On paper, the Police's reunion tour looks dubious: three aging rockers taking a well-paid stroll down memory lane even though, frankly, they don't really like each other.
Police lead singer Sting wasn't in top form Tuesday night, but adventurous arrangements and stellar musicianship carried the show. 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', indeed. But onstage Tuesday night, it somehow worked. The friction between Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers made for a bold and sometimes spectacular show at a sold-out American Airlines Center.
Despite the parade of hits, this wasn't a slam-dunk crowd pleaser. The Police aren't content to crank out their classics note for note. They want to reinvent them.
That's a tricky task - even for players as accomplished as these three - and the new arrangements dragged at times: 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' sounded downright chilly; 'Invisible Sun' was even more dour than usual.
But for every failed curveball, another song took flight. 'Walking in Your Footsteps' sped into a brilliant ska-tempo rocker while 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' slowed to a stunning psychedelic dub. 'Roxanne' (still the best song ever written about a prostitute) slowly twisted and turned into an act of high drama.
One month into the yearlong tour, the Police are still finding their groove. Ten days ago at the Bonnaroo music festival, the band was blazing and full of improvisational chutzpah. Tuesday night, it settled into a slow burn. What it'll sound like Wednesday night at AAC is anyone's guess.
Perhaps Sting will find the high notes that eluded him Tuesday. Maybe his voice was too rough to reach them, or maybe he just liked the songs better that way. Either way, 'Every Breath You Take' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' suffered without the trademark high parts.
But if the vocals weren't always up to snuff, the guitars and drums were seldom short of dazzling. Mr. Copeland remains one of rock's most inventive timekeepers, swirling jazz with punk and reggae and adding an Afro-Latin vibe to 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'. Mr. Summers, a master of the whammy bar, packed tons of emotion into short, improvised guitar solos.
And the crowd did its part, too, giving a lusty response to Sting's scat-calls in 'Walking on the Moon' and 'Can't Stand Losing You'.
"The question is, Texas, are you ready to sing tonight?" he said, egging them on. "We haven't been here in 25 years."
Actually, it's only been 24 years, but who's counting? The point is, reunion tours this daring are welcome anytime.
Opening the show was Fiction Plane, a competent but forgettable rock trio whose vocalist, Joe Sumner, just so happens to be Sting's son.
Hmmm. Wonder how they got the gig.
© The Dallas Morning News by Thor Christensen