Good cop bad cop - A reunion show mired in mistakes recovers, thanks to a frontman's big-stage magnetism...
As a stadium of beer-sozzled Canucks wait for the fourth night of the Police's live reunion, the buzz is all about a vicious online review of the Vancouver show a few nights earlier. It was a ''disaster'' and ''unbelievably lame'', the blogger sneered. Guitarist Andy Summers was so lost he may as well have been ''in Idaho'' and Stewart Copeland made a ''complete hash'' of the drumming. As for ''the mighty Sting'': He looked ''like a petulant pansy instead of the god of rock.''
Slag-offs are routine online - but in this case, the blogger was Copeland himself. Just a few days into the summer's biggest tour, the Police, who split in a triangle of recriminations and ego-clashes, are already impugning each other's manhood and playing like a stoned tribute band. Ineptitude does not bode well for scalpers asking $10,000 for a fifth row seat at Madison Square Garden.
As the Police launch into 'Message In A Bottle', it seems another disaster may be beginning. Copeland's intricate hi-hat-laced drumming is sloppy, and soon Summers is MIA, bailing out for several uncomfortable measures to consult with a guitar tech. They recover slightly during the thrusting 'Synchronicity II', but then comes an awkward stretch culminating in a disastrously clunky, reworked 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', which substitutes an airier rhythm for the original's rock downbeat. ''How are you, Andy? How are you Stewart?'' Sting asks, like a concerned parent.
Some rust is understandable after a 21-year hiatus, especially because the music requires chops. The show is a reminder of what an anomaly the Police were, starting with their 1978 debut album: Arena champs who infused rock with a reggae undertow and jazz leanings, they were an odd combination of experts, adventurers and stars. In Edmonton, as they rejigger old hits, adding elaborate interludes, it becomes clear that they're one of the headier bands ever to conquer the charts, the world's biggest fusion act: Mahavishnu Sumner Orchestra.
The stage is equipped with a huge lighting rig and three screens. But the special effects are few (an animated dinosaur skeleton lumbers across the screen during 'Walking In Your Footsteps'), and the videos proudly emphasise the band's dexterity: close-ups of fingers flying up fret boards and Copeland clattering out triplets on a ride cymbal.
Finally, in 'Walking On The Moon', the band locks in. Dusk settling, and the Police provide the night's first transportive moment, with Sting leading a 30,000 strong ''Ay-Yo, Ay-Yo'' sing-along over the languid, dub-y groove. Then it's back into hyperspace for an electrifying extended coda, as Sting answers Summers's squalling leads with extraordinary funky and melodic improvisations in his bass's upper register.
Whether singing about psychology texts or illicit lust for teen girls, Sting is in amazing form. Even those who loathe him for his Stingly Stingishness - for his boasts of Tantric-sex prowess; for his lutes and madrigals; for his bleached-blond hair; for lyrics like ''How can I save my little boy/From Oppenheimer's deadly toy?'' - don't deny his musicianship and charisma. Tonight, he looks the part of the preening dickwad rock star - clad in a tight V-neck that should never be worn outside the yoga studio - but his bass playing is stunning and his singing is even better, punchy and grit-flecked on punk-influenced chestnuts like 'Truth Hits Everybody' (a crowd favourite), pure-toned and croony on ballads like 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'.
All night long, Sting is a generous leader, ceding the spotlight and holding a solid pulse in the face of miscues. As the complexities finally mesh, he turns the encores into a lovefest, changing lyrics in 'So Lonely' to honour his bandmates. ''Welcome to the Andy Summers show! Welcome to the Stewart Copeland show!'' he cries, before whipping off another dazzling bass fill. God of rock? God of Prog-Pop Space-Jazz is more like it. But not at all petulant or pansy.
(c) Blender by Jody Rosen
Reunited Police a tour de force - Band has 30,000 fans on their feet from the beginning...
Oh, they were Walking On The Moon at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
''I've got goosebumps!'' 32-year-old Lonnie Campbell said as he danced in his seat to When The World Is Running Down.
From the floor seats down in front to the back rows of the stadium, fans were on their feet and cheering wildly when Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers finally hit the stage at 9 pm.
The much-anticipated event, the second stop on a world reunion tour, drew roughly 30,000 fans from several generations.
''My wife and I brought them to Sting in '88 in Calgary,'' Karl Letourneau said of his children. When word got out that The Police were reuniting for a tour to mark the 30th anniversary of their first single, Roxanne, the family knew that they had to be at the show.
Karl, his wife Loree, their daughter Devon Werenka and granddaughter Cara Werenka are all big fans.
''I like the music,'' said Karl.
''She just likes Sting,'' said Devon, pointing to her mother.
Loree was hardly the only fan at Commonwealth particularly fond of the Police frontman.
''I think he's amazing,'' said Dianne Cooke, 53, who came up from Red Deer. ''He's determined to change with the times. We're going back to the '70s and '80s tonight but he personally hasn't stayed there.''
Cooke has been a fan since she first heard one of the trio's songs on the jukebox at the arcade she went to as a teenager.
She and her co-worker, Chris Thorne, each bought 5 Gold Hotseat packages for the show through Ticketmaster.
The tickets came with Police buttons and an embroidered bag, but the best part was that Cooke and Thorne got to be just metres away from Sting, in an exclusive seating section near the stage.
Rob Charlton, in the 22nd row on the floor, wasn't too far away. While he thinks Sting is an ''amazing lyricist,'' he was most excited to see the man behind the singer.
''Stewart Copeland is one of the best drummers in the world,'' Charlton said. ''He influenced me to start playing the drums.''
The 43-year-old from Claresholme has been a Police fan since the '80s. He didn't get a chance to catch the band before Sting, Copeland and Summers split up in 1984.
The last time the Police came to Alberta, they played to a sold-out crowd at Northlands Coliseum in August, 1983 on their 'Synchronicity' tour. Charlton was only a teenager then, and too young to go to concerts.
''I've waited 24 years for this!''
Josh Palmer was just a kid when The Police played their last concert but he was just as excited as Charlton. The 24-year-old arrived in a vintage Police tour shirt from 1984. He bought it at a thrift store in Saskatoon, his home town.
Palmer plays guitar and is just kicking off his own music career.
He credits The Police for inspiring him. ''I never thought I'd get the chance to see them,'' he said.
Neither did Eric DenHaan, who got tickets to the show for his 15th birthday, which is next month.
DenHaan hitched a ride up from Lethbridge with his parents. They went to visit family while their son and his friend Evan Peacock, at his first concert ever, took in The Police.
''All the bands that came out now took something from them,'' said DenHaan, who recently learned how to play 'Message In A Bottle' on guitar. When he heard the band would be reuniting, and making a stop in Edmonton, he couldn't believe it.
''I was flipping out!''
''I count myself lucky to have a chance to see them,'' said Lyne Arial, from Ottawa. ''I can't believe there's only three people on stage right now, the sound is phenomenal.''
(c) The Edmonton Journal by Jennifer Fong
Police show arresting...
Stewart Copeland should be much happier with The Police's gig at Commonwealth Stadium.
The drummer wasn't entirely pleased with one of the trio's reunion shows in Vancouver, using words like ''off kilter'' and ''hodgepodges'' in a posting on his website, www.stewartcopeland.net.
While The Police's first open-air concert featured an almost identical set list - with the same gonging start - Copeland, Sting and guitarist Andy Summers were tighter, smoother and stronger as they rocked through their two-hour set on Saturday.
There were no foul-ups on the opener, 'Message In A Bottle', and 'Synchronicity II' and 'Spirits In the Material World' sounded like butter.
The trio didn't shy away from tinkering with some their classics - yet they seemed like they were trying to reign in their improvisational temptations.
'Synchronicity II' was slightly jazzier than the original recording. Only the chorus of 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' was slower and airier while the intro to 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' reverberated with a calypso beat.
''Do I have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days since we first met,'' Sting crooned as dark clouds hovered over the stadium. ''It's a big enough umbrella / But it's always me that ends up getting wet.''
The weather held out, thankfully, even though The Police often seemed to be taunting the meteorological gods.
Summers cranked out tempests of noise on his guitar. Copeland, looking slightly more subdued than in Vancouver, thundered away on his drums and percussion rack. Sting, who plucked his bass as if he were flicking cigarette butts, fondly reminisced about The Police's first trip to Edmonton in 1979.
''We drove from Winnipeg in a blizzard,'' he smiled.
The Police's next show in Edmonton was also a wild affair, with thousands of fans pouring on to the floor of Northlands Coliseum in 1983.
Saturday's crowd was older, wiser and more polite - clapping along to 'Walking In Your Footsteps', whoa-ing along to 'Truth Hits Everybody' and grooving to 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'. (We still don't know how many people were in the crowd, but the most popular guesstimate was about 30,000 fans.)
In fact, it wasn't until one of the group's last songs, 'Roxanne', that almost everyone in the stadium jumped to their feet.
They remained standing during the two encores, featuring 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely' and 'Every Breath You Take'.
They cheered wildly as Sting, Copeland and Summers took each other's hands and bowed at the end of the set. Another city of satisfied customers.
If life was fair, Sloan would be headlining stadiums, not opening for a group of musicians who haven't toured in more than two decades.
After all, the Halifax rockers have lasted twice as long - 15 years - and released twice as many albums - 10 - as The Police.
While Sloan simply doesn't have the same catalogue of killer songs, their set was still jam-packed with jangly, bittersweet goodness, raucous numbers and a drummer who looks eerily like Copeland.
''I always thought he looked like me,'' quipped Andrew Scott.
''We're actually brothers.''
If Copeland ever goes down with another broken bone, he could call in Scott as a substitute, not that Police fans would necessarily approve of the idea.
If Sting ever needed the night off, his sound-a-like son could possibly fill his shoes.
Joe Sumner and Fiction Plane played another solid set of reggae-flavoured pop-rock tunes, including 'Two Sisters', 'It's A Lie', 'Drink' and 'Cigarette'. With two discs to their name, the trio are at the start of their careers.
They'll only have to wait another 30 years to see if Fiction Plane has the same longevity and potency as The Police.
(c) Edmonton Journal by Sandra Sperounes
The Police delight 30,000 at Commonwealth Stadium...
Apparently, at the Police's tour opener in Vancouver, Stewart Copeland came in on the three when he should've come in on the one and the entirety of 'Message in a Bottle' was a half bar out of whack - something only musicians would notice.
According to his widely, though selectively reported blog entry titled ''Our First Disaster Gig,'' the whole night was a litany of flubs, muffs, key confusion, missed cues and outright train wrecks.
Copeland wasn't pleased.
He ripped on himself, he ripped on his bandmates, calling Sting a momentary ''petulant pansy,'' and stating that guitarist Andy Summers at one point was ''in Idaho,'' which we assume is nowhere near Groovesville, although Copeland ended on an up note: at the end of the show ''we fall into each other's arms laughing hysterically.''
This incident illustrates two points:
1. They argued then. They argue now. But it's about music, not who snorted up all the cocaine.
2. They're human beings. They make mistakes. You want real people playing music with no fake junk or canned backing tracks - warts and all? You will get real people playing music with no fake junk or canned backing tracks. Warts and all.
Only musician wonks were counting the minor wrinkles and cacks last night. (165 in total). The important thing for most of the 30,000 fans in Commonwealth Stadium was the spontaneity, passion and energy these aging British rockers managed to bring across. This was no ordinary reunion tour done for the money. Who cares if Summer missed a cue in Syncronicity II The crowd was too busing hollering out the ''oh-oh-ohs,'' which turned out to be a mere warm-up for the ''eyo-beeyo, eyo, eeyos'' later on in Walking On The Moon.
Who cares if Copeland's double kick pedal routine in 'Voices Inside My Head' wasn't quite in the pocket? He really went for it. The song was the first time of the night the Police really rocked. You got the feeling they wanted to be mellower than they actually were in a stadium, but even through the bluster, there was room for subtlety and nuance. Who cares if the guitar synthesizer sounded a bit gimpy and awkward? Who, in fact, cares about mistakes in live music at all? It should at least remind us that these are human beings up there. And only three of them, too, don't forget that.
Well, as for Sting, he may actually be superhuman. He's been working at a fairly high level of live performance for quite some time, so that may be why his delivery was so confident and relaxed.
He made it look easy, do, do do, da, da, da, another day, another stadium. And he must have some sort of yogic, tantric vocal warm-up technique because his voice was just about in perfect form.
Few of the hits - and they did most of them - were exact copies of the original recordings. In an apparent effort to keep things fresh and help justify the high ticket prices, the Police toyed with arrangements, adding new chords, tempos and notes.
Some seemed like just for the sake of doing it, but others actually improved the originals, almost but not quite to the point where you'd have to play ''guess that tune.'' Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether you like the director's cut of Star Wars better than the original. OK, bad example. But there were undoubtedly some purists out there jarred by the difference between their memory and real life. Few of the songs were too badly mangled except for 'Synchronicity II'.
For more than two hours they went at it, getting better with each song. In their own ''zone,'' the wrinkles smoothed out and each of the lads pulled off various amazing feats of musicianship that would've been impossible in a state of fear of screwing up.
As Copeland himself wrote in that same much-discussed blog entry, ''Screw it, it's only music.''
Good attitude. In not caring what goes wrong, great things can be accomplished.
Just when you've forgotten about Sloan, they turn up in yet another opening gig for yet another might impressive band. Why? Persistence, I guess.
Greying around the edges, the venerable Canadian quartet warmed up the crowd with their trademark hodgepodge of CCR, Beatles, the Ramones or whatever other seminal band that formed their young minds back in the way. While they stomped it up a bit for the stadium crowd, it still sounded like Sloan - disparate influences easily heard in the aural equivalent of poorly mixed cookie dough. Mmm, cookie dough. Still, 'Other Man' may be one of the best philandering rock songs ever written.
The frontman of opening band Fiction Plane is Sting's son, Joe Sumner, who may have inherited his father's streak of self-indulgence if not his gifts in songscraft and vocals.
Still, a few interesting - and Sting-like - moments emerged in this modern rock band, with the Son of Sting yelping out notes at the top of his range with all the passion he could muster.
A for effort.
(c) The Edmonton Sun by Mike Ross