Police Reunion

Cleveland, OH, US
Quicken Loans Arenawith Fiction Plane
The Police at Quicken Loans Arena...

Sting - No place to hide. The Police's unlikely reformation this past spring has resulted in the most anticipated tour in years. Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers are responsible for some of the most memorable songs from a generation ago, but during a 110-minute, 20-song set before a sold-out Quicken Loans Arena, the three disappointingly went through the motions. They played their most popular hits with the bravado expected, but littered the rest of the set with flubbed lyrics, lethargic instrumentation and an overall unenthusiastic approach.

With just the three of them on a well-illuminated, simple stage, there was nowhere for the Police to hide either. The concert featured just the band in its simplest form, no backing singers and no extra musicians. Entering to a hero's welcome, the band immediately ripped into 'Message In A Bottle', echoing the unforgettable chorus to the top rows of the arena. It was enough to make even the most casual fan's spine tingle as the previously unthinkable was actually unfolding. But soon after, even as Summers' lightning-quick guitar solo punctuated 'Voices Inside my Head', the band began down a derivative rock path. 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' was out of tune and sloppy, and 'Truth Hits Everybody' barely compelled the first 30 rows out of their seats.

It wasn't until the midpoint of the set, with 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', that the trio returned to the form exhibited during the opener. From then on, the Police unleashed hit after hit, with Copeland stepping onto a rising rafter to bang hand drums on 'Walking in Your Footsteps' while Sting led a glowing red arena through 'Roxanne'. But as the band valiantly proceeded through its four-song encore, highlighted by 'So Lonely' and 'Every Breath You Take', it became painfully apparent the group was still finding itself. If you were willing to overlook these flaws, or just enamored with the reunion itself, the Police at times still made for a memorable performance, but for all the hype surrounding it, it should have been so much more.

(c) Cleveland Free Times by Aaron Mendelsohn

Police performance is arresting - Extra jamming, reworked songs work smoothly...

It's been nearly 25 years since the Police performed in Cleveland, and for its return to the city Monday night, it brought no keyboardists hiding behind the bass amps, no backup singers swaying in unison, no horn section and no crazy lighting or wild stage to distract.

It was just Sting, Andy and Stewart - the birthday boy - whipping through their five-album, hit-filled catalog on a very bare stage with simple lighting and a trio of giant screens set high to give the sellout crowd great unfussy views of the band.

Even the usually awful seats directly behind the stage were rendered not terrible.

After Stewart Copeland's tongue-in-cheek bashing on his blog of the band's shaky opening night show in Vancouver and a few mixed reviews of the band's differing arrangements of a few of the tunes, I was half expecting it to play some sort of free-jazz versions of Police tunes. But anyone who has heard or seen footage of the band before it was the Biggest Band in the World shouldn't have been surprised by the extra jamming.

With no album of new material to force into the 19-song, two-hour set, the band unleashed a steady stream of hits, beginning with 'Message In A Bottle' and moving smoothly into 'Synchronicity II', which offered the first of several good solos from Andy Summers.

With a month and a half worth of shows behind them, the three have certainly found their groove. Beyond the gray and graying hair that tops all three members' heads, they looked and sounded as good as their halcyon days, if a little less frantic.

Naturally, Sting is still the handsome frontman and primary songwriter, and he revived his standard ''Bee-yo-yo'' sing-a-long chants (does he have that phrase trademarked?) on 'Walking On The Moon' and other tunes. However, the bare-bones-trio format left plenty of room for Summers' underrated solo work and almost every fill Copeland played sounded like a compact drum solo.

As for the maligned experimentation on familiar tunes, most of them worked for me, including the smooth transition from the slow groove of Voices in My Head into a funky, slow-boiling 'When the World Is Running Down' that featured a lengthy angular solo from Summers (sporting an ''Oh, my God, They Killed Kenny!'' guitar strap). Summers' solo sped up to near punk speed and sent the relatively mellow crowd into its first frenzy of the evening.

Somehow, 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' (which Sting introduced by mentioning the band's first show in Cleveland way back in ''1878'') managed to keep its basic arrangement but still sounded a bit like the ambient '86 version.

It also played old fan favorites 'The Truth Hits Everybody' and 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' from its first two albums, stretching out the latter song as the band has always done.

The percussion-heavy ode to dinosaur and human extinction, 'Walking in Your Footsteps', featured Sting on the pan flute (make your own Zamfir joke). It was given a relatively rocking ending, while 'Roxanne' was given a jazzy midsectionsimilar to the band's comeback performance on the Grammys telecast.

The show ended with a high-octane 'Next To You' that actually rocked a bit harder than the original recording and sent people in the sellout crowd, a melange of ages and races, back into the night tapping their toes.

With ticket prices ranging from $50 to more than $200, it's easy to be cynical about these big reunion tours (Genesis is next in September). And, the Police will certainly make googobs of cash; perhaps even more than in its first go-round, when it was one of the biggest bands in the world. But both Summers and Copeland have said for years they wanted the band to take the victory lap denied it when Sting decided to move on after the contentious 'Synchronicity' Tour.

Now, watching the 50- and 60-somethings smile at each other while jamming, they honestly appeared to enjoy playing together. You could see and feel the onstage rapport that Sting seemed to be trying to recapture on his stripped-down tour that stopped at Cleveland State University in 2005.

Or, perhaps Mr. Sumner (Sting's name is Gordon Sumner) actually listened to a few of his recent albums and finally discovered how boring he had become as a solo artist.

Speaking of Mr. Sumner, his son Joe's band, Fiction Plane, opened the show with a set of songs that sounded a lot like other people's songs, including its ska-flavored single 'Two Sisters'. It sounds like a young StingfrontingSublime, while the tune 'Cigarette' resembles a young Sting (yeah, his voice often sounds like his father) fronting, well, the Police.

If he's trying to step out of his father's shadow, he's chosen an interesting route by taking the opening slot on the Police tour (though that could be chalked up to good business sense).

Sting Jr. is also bass player/frontman like his father and Fiction Plane is a nonpower trio like his dad's band (the guitar player even plays a telecaster like Andy Summers).

The band's also not very interesting or distinguished, though it is obviously talented.

Good luck, kid.

(c) Akron Beacon Journal by Malcolm X Abram

Every Little Thing They Did Was Magic...

Reunion tours are usually slagged by critics as transparent cash grabs that take advantage of fans' nostalgia. Most of the time, the critics are right. So naysayers had a field day when the Police shocked the music world by announcing its reunion after a near 25-year absence.

But everyone should have seen it coming. No one gave a shit about Sting's lute album. Stewart Copeland's projects have been way more about art than commerce. And Andy Summers is freaking 65 years-old. For the Police, the time to cash in on the reunion craze was now. But this reunion was different from others for one fact: The Police disbanded at the top of their game with 1983's 'Synchronicity' and never grew into an embarrassing self-parody of itself.

Besides, when you can put on a show like the Police did with its sold-out two-hour Cleveland set, all speculation about intentions for reuniting are moot.

From the moment Sting and company took the stripped-down stage and opened with 'Message In A Bottle', and Sting yelled ''Hey Cleveland, how ya doin'?'' the applause was deafening. It felt like old footage from the Ed Sullivan show, when audiences used to cheer loudly.

Sting may not be able to hit the high notes like he used to, but he certainly didn't embarrass himself. He occasionally didn't even need to sing. He let the audience take over on 'Roxanne' and 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'. Even the more obscure songs like 'Walking In Your Footsteps' and the excellent 'Truth Hits Everybody' received the sing-along treatment.

The band was on. Sting's reggae-influenced bass lines were perfect, and Copeland's agile drumming showed no signs of age on his 55th birthday. He occasionally stood above his drumkit to pound a gong and a smorgasbord of exotic percussion instruments, such as on 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Walking In Your Footsteps'.

But the real star of the show was Summers. The guitarist usually played a supporting role in the Police, accentuating Sting's melodic basslines with jazzy and exotic chords. But tonight he was a great rock guitarist, soloing early and often, including three times during 'Driven To Tears'. The only member of the band who was alive during World War II even managed a few sprightly jumps during the more energetic tracks.

Proving that nepotism doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, Fiction Plane, the alt-rock trio fronted by Sting's son, opened with an impressive set. The band sounded like a heavier version of the Police when their albums had French titles.

(c) Cleveland Scene by Matt Gorey

The Police perform in perfect synchronicity...

Everything old was new-wave again when the Police headlined a sold-out concert Monday night at The Q.

Singer-bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland last performed in these parts in 1983 at the old Richfield Coliseum, on their last major outing. It felt as if they never had called it quits as the comeback trail led through Cleveland for these resurgent Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, with 'Message In A Bottle' kick-starting a two-hour hit parade.

''Hey, Cleveland, how're you doing?'' Sting asked during the refrain.

This was the sole Ohio stop on the trio's 40-date North American reunion tour. The action unfolded on a no-frills stage. The only props were a few colorful balloons in honor of Copeland. He was celebrating his 55th birthday, making him the same age as Sting. Summers is a scissor-kicking 64.

Copeland, who couldn't play an unadorned 4/4 beat if his life were at stake, displayed his usual polyrhythmic flair behind the drum kit. He switched to a well-stocked percussion rig for several numbers, including 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Walking in Your Footsteps'.

Summers alternated between abstract solos and atmospheric jazz chords, with his exquisite D minor 11th shimmering like a hot sun above a desolate landscape during 'Walking On The Moon'.

Last we heard from Sting, he was playing the lute. Thank goodness he went for the loot by teaming up again with his old partners in crime, who brought out the best in the Police chief.

His soaring voice slipped into a spine-tingling falsetto during 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', a reggae-tinged lament about the futility of attempting tantric sex with a pillow.

More than 20,000 fans provided backing vocals on 'Roxanne' (cue red lights) and several other tunes, including an effervescent 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.'

Sting: ''I resolve to call her up...''

Us: ''A thousand times a day...''

Sting: ''And ask her if she'll marry me...''

Us: ''Some old-fashioned way...''

Almost every little thing the Police did was magic, with a few exceptions. Sting had trouble finding the pocket during 'King of Pain', and he flubbed the lyrics to 'Synchronicty II', the best tune ever about suburban angst and the Loch Ness Monster.

''This song is not autobiographical,'' ex-teacher Sting declared before 'Don't Stand So Close to Me'. Too bad his schoolgirl fantasy never quite took off in concert.

Nonetheless, those minor trespasses were easy to forgive in light of a hard-hitting 'Driven To Tears', a dynamic 'Can't Stand Losing You'/'Reggatta de Blanc' medley and a transcendent 'Every Breath You Take'.

'Next To You', a throwback to the band's punk roots in the 1970s, capped a four-song encore. Afterwards, Sting, Summers and Copeland joined hands and took a triumphant bow.

''The best birthday ever!'' Copeland shouted. ''Thank you, Cleveland!''

The pleasure was all ours.

Crowd-warming duties were doled out to Fiction Plane, led by Sting's son Joe Sumner. His voice sounded a bit like Daddy's, especially on the screechy high notes, although the young Sumner's unremarkable alt-rock trio was out of its league.

(c) The Plain Dealer by John Soeder