and Sting were subjected to anti-British propaganda - and by stresses in his professional and private life.
"There was a lot of anti-British feeling and I had to put up with that, but you do feel an affinity with the place. I did love Ireland.
"I called my wife and I said how much I liked Ireland. I'd love to come back and live here again," he said.
Summers admitted that the three band members, who had a really fractious relationship in the past, haven't got around to discussing the possibility of a new album yet because of the demands of the tour, but he would be in favour of it.
"It's sort of like living with the elephant in the room. I would see it as a challenge to make an absolutely brilliant pop album at this stage of our career and that would be something quite remarkable. Right now it is just the tour and holding everything together, mentally, physically and musically. The tour and the travelling and the playing and the tension you have to keep to do it every night is all-devouring. It is just too much," he said.
© The Irish Times by Ronan McGreevy