Standing among 20,000 fans, I was struck by a memory I had almost a year earlier. I was sitting in my room listening intently to a recently purchased 'Regatta de Blanc' and thinking 'I wish I could have seen The Police play live.' Knowing their history of friction and quarrels, I quickly dismissed the thought. The very idea of a reunion was laughable. Heck, there was a better chance of The Beatles getting back together.
And yet, here we were; only an hour away from seeing what basically could be deemed a rock-and-roll miracle.
However, being the eternal pessimist, there was one question yet to be answered. Yes, The Police had somehow put their differences behind them and were back together, but how would they sound? Would they still be able to conjure up some of the magic that made them one of the best live acts of the '80s?
That was my main worry as we moved through the crowd and into the Bell Center in Montreal.
At about seven o'clock the opening band, Fiction Plan, took the stage.
The crowd's collective response to them was lukewarm at best. The young group, fronted by Sting's son, Joe Sumner, was definitely energetic enough. However, there was something lacking in their material.
Sumner's bass playing was really one of the only parts of the trio that really stood out. Plus, like his famous father, he too had a tremendous voice, though it had not yet reached the iconic altitudes of Sting's. Perhaps that was a good thing, because one can only imagine the comparisons to his father that he must face on a day-to-day basis.
By eight o'clock, Fiction Plan was just climaxing their set with the song 'Cigarettes', a track that ended their brief appearance on a higher note. Then we were left to watch the road crew set up the stage for the headliners. As we watched, some familiar sights began to appear such as the large, grandiose drum set of the beat of The Police, Stewart Copeland.
That was when it first began to sink in for me. I was sitting meters away from the set of my favourite drummer, who just happened to play in one of my favourite bands. Soon he, along with Sting and the guitar-man himself, Andy Summers, would soon be on stage.
By the time 8:30 arrived, the excitement and anticipation in the building could be felt in the air. It was like electricity pulsating through the crowd.
Finally the house lights went down and the lights on the stage dimmed. The track 'Get Up, Stand Up' by Bob Marley began to play over the speaker system and we all soon obliged as we rose and sang along.
Squinting, I could see three silhouettes make their way up onto the stage and the sound of Andy Summer's guitar could be heard as the melody to 'Message in a Bottle' rang out, filling the Bell Center ... only one word could be used to describe the scene: pandemonium. Soon rapid blasts of snare and bass drums could be heard as Stewart Copeland came into the song, and 20,000 voices began to sing with Sting as the song opened with those now legendary lines, "Just a cast away, on an island, lost at sea oh!"
What I was experiencing at this moment was probably the best thing I had ever felt at any concert I had been to thus far. It was pure elation, a high that can only be felt when seeing a group that you have admired and thought you would never be able to see.
After finishing 'Message' they tore into 'Synchronicity II' and then began to groove to the excellent 'Walking on the Moon'.
As the crowd danced and sang along, I couldn't help laugh at my earlier worries of them showing signs of rust or decay. They were playing so energetically and with such urgency that it was hard to believe that two of the members were in their mid-fifties and one was in his sixties.
Next came the rhythmic jam of 'Voices Inside My Head' which featured an interesting transition midway into 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around'.
These song choices gave me more cause for relief as this showed that this was not going to be a show comprised completely of their singles.
They were also going to play some selections of their best loved tracks which only appeared on their albums.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments of the night, though, was about three-quarters into the concert.
After finishing 'Bed's Too Big Without You', the opening bars of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' rang out and the crowd's reaction was absolutely incredible. Though 'Every Little Thing' was one of their bigger singles, it was not their most popular. I would have expected a reaction like that if it was 'Every Breath You Take', or 'Roxanne'.
Yet, this was the most well received song of the night. Thousands of voices sang along and as the lights went up during the chorus, all I could see was a sea of people all around me dancing to the song. In short, it was amazing. It was like nothing else I had ever experienced at a concert, the energy of the crowd at that moment was that wonderful.
Walking out of the Bell Center and into the cool night air, I felt numb.
It was hard to believe that we had been standing for little over two and a half hours. Then again, they say that is one of the signs of an excellent live act and that is exactly what we had just seen.
Though they had barely played together over the last 20 years, The Police had proved to the City of Montreal that they still had it and it is hard to imagine that they will ever lose it.
© The Times & Transcript by Patrick Brennan