Zenyatta Mondatta

Madison, WI, US
Madison Civic Centerwith XTC
Police zap the audience with Sting...

Just one look at the crowd's attire told you what they were after. That rainbow of heads dyed in the latest punk colors - fuschia, orange, bright blue, those wearers of lycra and leather wanted to rock their spandex socks off.

The Police gave them what they came for Thursday night at the Madison Civic Center. The dynamic trio drew about 2,000 persons to the Oscar Mayer Theater, which seats 2,200. While punks of every persuasion comprised a majority of the audience, The Police provided something for everyone. The band handled rock, reggae and new wave numbers with equal aplomb. They also did a few hard rock tunes, but it is a shade The Police do not wear well. They do much better at the reggae end of the spectrum.

Madison was one stop in a string of concerts promoting the group's new album, 'Zenyatta Mondatta'. They opened with a song from that album, 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'. The song has received enough airplay to make it familiar, and its pulsating beat brought the audience to its feet, into the aisles, and up close to the stage.

The band is made up of lead guitarist, Andy Summers, bass guitarist and lead singer Sting, and drummer, Stewart Copeland. Although Summers played a brilliant lead guitar, and Copeland drummed his little heart out, it was Sting who wooed the audience. Sting (a name more piercing than his real moniker, Gorden Sumner) delivered fine vocals that ranged from sensitive to savage, an effect that won the hearts and libidos - judging from the phrases they were shouting - of many young women in the audience. His ability as a bassist is only surpassed by the sincerity and quality of his voice.

'When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around', also from ZM, was, musically, one of the best songs of the evening. It began with futuristic tones, took on the pulsating texture of hard rock, and evolved into new wave. The lyrics were followed by a mood-setting musical interlude of fused rock and reggae.

The song was introduced as "a song about the future." I had to take The Police at their word about the song's subject matter because I could not understand their lyrics. It sounded nice, though.

XTC opened the show, and the group's eccentric lead singer, Andy Partridge, stole it. Partridge's zany facial expressions and bizarre choreography prevented the four-member group from being upstaged by songs with titles like, 'This Is Punk', 'Nuclear Devices' and 'Generals and Majors Everywhere'. The visuals that accompanied XTC's throbbing new wave music was interesting, but Partridge was more fun to watch than squiggly lines on a screen.

XTC is a group of four talented musicians, but their music reminds me of that of a local band, Spooner. Spooner was to have been the third band at this concert, but was dropped about a month ago because The Police did not want a third band. Too bad. At the concert, Partridge told the audience several times to "dance if you need to; understand?" and "make noise if you want to; are you receivin' me?" Most of the crowd, though, stayed seated.

Of the Spooner performances I have gone to - and I have gone to quite a few - Spooner's music has always managed to get an almost unanimous show of feet on the dance floor. Are you receiving me?

(c) Wisconsin State Journal by Victoria McGlothren