At concert, Police in synchronicity...
Surely there were some kinks to work out. Before the Police decided to hit the road this year, the '80s super-trio of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland hadn't toured together in more than 20 years.
Early reviews of the much-ballyhooed reunion tour, which stops at Pimlico Race Track on Aug. 4 as part of the Virgin Festival, weren't so kind. The consensus seemed to be that the show was listless and self-indulgent.
But when the Police hit Hersheypark Stadium on Friday night, the 29th stop on its national tour, the band had definitely found its synchronicity. The guys mostly delivered the hits and fan favorites with few embellishments, and the chemistry among the three seemed genuine and relaxed.
Never known to be a theatrical, electrifying stage act, the Police pulled off a fine two-hour performance without the usual trappings of high-profile shows. No dancers, no shooting sparks, no elaborate, moving sets. What you got were three middle-age guys on stage with their instruments, performing songs that ascended the charts more than two decades ago.
The only nod to razzle-dazzle staging was a giant backdrop of tiny lights that flashed shades of white, green and red. There were also three huge screens, which served more a functional purpose, broadcasting live images of the band to the attendees packing the huge stadium.
It was all about the music, that memorable, pop-glossed blend of ska, punk and reggae that made the Police one of the most revered bands of the 1980s.
Time has been kind to the music; the hits are as fun and ingratiating as they were back in the days of Pac-Man and the Smurfs.
Time also has been very good to Sting, the band's focal point. Lean and toned with virtually ageless skin, the singer-bassist, 55, casually strolled the stage strumming his instrument and wearing skin-tight black pants, a painted-on white T-shirt and black boots.
More conservatively dressed, guitarist Summers and drummer Copeland looked their ages - 64 and 55, respectively. But age certainly didn't affect their intense, vibrant playing. If anything, all three musicians have become better, more refined instrumentalists over the years.
This was evident during the extended jam of 'Walking On The Moon', as Copeland's propulsive drumming shifted and shimmered with jazzy improvisations. Although the guys were faithful to the original arrangements of the hits, they took a few liberties here and there that frankly made the songs better.
'Voices Inside My Head', for instance, took on a heavier, funkier rhythm thanks to Sting's elastic bass lines. And 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was given a seductive, Middle Eastern feel with Copeland keeping time on timpani and assorted chimes. He opened and ended the lilting, midtempo tune with a strike of a giant gong that stood behind the drum set. It all may sound a bit incongruous, yes, but it worked.
The only self-indulgent moment of Friday's show was 'This Bed's Too Big Without You', which was overextended into a jazzy, faux-psychedelic jam with Sting repeating the title as if it were a mantra. Afterward, though, the band returned to jaunty Police sing-alongs such as 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'.
After an impassioned rendition of 'Roxanne', the band's first hit from its 1978 debut 'Outlandos D' Amour', the Police returned with a three-song encore that included 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely' and one of the band's biggest hits, the stalker anthem 'Every Breath You Take'. Sting smiled as he crooned the line, ''I'll be watching you,'' something he rarely did when he performed the song years ago.
He and his old bandmates seemed to have a great time up there. You could feel it.
(c) The Baltimore Sun by Rashod Ollison
The Police: Every little thing was magic...
Or have the members lost a little something, having been apart since an acrimonious breakup in 1983?
Press reviews have been generally positive, but drummer Stewart Copeland skewered the band's performance a few dates into the current tour as being less than stellar.
No worries. The sold-out crowd heard bassist-singer Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and Copeland - all looking ridiculously fit - play for a solid two hours-plus with as much fire, intensity and capability as in their younger days, with only a few small steps lost.
Beginning with 'Message In A Bottle' and the vivid tale of corporate drones that is 'Synchronicity II,' the band flourished its greatest strengths - Sting's supple voice and penchant for playing with the beat, Summers' icy-cool shimmers and Copeland's complex cornucopia of percussion tricks.
Sting went in and out on high notes throughout, sometimes tackling them with assertiveness, sometimes taking things down a more comfortable step or two.
A beautifully syncopated 'Walking On The Moon,' with plenty of call-and-response singing and trademark ee-yo-yos, was followed by a medley of 'Voices Inside My Head' and 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around,' Sting pounding out the bass line with swagger.
It was obvious the band wanted to try out new arrangements - they played very few songs exactly as written, and freely jammed for extended periods, keeping them familiar and renewing them at the same time.
The student-teacher love affair of 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' was the first track to have a certain sense of reminiscence - it was less strident, more the quiet tones of an older man remembering his youth.
The pointed message of 'Driven To Tears,' marked by some terrific wailing by Summers (who was stellar) was perhaps more meaningful now than when it was written.
'Truth Hurts Everybody' may have been slowed down a touch, perhaps the better to lead into a wistful take on 'The Bed's Too Big Without You,' buoyed by their customary reggae groove and devilishly complex counter-rhythms.
'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,' too, was more thoughtful musically, more light on its feet. Sting gave the high notes a thorough try but fell just a tad flat.
But he rebounded smartly on a beautifully stately 'Wrapped Around Your Finger,' which was given a more staccato, almost Middle Eastern feel.
Copeland went through a real workout on that track, playing just about everything in sight in his massive percussion arsenal.
A lilting 'De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da' led into a languid but gorgeous 'Invisible Sun,' and Sting had no trouble on the high ones at all in 'Walking in Your Footsteps,' companionably jamming with Summers at the end.
The sharply snotty 'I Can't Stand Losing You' could have been edited a bit to its former punky state, as it was a bit long.
And to hear the signature 'Roxanne' with the full band, after years of watching Sting do it in his solo gigs, was nothing short of magic. It might get played an awful lot, but come on - it's 'Roxanne.'
And they added a middle section of jamming that only built the tension to the final chorus.
A brief walk offstage and they were back for 'King of Pain,' with its enigmatic imagery, a ripping 'So Lonely' that paired reggae bounce with punk thrash, and a very well-sung 'Every Breath You Take,' Sting perfectly fine on every octave.
Another quick break, and the reunited trio wrapped with a dense and still energetic 'Next To You' before taking a hands-joined bow. Will their hands stay joined in a musical sense when the tour ends? No one can say, but to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers share a stage again, for good or for now, was plenty good enough.
Sting's son, Joe Sumner, fronted openers Fiction Plane.
He looks a bit like his dad. He plays bass and sings, like his dad. The band is a trio, like his dad's. On high notes, especially on the wry 'Drink' and the tongue-in-cheek 'Two Sisters,' he sounds eerily like his dad. He jumps off speaker cabinets like his dad.
Nature or nurture? You do the math. He's got a way to go, but he's pretty firmly on his way.
(c) The Patriot-News by Kira L. Schlechter
Fans in Hershey find The Police still arresting after 30 years...
Eric Chmielewski's taste with newer music runs toward Linkin Park and other slightly harder stuff, but that wasn't what he was playing on the car stereo Friday during his two-hour drive to Hersheypark.
It was 'Synchronicity', and ''what a great album, from start to finish,'' the Bel Air, Md., man said, pointing to the big, still-empty stage in the distance just before dusk Friday at Hersheypark Stadium.
When he heard about the Police reunion, coming to see them ''was a no-brainer... we just knew we had to be here,'' the 37-year-old Chmielewski said, standing with his wife, Amy, before Friday night's long-awaited reunion concert.
Soon, that empty stage was filled with three familiar-looking, if now-slightly-older guys, a familiar-sounding singer's voice could be heard, and some of that same music the Chmielewskis had been playing on the car stereo was pumping out all over the hills around Hershey.
If you looked at your Blackberry, it told you that this was 2007.
But to look at the stage or listen to the catchy, quirky music of this band that was once the most popular in the world, you'd swear it was 1983 again.
The Police, together again. Holy Pacman and Joan Collins, Batman!
And from the first notes of their opener, 'Message In A Bottle', the band showed it was still musically excellent, and that lead singer/bass player Sting is still one of the best singers on the planet.
It also showed just a touch of... well, rust, or maybe sound problems, at the start of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', but then they quickly righted themselves.
Sting, wearing a white muscle shirt, his blond hair making him look more like a California beach bum than a one-time teacher from England, brought a friendly front-man presence along with him.
He also brought his power-packed voice, which got an assist from a packed stadium of background singers who knew all the songs, anyway.
Like 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' or 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da', when the crowd easily added the ''...all I want to say to you'' ending.
''The question is, Are you ready to sing tonight?'' Sting asked the crowd, and the all-as-one roar told you the answer.
The Police were a mostly excellent show, and weren't content to just be a nostalgia act, showing their musical excellence throughout on songs like the slower 'Walking On The Moon'.
Drummer Stewart Copeland, keeping his funky beat and wearing a black headband, bore of look of strong and almost fierce determination through the show.
After several songs, before you could think this would be just a boilerplate, tried-and-true ''Best of the Police'' concert, there came a major jam by guitarist Andy Summers on his cool-looking, bright-red guitar, followed by a funkified bass thumb-and-slap by Mr. Sting.
The only glitches, as we said, were a little ''tentativeness'' at the start of a song or two. But that came and went.
And the crowd, a somewhat-surprising mix of fans from the first time around and younger ones born since the Police dominated the airwaves, sure didn't seem to mind.
As Chmielewski said at one point, this was a group that wrote songs and brought out ''really great, intelligent lyrics.''
Friday night's concert in the old bowl of a stadium came nearly 30 years after the Police first broke into the musical consciousness with the smash hit 'Roxanne'.
They then stuck around, becoming (along with the Clash and, a little later, U2) the pre-eminent act of the early 1980s, and they were the most-played group on U.S. radio in the 1980s.
They improvised like a jazz trio, played with the raw energy of a punk band (punk music was still fairly new in the early 80s), and all the while, there were Sting's trademark, unique voice and lyrics that told you he had thought about stuff.
The group originally broke through as punk rock was shaking up the music scene in the late 1970s, and each member of the Police came from a different musical background.
Sting, a former English teacher (also the former Gordon Sumner) always had a literary bent to his lyrics, had played in various jazz fusion groups.
The group also is international. Sting and Summers are English, while Copeland's a Yank.
After 'Roxanne', the hits came one after the other for the group - 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Walking On The Moon' from their second album 'Regatta de Blanc', and later, 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Every Breath You Take', one of the most-remembered and most-played songs of its time.
Friday night's Hershey show was one of the last of the band's 42-city tour, which will end Aug. 5 at New Jersey's Giants Stadium.
(c) Lancaster New Era by David O'Connor
Police reunion has its good and bad moments...
Rumor has it The Police reunion tour was sloppy and uninspired. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium, that was only half true.
The opening number, 'Message In A Bottle', worried me. With only three guys on stage, it still seemed they couldn't find each other. One fan said it seemed as if they each played a different song at once.
There were no more numbers quite that schizophrenic, and some were downright glorious, especially toward the concert's end.
First, though, Andy Summers, Sting and what appeared to be a death-warmed-over Stewart Copeland slogged through 'Walking On The Moon', 'Driven To Tears' and a disappointing 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', which wasn't awful, but was dulled without its razor edges, played almost like a ballad. The triple video-screen close-ups of Copeland seemed to sap the song's energy even more. Still, for a trio old enough for AARP membership, the tunes came rapid fire, and Summers and Sting still looked fresh.
'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' was uninspired, and all the tunes seemed just a little slower than they were in the '80s. Sting dropped most of his high notes an octave and instead let an enthusiastic crowd finish the melodies.
But by 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and 'Invisible Sun', the trio that unhappily split 25 years ago had pulled things together nicely, and 'Walking in Your Footsteps' was downright perfect: They played all the right notes at all the right times, and Copeland's eyes were only at half mast - probably still a few songs shy of being replaced by X's.
I just hoped - no, prayed - that he would make it to my favorite, 'Roxanne'. He did! But some things are best the way your remember them, and 'Roxanne' was one of them.
Just about the time you wondered if The Police should have just stayed home counting their money instead of trying to make more, a protracted 'Can't Stand Losing You', with Summers banging on his guitar like a chimpanzee, and equally great 'King of Pain' made 30 years ago seem like 30 minutes ago.
What never tarnishes about this band is its lyrics - among the most clever in all of popular music, unique in their complexity and just plain enjoyable to hear over and over again.
And while I miss that old Police precision, just about every fan I asked said they heard what they came to hear Friday night: The Police, together again, in complete synchronicity.
(c) Lancaster Intelligencer Journal by Susan E. Lindt