Police Reunion

Los Angeles, CA, US
Hollywood Bowlwith Elvis Costello & The Imposters
The Police make a tuff little island out of the Hollywood Bowl...

The Police hit a sweet spot in about the middle of their Tuesday night show at the Hollywood Bowl when they fell into a fierce locomotive reggae jam on the song 'Driven To Tears'. The island rhythms came way out front and you could feel the change; that's better than all that 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take' stuff, n'est-ce pas? Andy Summers was losing himself in huge, prog-jazz guitar texturing, Stewart Copeland was beating his kit to pieces in a grimacing tirade of Caribbean drum nerd triumph, and then there was Sting, loving his minimal role as the provider of a bouncing, rising reggae bass line. That 'Zenyatta Mondatta'-era meditation was followed by 'Hole in My Life' - jam continuing - and into Summers fingering a calypso or even Afro-pop opener for 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'. Once the meat of that radio hit kicked in, the spell was broken, but it was there for a sustained moment with this gorgeous, unbeatable band.

Now that Sting looks a little ridiculous singing such paeans to self-obsession as 'King of Pain', maybe that tuff island sound will give the Police a new lease on life. The threesome never wrote anthems, so the big, bold arrangement of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' doesn't make it, no matter how they try, a chance to rekindle a youthful, generational statement. And when the band is too literal - like the photo-montage of big-eyed Third World children that accompanied 'Invisible Sun' - it's almost painful, even if Summers, Copeland and Sumners do care a lot about children, having, what, 17 children between them?

The charged reggae flow picked up again when they stretched out the boisterous lament, 'So Lonely', the pre-encore show closer. The form seemed to give it more impact. They didn't have to reach for the point. Sting wasn't even trying to swallow the meaning of the lyrics, which he seemed to be doing with other songs (some of those literary allusions just come back to bite you). He just let them be poignant. If this band plans to record new music in the future, someone please get them back to that studio in Montserrat where they once discovered a new world, just so we can all spend a little more time there.

(c) The Los Angeles Times by Dean Kuipers

Rocking with the Police at Hollywood Bowl...

Rocking with the Police at Hollywood Bowl, kids in tow... Mom turns her children on to her music. Then it's a night out at a show for all ages.

When you take your kids to a rock concert, it's a good idea to bring cookies. Because kids don't understand about opening acts. So while you are grooving to, say, the aged-in-wood tones of Elvis Costello and the Imposters and remembering that British boyfriend who made all those tapes for you in the late '80s, they are wondering who in the heck this guy in the glasses is and when, exactly, the Police are going to show up.

During 'Alison', as it turned out. Or at least Sting made an appearance, giving the song a heading-toward-the-end-of-the-set oomph, and in my kids' eyes, a little credibility. Which was a good thing, because I was running out of cookies.

For a multigenerational pop concert experience, it's hard to beat the Police at the Hollywood Bowl, where they played Tuesday to clear cool skies and a sold-out, sing-along, dancing-in-the-aisles crowd (a second performance was scheduled Wednesday). After the boys came on, the cookies were forgotten because we were all too busy dancing in our seats, screaming out lyrics to 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Can't Stand Losing You' and wondering what they would play next.

Proof positive that three middle-aged guys can still bring down the house, which I can't help but believe is a valuable lesson for my children and certainly very reassuring to me. Besides a little smoke and some computer-generated images, including a children-of-the-world clip behind 'Invisible Sun', it was all about the music - no dancers, no light show, just the musicians and their instruments and all those fabulous songs.

With their images projected on huge screens behind and flanking the band, the Bowl audience got to see the reunited trio up close and personal, down to the ropy muscles in drummer Stewart Copeland's arms and the wedding ring on guitarist Andy Summers' nimble left hand. Lean and lithe, with his Sunday-morning bed hair and that double-dare-you twinkle in his eye, Sting seemingly has bent the years to his will, although with a gray beard, he looks more and more like what he would have been if he had never picked up a guitar - the sexiest teacher you ever had.

For almost two hours, the hits kept coming, some more modified than others, to accommodate the mellowing years or perhaps just to give Sting's upper register a rest. 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' played positively mournful, which was a bit disappointing, but then, as I explained to the kids, that was one of the fun things about concerts - you got to see the musicians tinkering with their own work.

For their part, Danny, 10, and Fiona, 8, were thrilled just to see Sting and Summers playing real guitars (as opposed to Guitar Hero), watch Copeland fling his sticks away after practically every song - imagine! A grown-up throwing things - and hear 18,000 people sing along with the songs we listen to in the car every day.

Just as the Police led the pop world into the land of New Wave, so are they the perfect band to introduce today's tweens to music beyond Radio Disney. It's not that I don't appreciate the song stylings of Hannah Montana, the cast of ''High School Musical'' or the various brothers (Jonas, Naked), it's just that if I have to listen to 'Fabulous' or 'Girls Night Out' one more time I will lose what's left of my mind. Meanwhile, my son somehow discovered heavy metal, so while I was helping him download 'Back in Black' onto his iPod, I decided steps had to be taken.

Into the CD player went Bruce, Bob, the Who, the Beatles - but it was the Police that took hold, a surprising and hopeful sign. Sting's lyrics are poetic, literate and, though I cringe to say it - I honestly don't think swear words are the most corruptive influence facing our children these days - profanity-free.

Yes, Danny's favorite song is 'Roxanne'. But frankly he doesn't understand the implications of the ''red light''; he is just reacting to a great song that moves him in a way that he can't put into words. Which always has been the power and purpose of music, to give us a way to explore the boggy topography of emotion and mood, the moments of exhilaration and longing that we cannot quite name.

Children especially love music because it doesn't ask anything of them, doesn't badger them to ''use their words'' or explain their behavior. Quite the opposite; it gives them, and us, a shared vocabulary for feelings that often don't make much sense in the enforced orderliness of every day.

So I bounced my daughter on my knees while we sang 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and banged shoulders with my son on 'Message In A Bottle'. An hour and a half in, Sting said good night, and I thought Fiona was going to cry. ''That's all?'' she said. So I handed over my cellphone and my Blackberry, explaining that if they wanted to hear more, they were going to have to scream for it. When else do kids get parental permission to scream?

Back the band came, and we all roared through another half hour that included 'Roxanne', 'King of Pain' and 'Every Breath You Take'.

Being a mom, I began hustling them out a bit early (we missed a second encore of 'Next To You') but with 18,000 people in the place, I didn't want to risk losing anyone or standing in a huge line for the shuttle.

Because by that point, all the cookies were gone.

(c) The Los Angeles Times by Mary McNamara

The Police go out peaking at the Hollywood Bowl...

So... third time's the real charm, eh?

That's not entirely a fair comment, actually - or even accurate. First off, Tuesday night's first of two sold-out shows from the Police at the Hollywood Bowl - billed as the reunited Hall of Famers' last Southern California appearances before hanging up their handcuffs for good - is actually the fourth local stop since last summer's clutch of much-discussed dates not long after the group's mega-grossing first tour in almost a quarter-century began.

Secondly, the trio, though hit-and-miss just out of the starting blocks at Staples Center last June, greatly pulled it together for its Dodger Stadium gig days later, the enthusiasm of the massive audience (and perhaps the fear of being outdone by Foo Fighters) propelling Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland to pull off the sort of remarkable performance that should live long in fans' memories. So it can't be said that this once-unthinkable revival hasn't already matched overhyped anticipation.

Yet, while that may have been a more convincing instance of new-millennium Police mania, this overall calmer Bowl bash, bolstered by a superb opening turn from fellow legend Elvis Costello and his band the Imposters, clearly stands out as the most accomplished performance of those I've taken in.

Consummate pros, the Police are nonetheless also such clashing musical personalities that it's hardly surprising it would take this long for their idiosyncratic styles to once again mesh complementarily. Now, as this North American leg wraps up, their new arrangements seem like a natural outgrowth of old friends embracing fresh wrinkles on old favorites, rather than a means to mask the unavoidable loss of speed and agility of attack that comes from rockers past 50 (or 60, in Summers' case).

Not that everything was flat-out perfect, or completely desirable. New opener 'Bring on the Night', like the poorly plodding take on 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' that has been a low point in the set all along, suffers from sounding more like a Sting solo redo than a true marshaling of the Police's forces. (Granted, though he's rarely sung his staples so robustly in the past two decades, the now-bearded icon surely can't hit the top notes in that tune's despairing chorus anyway.)

Plus, it's hard not to wish more about the set list had changed. Only two other titles were rotated in, a hearty 'Hole in My Life' and a roaring (if never exactly ripping) run through 'Demolition Man', the screens framing the band awash in swirling 'Ghost in the Machine' cover imagery. (On the whole, I found the visual aspect vastly superior here, amid the Bowl's glowing shell, than at either earlier stop.) With tympani enhancing its choruses, 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', previously aired during this outing, was used as a percussive Copeland showcase, rather than 'Walking in Your Footsteps'. Otherwise, there wasn't much we hadn't encountered already; even the encore, stretching from 'Roxanne' to 'Next To You', was unaltered.

What had further improved, however, were the Police themselves. Stretching out even more on 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around,' dynamically wending their way through 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' until the finish hit with fierce force, bringing back the might and abandon of yore on terrific versions of 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Can't Stand Losing You' - if they're incapable of fully summoning their younger selves, they're at least seasoned enough to fake it most of the time now. Summers, in particular, was often on fire this night, his solos, notably in the close of 'So Lonely,' uncommonly lyrical.

This being the last hurrah - and with only a 70-minute main set at that - it's hard to keep from thinking about how much other Police music has been left to gather more dust, starting with the non-hits from 'Ghost in the Machine'. That aside, it's also inarguable that this landmark trio has served its legacy well, wowing audiences merely with its presence but shutting up cynics by routinely heightening the energy level of its performances - and still adding the sort of nuances to its groundbreaking stew of rock and reggae that could only come with time.

A shame to think we may never hear anything more from them, especially now, as they go out peaking. They'll be missed - again.

Costello was also in fantastic form - this may only have been a warm-up sampler, shared between obvious classics ('Pump It Up', 'Radio Radio', 'Watching the Detectives') and strongly executed selections from his new album 'Momofuku', but few other performances he's given in the past 20 years were nearly as powerful. (And who would've guessed a soulful 'Everyday I Write the Book' would be a highlight?)

The set's brevity meant this one didn't stand a chance at measuring up to, say, his last Wiltern show, behind 'The Delivery Man'. But I'd rank this abbreviated turn with the Imposters higher than any of the times I saw him during his final Attractions outings of the '90s. For starters, the pacing of his vocals hasn't been so sharp in years, never once finding him lagging out-of-breath behind the beat during the relentless torrent of words from his most famous hits.

Plus, when he dipped (as always) into 'Alison', something I would have figured unthinkable happened: Sting emerged to handle the second set of verses, harmonize on the choruses and test the mettle of his wail for a rousing finish. Turns out it's been a regular occurrence since these two legendary acts teamed up for this tour, and though I don't know why I got it in my head that Costello took a dim view of Mr. Sumner (that song from 'Mighty Like a Rose' might have had something to do with it), it was both exciting and unnerving to see such an odd couple share a microphone.

(c) Orange County Register by Ben Wener