Police Reunion

Phoenix, AZ, US
Cricket Wireless Pavilionwith Elvis Costello & The Imposters
The Police revive the '80s at Cricket Pavilion...

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Police waited more than two decades to reunite after going on ''hiatus'' in the mid-'80s, but for the more than 10,000 fans who came out to see the famed British new wave legends on a shockingly brisk Saturday night at the outdoor Cricket Wireless Pavilion in Phoenix, the wait was worth it.

The trio (bassist/vocalist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland) passed through the Valley last June on the first leg of their reunion tour, and a year on the road has honed the band into a well-oiled machine after a few well-publicized rough shows at the beginning of the band's tour in 2007.

The Police kicked off Saturday's show with the acoustic 'Bring on the Night' from their 1979 album 'Regatta de Blanc' before launching into the same album's propulsive single 'Message In A Bottle'.

''I was a little worried you wouldn't come because of the cold,'' a bearded Sting told the crowd, ''but I guess it's a luxury for you.'' The singer also mentioned that the first time the band played the Valley was in 1979 at the now defunct Tempe club Dooley's. ''Same band,'' Sting added with a laugh.

Known for their stellar musicianship - all three band members are legendary in the rock pantheon for their individual musical virtuosity - The Police, who scored plenty of hits in their relatively brief six year recoding career (1978-1983) whipped through a set that included such new wave classics as 'Walking On The Moon', 'Driven To Tears', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Demolition Man'.

''Before I had this job, I was a school teacher,'' Sting told the crowd before the band played their 1980 hit 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', a tune about a teacher/student flirtation. ''I had a pension, I had a mortgage - what the (expletive) happened to me?''

The band returned for their first encore with their signature tune, the reggae influenced 'Roxanne', before playing 'King of Pain' and 'Every Breath You Take' from their mellower, artful 1983 disc 'Synchronicity' before closing their set with the very first cut from the debut disc 'Outlandes de Amour,' 'Next To You'.

Sting has said recently that when the band wraps up this tour they will break up again, and if that's the case, then the crowd at Cricket Wireless Pavilion saw the legendary band go out with a bang.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters played a too brief, 12 song opening set that saw Costello, one of rock's greatest all time songwriters, get back to his punk roots with a tight four piece band that included long time Costello sideman Steve Nieve on keyboards.

Playing several tunes from his stellar 2008 disc 'Momofuku', (set opener 'Stella Hurt', 'No Hiding Place', the exquisite ballad 'Flutter and Wow' and 'American Gangster Time') the bespectacled singer proved he still has his touch - after recording a country record ('Almost Blue'), a disc with pop composer Burt Bacharach ('Painted from Memory') and a classical music album with the Brodsky Quartet ('The Juliet Letters') - with the garage punk of his first two albums (1977's 'My Aim is True' and 1978's 'This Year's Model').

Costello played older hits such as 'Watching the Detectives', 'I Don't Want to Go to (Chelsea)' and the set closer '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding', and the crowd got an early look at Sting when The Police singer joined Costello to sing Costello's 1977 ballad 'Alison'.

(c) East Valley Tribune by Chris Hansen

The Police and Elvis Costello at the Cricket Wireless Pavilion...

The freedom to go back in and second-guess those old Police arrangements was clearly a major condition of Sting going back on the road with the band he swore he'd never reunite. That much was obvious from the opening notes of the opening song of the reunited trio's second stop in Phoenix Saturday night at the Cricket Wireless Pavilion - a haunting arrangement of 'Bring on The Night' with Andy Summers raining feedback over the delicate Spanish guitar line Sting was finger-picking on what certainly appeared to be the world's tiniest guitar. Those elements may have been there on 'Reggatta De Blanc', but the moodier context of the new arrangement really drew them out on Saturday.

'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was even more intriguing, with Stewart Copeland adding xylophone and exotica-flavored percussion over a drum loop. Copeland also added xylophone to 'King Of Pain', another song that benefited greatly from a more subdued approach. Other highlights found them sticking closer to the old arrangements. 'Message In A Bottle', 'Can't Stand Losing You', 'So Lonely' and a late-night 'Next To You' were all spirited blasts. What didn't seem to work so well was the wealth of exhaustive guitar leads. Andy Summers was among the more inventive lead guitarists on Top 40 radio back in the day, but much of what he played in Phoenix seemed closer in spirit to Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Another noticeable difference didn't have as much to do with anyone's artistic vision as it had to do with someone backing down from notes that may have been a little easier to hit back in the '80s. If he'd substituted decent hooks, it might have been OK, but several songs were clearly missing something - 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and 'Roxanne' in particular (although 'Roxanne' still sounded great). The man can work a crowd, though. Early in the set, he joked, ''I was a little worried because of the cold, you wouldn't come out. But I suppose it's a luxury for you.'' And he certainly seemed to be having more fun than his bandmates.

Maybe he caught it from Elvis Costello. A bearded Sting came out to share the mike on 'Alison' midway through a brief but brilliant opening set by Costello, who strolled on stage and dove headfirst into the raunchy blues-punk riff of Stella Hurt, one of several highlights plucked from this year's model, 'Momofuku'. His Imposters could have held their own against the White Stripes as Pete Thomas pounded out the beat and Steve Nieve reasserted his claim on best organist ever while Costello attacked his guitar in a solo that squeezed out raw emotion like Neil Young with something left to prove. The intensity never wavered, finding an obvious outlet in songs as fast and furious as 'Pump It Up', 'Radio Radio', '(I Don't Go Want To Go To) Chelsea', an anthemic '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding' and 'Momofuku' highlights 'Go Away', 'No Hiding Place' and 'American Gangster Time'.

But 'Watching The Detectives' had its own film-noirish urgency, and the ballads were, in some ways, even more intense. 'Flutter & Wow', another 'Momofuku' highlight, could have been mistaken for a great lost Otis Redding song, and 'Alison' was great, while 'Everyday I Write The Book', his first of only two Top 40 singles, was completely reinvented as a stunning Memphis soul song. The arrangement was amazing, building to a soulful climax, stopping on a dime and then bringing it down to build it all back up again. It proved the unexpected highlight of a set that found Costello still firmly entrenched at the top of his game, with one eye on the past and both feet planted firmly in the future.

(c) The Arizona Republic by Ed Masley