They were only together for six or seven years. They stayed broken up, fractured, stubborn for almost 24. But like a certain fab Brit band before them, the Police packed a whole lot of legend in a short amount of time, a compact rock legacy making this summer's 30th anniversary/when-pigs-fly reunion tour one of the musical events of the year.
It was our turn to honor the Police on Wednesday - an expensive privilege to be sure - as a sold-out crowd of 21,077 stuffed the St. Pete Times Forum to see the brainy rock trio. There they were: vainglorious mouthpiece Sting, still name-dropping Nabokov; guitarist Andy Summers, gnomish and prickly; polyrhythmically agile drummer Stewart Copeland, keeping the boys juiced.
You no doubt know the backstory: The three dudes don't like each other all that much. There's already been bickering. They're getting paid gobs of moola to finally share a stage again face value for primo seats was $226. Will they even make it to the end of the tour?
But backstory is one thing - back catalog is another, especially when it's being sold to you with professional gusto and earnest effort. From the opening riff of Message in a Bottle, the fans - predominantly older, richer, polo-shirted - were in love.
Oh my, do the Police have some killer songs, more than 20 of which they rocketed out boom-boom-boom over the course of a two-hour show. And although the aging legends have replaced some of the punk-reggae moxie of their younger selves with a jazzy, jammy sound, they can still deliver the goods, just the three musicians, no backing help, touching on all their albums but paying particular attention to 1983's iconic 'Synchronicity'.
The general appeal of the Police is akin to, say, The Da Vinci Code: crowd-pleasing entertainment that makes you feel smarter as you sing along. Second song 'Synchronicity II' is all about the interconnectedness of life, but it also made for a ferocious headbanger, with Sting's trademark plaintive wail arguably as pure as it has ever been.
And despite their pedagogical reps, the boys do in fact know how to cut loose: The buoyant 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' might have been the sing-along of the night - although 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', given a spooky sheen by Copeland's full arsenal of gongs, cymbals and tinkly things, was a robust crowd fave, too.
The band's focal point will forever be Sting, who, at 55 years old, obviously has guzzling access to the fountain of youth. Sheesh, this guy. Phenomenally fit in tight T-shirt, snug jeans and black boots, he stood tall and hunky, his tan biceps toned, a smirky rock star fully aware of his magnetism. (Am I gushing?) He gave his voice a full workout, too, hitting and holding all the notes on 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'.
But give credit to the Other Two. 'On Voices Inside My Head' - which was great to hear primarily because it's the rare Police song not played to death on the radio - the 54-year-old Copeland mixed in rifle-shot snares with alternating hypnotic beats, taking the tempo-mad tune through both rock and jazz moods.
Summers, the band's elder statesman at 64, may look grumpy most of the time, but without him and his fire-alarm licks countering Sting's shamanistic wanderings, the band would be lost. He added particular feisty energy to an extended 'Can't Stand Losing You'.
As the night wore on, the hits got bigger. I'd be fine if I never heard 'Roxanne' again, but with the stage bathed in a lascivious red glow, fans fell out of their chairs cheering for it. Two encores followed, the first including the transcendent 'King of Pain' and 'So Lonely'. The show closed with stalker ode 'Every Breath You Take' and the raucous 'Next to You', from their first album. When the house lights went up, the crowd was still clapping, cheering, appreciating, not sure if they'd ever get the chance again.
© The St. Petersburg Times by Sean Daly