Farewell tours are primarily known for two things: taking a really, really long time to complete, and then not being final farewells after all. (see: KISS, Cher, et. al.) If The Police live up to their promises and do call it quits for good after their two-year send-off is over, they will do so having left everything they can offer on stage and in the hearts and ears of their fans.
Their second Houston show on the farewell tour took place last night at the Woodlands Pavilion, and the sold-out crowd that braved the blazing sun when the concert began were in for a treat. Stewart Copeland, Sting, and Andy Summers charted a course through their many hits throughout the course of the almost two hour-long set. On the darkened, minimally complex stage, the show began with a tender acoustic prelude before launching into a rousing rendition of 'Message In A Bottle' that got the audience fully engaged.
Even as the band (and many of its fans) marches headlong into middle age, they still bring a passion and presence to the stage that belies their iconic status. Many younger bands that rely on gimmickry and hucksterism to sell their stage show would do well to listen to these elders: engage the crowd at a personal level, keep it simple, and just play like your life depends on it. Sting's weathered bass guitar (which, refreshingly, was the only instrument he played all night outside of the prelude) is a testament to this ethic.
Despite what you might have heard, Sting is not the only talented member of The Police, and both other members had their moments in the spotlight, too. Summers unfurled several blistering guitar solos that breathed new life into hits like 'Voices Inside My Head' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da', while Copeland's fierce drumming echoed like rifle shots into the humid night. Copeland was also showcased during a percussion-heavy version of 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', where he managed to contribute both melody and rhythm using everything from a xylophone to an oversized gong.
The audience at the Woodlands Pavilion was enthused from beginning to end, providing vocal harmonies on many songs, particularly on 'Driven To Tears' and 'Roxanne', during which (rather obviously) the crowd was bathed in red light from the stage. The cheers always swelled when Sting was featured on the three video boards that framed the stage, and let's be honest: Sting's the only guy in the world who could make a greying neck-beard and a sleeveless black t-shirt that looked as though it'd been hit with a round of buckshot look sexy. He's Sting. That's what he does.
For the encore, the band trotted out everyone's favorite ode to restraining orders, 'Every Breath You Take', and 'Next To You' from their debut album 'Outlandos d'Amour' (the backdrop for which was a photo montage of the band's nascent years). Even as the long set drew to a close, the three band mates all exuded enough energy to play another couple of hours. The crowd dispersed into the Woodlands night, with many still singing their favorite songs all the way to the parking garages.
But this wasn't a solo bill, and Elvis Costello and the Imposters would be rather upset if you missed their set to open the evening. While the crowd was still filtering in, Costello and his tight three-piece backing band did everything in their power to make everyone aware that there was a real rock band on stage, darnit. The familiar hit 'Pump It Up' finally got the audience fully focused on the stage, where they were treated to the brooding noir-rock of 'Watching The Detectives', a selection from the recently-released album 'Momofuku', and a cameo by Sting on 'My Aim Is True'. Elvis closed the hour-long set with a soulful rendition of the original, though oft-covered, '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding'. For the Costello fans in attendance, the set was probably too short, but with the headliners and the Woodlands curfew in mind, Elvis and Co. made sure to serve notice that there were two iconic music figures in the house last night.
After this show and last June's Toyota Center gig, The Police have played what is ostensibly their last show in Houston, so if you missed them this time, you're really out of luck. Unless, of course, they decide to do another farewell tour.
© The Houston Chronicle by Rob Hays