Police Reunion

Toronto, ON, CA
Air Canada Centrewith Fiction Plane
When familiarity breeds content...

To borrow a title: ''When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around.''

So, yeah, this Police reunion likely never should have happened. Even Sting's own son, Joe Sumner - whose band, Fiction Plane, has been opening what will likely turn out to be the summer's biggest concert tour and is witnessing firsthand the deteriorating game of ''nice'' waged between Dad (a.k.a. Gordon Sumner), guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland - has publicly given the reactivated trio only as long as it takes not to ''beat each other to death'' before the whole thing collapses amidst a violent reprisal of the conflicts that first killed the band at the peak of its global popularity 23 years ago.

It's a good thing, though, that these cats probably really can't stand to be on the same stage together. Last night's performance by the beloved British trio at the Air Canada Centre - its first of three sold-out reunion gigs at the venue, with a second tonight and another at tour's end on Nov. 8 - exhibited none of the play-it-safe musical complacency that typically afflicts such grudging, exorbitantly priced ''over my dead body'' endeavours.

No, The Police appear committed to making this more than a total murder-by-the-numbers sleepwalk to their substantial paycheques.

The two-hour program was indeed composed of ''greatest hits'' culled from their redoubtable, five-album, '77-'84 playbook, but the song arrangements were frequently and diligently distended and twisted into curious new shapes, or occasionally lent contemporary vocal melodies more in tune with the 50-ish Sting's ''mature'' vocal register.

The changes might have frustrated and occasionally outright bored a 20,000-ish mob that mostly stayed on its feet from Summers' signature liquid guitar intro to 'Message In A Bottle' until this writer fled during an anticlimactic encore reprisal of 'Every Breath You Take' 120 minutes later - seriously, last night's masterful, arena-tweaking extended version of 'So Lonely' was an entire curtain call in itself, the preceding, jubilant kick at 'King of Pain' notwithstanding - but they contributed to the most consistently interesting and least tawdry or phoned-in-feeling reunion gig to pass through Toronto at this level in years.

There's something to be said for a willingness to potentially fail, particularly when you're failing at nearly $300 a head. And The Police did fail mightily from time to time last night, turning the once-urgent 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' into a flaccidly groovy argument for erectile-dysfunction medication, missing the glide on the chorus to 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and the apocalyptic bite of 'Invisible Sun', and then totally degrading the more-valid-than-ever ''end of the world'' portent of 'Walking in Your Footsteps' with a couple of dropped-in Summers blues riffs that provoked one of the few ''holy cheeseball!'' responses of an otherwise totally respectable night.

Though sluggish enough to seem much longer than its actual running time, the mighty 'Synchronicity II' retained its sleek, evil character. An explosive slow burn to the jubilant final chorus of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' taught the value of patience to a room rendered slightly wary and weary by deliberate, elongated arrangements of ''Walking On The Moon'' and the aforementioned 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'.

Properly harnessed, in fact, the ''wow'' moments on the night - scattered though they might have been - probably coursed with enough of their own energy to generate light. I see a lot of crappy, walk-through-it reunion shows in this job, and this wasn't one of them. Probably because Sting and Copeland, he of the raised and ludicrously overexpanded drum kit, are so hell-bent on outshining one another's brilliance that Summers has the space to stitch the great songs they wrote together back into something egoless and essential.

(c) The Toronto Star by Ben Rayner

The Police out in full force...

Call it a Police escort. When a famously reunited British band played the first of two nights at Air Canada Centre, it was accompanied not by staff musicians or bought-and-paid-for backup singers, but by an arena-sized choir that had practised 23 years for the gig.

''The question is, Toronto,'' leader Sting asked early on, ''are you ready to sing tonight?''

He had good reason to wonder.

The chorus of opening number 'Message In A Bottle', which, on earlier dates of the reunion tour, had fans participating in a cheerful, wavy drone, was met blankly by the Hogtown mutes on hand.

That was the exception, though, and not indicative of the crowd's spirited reaction over the course of 110 minutes and 20 songs.

The crowd eventually proved to be in ''good voice,'' as judged by Sting, and often met his wordless calypso bellows. The Police pleased, not that there was much chance they would do anything but.

Were they recognizable after so long?

Yes and no. A set list of whopper hits was predictable - ''You guys haven't changed a bit'' might greet the threesome - but the renditions were not straight Xeroxes.

Although never straying too far from the their trademark light pop harmonies and succinct reggae rhythms, the trio did venture. 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' (the second half of a medley with 'Voices Inside My Head') was funky and jazzed. The Lolita-loving 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', written by former schoolteacher Sting, was mellowed and without its lewd edge.

However, a sprawling, athletic 'I Can't Stand Losing You' excited.

The band was fit and spry, from the heroically-biceped Sting (who has not lost his distinctive high tenor), to the interested, nimble-fingered guitarist Andy Summers (he rescued 'Driven To Tears' with his committed soloing). Drummer Stewart Copeland, with headband and gloves, looked like an earnest soccer goalie.

Mr. Copeland's solo on 'Roxanne' was his big moment. A four-song encore followed ('King of Pain', 'So Lonely', a flaccid 'Every Breath You Take' and a furious, awkward 'Next To You')

The subplot of this autumnal reunion has to do with the trio's often volatile relationship. Perhaps that's why a night-closing three-way handshake of triumph earned the evening's fullest applause.

Those arriving as opening act Fiction Plane muscled its way through a set of full-sized rock songs were bound to be confused initially, because the band was led by a singer with a most unmistakable voice.

Except that it was mistakable - belonging to Joe Sumner, and not his famous Pop, Sting.

Energetic, polished and mostly uninteresting, Fiction Plane failed to take off.

(c) The Globe & Mail by Brad Wheeler

Every little thing they did, seemingly, was magic last night as British-American New Wave band The Police brought their first tour in 23 years to the Air Canada Centre...

During the first of two sold-out, back-to-back shows in Toronto, singer-bassist Sting, 55, guitarist Andy Summers, 64, and drummer Stewart Copeland, 55, played hit after monster hit from their late '70s, early '80s heyday, just as they did during their Vancouver tour launch two months ago, although the set list was slightly altered.

Beginning with 'Message In A Bottle', the trio of musicians seemed primed from the opening note on their stripped-down, in-the-round stage which boasted massive lights, speakers, overhead video screens but little else in the way of distractions.

Still, it was hard to keep your eyes off Sting's tanned, chiselled arms, which were shown off to great effect in a white sleeveless shirt.

The point is really that this tour is supposed to be about the music and frankly when the music is this good - the strong opening continued with 'Synchronicity II', 'Walking On The Moon', the latter inspiring a crowd singalong on the chorus with Sting and Summers doing a walkabout on their massive circular catwalk, and 'Voices Inside My Head'/'When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around' - that's probably not a bad call.

For those who didn't get tickets to The Police's two sold-out ACC shows, they return to the same venue on Nov. 8 for which there are still a few tickets left.

And while it's hardly the same thing, Summers also has a Police-related photo exhibit at the Edward Day Gallery on Queen St. W. in Toronto from July 25-Aug. 14.

The 38 black-and-white photos were culled from his recently released coffee table book, ''I'll Be Watching You: Inside The Police, 1980-1983'' (Taschen).

Opening last night with a loud if largely underwhelming 45-minute set was the British rock trio Fiction Plane, fronted by Joe Sumner, the son of Sting, whose real name is Gordon Sumner.

As it turns out, Joe is also the singer-bassist in a British rock trio and vocally sounds uncannily like dear old dad, particularly in his upper register.

Sadly, he doesn't have the same propensity for songwriting hooks as his father.

After tonight's second show, The Police roadtrip heads to Montreal's Bell Centre next for two sold-out shows on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

The reunion trek is expected to be far and away the No. 1 tour of the year and with dates just added in Australia and New Zealand in January and February, Summers told Sun Media there could be even further touring next summer after a break.

In other words, The Police tour could also prove to be 2008's biggest roadtrip.

(c) The Toronto Sun by Jane Stevenson