Police Reunion

Oakland, CA, US
McAfee Coliseumwith Fiction Plane, The Fratellis
Police your expectations and ease up...

Maybe I'm just easy to please?

OK, people who know me can stop laughing now. It's just the only way to explain the difference between my take on The Police concert Wednesday night at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland and the single review I've read.

Jim Harrington blasted Sting and Company on the Contra Costa Times' Web site. Me? I had a magnificent time.

He's a music critic. I'm a music fan. He expected to be blown away. I expected to feel joy simply in being there. He was let down. I was elated.

The key to seeing a band in a huge arena gig on its first tour in nearly 25 years is to keep expectations in check. Maybe that's why I had such a great time and the reviewer was so cranky.

His biggest knock was the slow tempo of so many of the band's songs. I admit to desperately wishing they'd bust out on 'Don't Stand So Close to Me'. But they kept up the beat on several songs - including a standout version of 'Synchronicity II' - and didn't wallow in jazzy Stingness nearly as much as I expected.

Did the concert have the bombastic showiness of, say, the U2 concert a couple of years ago? Of course not. But U2 didn't take a 25-year break and is known for visual fireworks.

Fact is, I didn't go see The Police for a blast of visuals. Nor did I expect the energy of three men 24 years younger. I went to hear a monumental band that broke up and swore never to reunite. I went to rekindle memories and witness a piece of music history.

I'm not a music critic, just a music fan. As such, I wasn't the least bit disappointed.

(c) Modesto Bee by Pat Clark

Police show pleases fans but doesn't set off sirens...

After all the hoopla, with ticket prices soaring up to $225 each, could the first Police show in the Bay Area since 1983 possibly live up to expectations?

Short answer: not quite.

Sting was in fine voice Wednesday night at a sold-out McAfee Coliseum, and the sound of his bass guitar, Stewart Copeland's drums and Andy Summers' guitar remains utterly distinctive. Even after all this time, no one sounds like the Police.

But if any parents who were there wanted to prove to their kids that adult-contemporary star Sting once was in a fun, feisty reggae-pop-punk trio, they probably still have some convincing to do.

The energy that marked such early Police classics as 'Roxanne' and 'So Lonely' was frittered away in aimless noodling that stretched the songs to twice their optimal length.

And much of the more complex material from the band's later albums, particularly the tunes from 'Ghost in the Machine', sounded awfully thin. Built around a repeated skeletal guitar figure from Summers, 'Spirits in the Material World' hardly sounded like a completed song, let alone a big hit from the 1980s.

The show had some pacing problems, too, after a strong start. The band emerged from beneath the stage at 9 p.m. sharp and delivered a sure-footed 'Message in a Bottle', followed by 'Synchronicity II' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', in an arrangement that was more mellow '86 than rockin' '80.

But a medley of 'Voices in My Head' - understandably taken down an octave by the now-55-year-old Sting - and 'When the World Is Running Down' brought the energy level down, and the crowd had to wait an awfully long time before it came up again. 'Walking in Your Footsteps' with Sting on pan flute probably was the low point. (Note: Bands this old might want to avoid using dinosaur imagery on the video screens.)

Copeland remains one of the most imaginative, unpredictable drummers rock has known, and on many numbers he wandered away from his drum kit to beat on an impressive array of metal doodads.

Summers - wearing a ''South Park'' guitar strap, incidentally - stretched out a little more than in the past, but his solos remain an acquired taste. In a way, he's the anti-Neil Young: a technically accomplished player who manages to bring the crowd down every time he takes an extended solo.

To their credit, after touring arenas with a horn section or backup singers in the early '80s, the three musicians in the Police are bravely going out there on their own this time around. And rather than duplicating the recorded arrangements, the three musicians are truly in the moment, playing and experimenting. But on this night, it was only intermittently successful.

Ultimately, though, the sound was clear, Sting looked handsome and buff on the big screen, and the band played all the hits people craved. Most who waited a quarter-century to see the Police seemed to leave satisfied, if not ecstatic.

(c) San Jose Mercury News by Shay Quillen

The Police are back in action...

The Police - a soul act? The notion may be a stretch, but not by much, judging by the reunited band's performance Wednesday at the sold-out McAfee Coliseum in Oakland.

Fans expecting the rough-edged, punky, jazzy rock that characterized the group's early years may have been disappointed; others, particularly those who enjoy Sting's solo career, found the show completely satisfying from start to finish. (I'm one of the latter.)

For nearly two hours, the biggest band of the early '80s served up shaded and warm - yes, bordering on soulful - renditions of its hits.

There wasn't much kick-butt rock until 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'So Lonely' toward the end of the set, but it didn't hamper many listeners' enjoyment.

After all these years, Sting (bass, vocals), Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drums) still sound great together. They clearly have benefited from their 23-odd year hiatus. All in what looked to be fantastic physical shape, the fellows seemed to be having a good time, and enjoying the fact that, at this point, they don't have anything to prove.

On a stage with a basic light show and video screens equally focusing on each member, the Police opened with 'Message In A Bottle', followed by 'Synchronicity II' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', in which Sting's vocals were like honey.

He tried to get the crowd to sing along on 'When the World is Running Down ...' (it only sort of worked); then Summers kicked in with a fancy guitar solo on 'Spirits in the Material World'.

'Driven To Tears' was followed by a dreamy, appealingly amorphous 'Walking on the Moon'. The lesser-known 'Truth Hits Everybody' led the way for 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'.

Copeland did some cool percussion work on a very evocative, haunting 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'. The mood continued on 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'.

'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' had the crowd bouncing, while 'Invisible Sun' and 'Walking in Your Footsteps' were, once again, soulful.

'Roxanne', of course, was a crowd pleaser, as was 'King of Pain'.

Fans waited breathlessly for 'Every Breath You Take', really a creepy song if you pay attention to the words. Still, when it finally came around, the megahit sounded terrific, going down as seemingly effortlessly as the tunes that preceded it.

(c) The San Francisco Examiner by Leslie Katz

The Police, Sting are back - but are they happy about it?

Sting couldn't keep it off his face.

Magnified a thousand times on giant video screens, he kept making tiny winces that otherwise wouldn't have been seen. He didn't look all that comfortable, almost as if he didn't know what to do with this whole Police reunion idea.

With his typical timing, however, Sting did know exactly when to reconvene his old rock combo. His solo career has been at probably its lowest ebb since he left the Police - his latest album was Elizabethan folk songs backed by lute - but now he is suddenly on top again, leading this summer's top rock box-office attraction, and drawing a midweek full house Wednesday to McAfee Coliseum in Oakland.

Reunited with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers, Sting walked out clapping and carrying a battered Fender four-string, and then thundered open 'Message In A Bottle' to start the two-hour performance. As the trio cruised into 'Synchronicity II' the lighting design smothered the stage in the colors of the cover of 'Synchronicity' the album that made the Police the rock band of 1983, the year of 'Thriller'.

The band first appeared in the Bay Area in 1979 at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Auditorium, the same month as two other promising British new wave imports, Boomtown Rats and Ultravox, and where are they now? The original 'Synchronicity' tour played 24 years ago at the same baseball park, then called Oakland Coliseum Stadium, and outdrew that summer's 'Serious Moonlight' show by David Bowie (with Stevie Ray Vaughan in the band) and where is he now?

And despite an enormously successful solo career, where he has done everything from post-bop fusion to Algerian rai electronica, Sting still finds himself inexorably linked to the rock trio he left at the absolute peak of its success. His most recent tour, in 2005, featured a blistering, stripped-down rock band that suggested a return to his punkish roots, but it played to an audience less than one-tenth Wednesday night's size at a small hall in San Jose.

But back with the Police, the chemistry is obviously still unstable. Summers is a phlegmatic soul whose guitar style depends more on carefully processed sounds than fiery playing. He brought as much joy and charisma to the task as a cashier giving change. Copeland, as engaged as Summers was detached, wore golfing gloves and sweatband that matched the athleticism of his drumming.

Sting looked great, all rippling muscles and chiseled features. Still his frustration came through in his joyless exuberance, his phony bonhomie as he coasted through vocal parts he used to burn through.

The band tucked some little jammy parts into certain songs and slightly reworked some of the familiar arrangements, giving Sting room to run a couple of catchphrase choruses into the ground or lead the audience in a chant-along: eeh-ow-yee-ow.

He remodeled 'Roxanne', almost abstracting it, like a live remix. But even then, he didn't sound fully committed, more as if he was toying with the piece - and the audience.

In many ways, Sting's solo career helped keep the Police idea going. No matter what he did, he would always be known for his early work with these two other guys. He raised an entire generation of fans too young to have seen the band the first time.

He also clearly left the band in the first place because he felt restricted as a musician. He wanted to swing free. He saw worlds beyond three-piece rock. He wanted to collaborate with challenging, exhilarating musicians like jazz keyboard whiz Kenny Kirkland. Now he's back with the Police and obviously having a hard time playing it straight.

(c) The San Francisco Chronicle by Joel Selvin

The Police - Despite reworked songs and some age-induced deceleration, reunited trio delights nearly 50,000 at the Oakland Coliseum...

Once upon a time, Sting was arguably the coolest cat on the planet, fronting one sensational rock band.

Many songs from the labyrinth and pretentious posturing later, that varnish has certainly eroded.

But reunited with drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers last night at a packed and electric Oakland Coliseum, the 55-year-old tantric practitioner was every bit the massive rock star of is prime, and he had a fantastic catalog of music as his launching pad.

Over two-plus hours, the trio reminded fans that for a five-year period in the late '70s and early '80s, they were the biggest rock band around. This is the most talked-about concert tour of 2007, and it was quite a rush to hear nearly 50,000 people sing along to every song for more than two hours.

The Police broke up 23 years ago, however, and last night the trio's once-frenetic energy was sporadic, the high notes weren't so high, and the tempos were decidedly on the jazzier, mellower side. The last of those changes was a fear of many diehard Police fans who grew disenchanted with Sting's jazzier, adult-contemporary solo material.

There was plenty of that last night, as tracks that exploded off the stage 20 years ago took sharp turns into mellow jazz grooves. But this wasn't just a case of slowing down because you can't keep up with your old self. The slower tempos allowed for some crafty treatments of some tracks, particularly the reggae-inflected 'Walking On The Moon', which gave Copeland plenty of room to show off his deft touch on an array of percussive instruments.

The set started with 'Message In A Bottle', which started in a blaze but slowed substantially after that, although the tempo changes were handled skillfully. The new treatments of many of these songs was surely frustrating for some fans, but the band deserves credit for challenging themselves as musicians to keep things fresh and not just roll out copy-paste versions of their hits.

'Synchronicity II', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', and 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' followed. Each was solid but 'Spirits in the Material World' eclipsed them all, serving as the first of many tracks to which the mostly middle-aged crowd sang and swayed.

Later in the set, during 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' the trio showed a playfulness that was missing from their final years together, as Sting stretched out the song with a bass flourish and forced Copeland and Summers to follow. They all laughed and seemed to enjoy the ride.

The hits just kept coming, from 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Invisible Sun' to 'I Can't Stand Losing You' and 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da'.

'Roxanne' closed out the set and also served as its low point, as the punk-fueled manic energy of the original gave way to a space-out rendition. This time the retreatment just didn't work.

The band was back out quickly to deliver fantastic versions of 'King of Pain' and 'So Lonely'. They left again and returned with 'Every Breath You Take' and, finally, 'Next To You', a punchy track from their debut album almost 30 years ago.

Fans expecting to be beamed back to the 1980s for carbon copies of their favorite Police songs might have been disappointed. But one of the biggest rock bands of that era showed that, despite a two-decade hiatus, they're better than a simple nostalgia tour.

(c) MP3.com by Jim Welte

Police Score Big at Oakland Reunion...

The T-shirts they were selling said it all: They featured pictures of Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers with 'Synchronicity' colors over their mouths, like gags.

It was obvious on a warm night Wednesday that bad feelings between them broke this trio up 24 years ago more than bad music, and the reunion, which was not needed financially by the castle-owning songwriter and singer born Gordon Sumner, showed the songs still packed a lot of punch.

In fact, in two dozen years of trying to find musicians who better complemented or accented his tunes, nothing Sting's done compared to the innovations of this first punk/reggae/jazz trio, and they continued on this reunion, reshaping the hits and resurrecting almost forgotten tunes such as 'Voices in My Head', 'Truth Hits Everybody', and 'Invisible Sun'. Summers and Copeland are edgy, strong-willed players, who can't help molding Sting's songs, recasting them and adding guitar leads and changing rhythms that made them new and familiar at once.

I paid $483 for my tickets....more than I've paid for any show ever. I saw them in 1983 and it was in my top 10 shows of all time. How did this compare? That one was longer (2.5 hours, with a break, compared to only two here), and a lot of the songs were new then, so more exciting to hear live for the first time.

But, musically, these guys are still magic, and yeah, it was worth the dough.

It was also great to be back at a stadium show, sort of a reuniting with a rock generation that spent its early days in big stadiums at communal festivals and days on the green. Sure, the sound isn't great, but the vibe definitely was.

(c) San Jose Mercury News By Brad Kava

A kinder, gentler Police...

Stewart Copeland smacked his snare drum with a giant ''thwack,'' and Sting led the sold-out crowd in a chant of ''Eee-yo-yo-yo.'' The Police were rocking through 'Can't Stand Losing You' on Wednesday night, and McAfee Coliseum was relishing in the band's reunion, just like it was the Reagan years all over again.

But then, a reality check. The Police then went into 'Roxanne' and sullied one of its biggest hits with a noodly jam that seemed to be missing a smooth-jazz saxophone solo.

Beware of the potholes on the Police's reunion trail. The idea of Sting, Copeland and Andy Summers making nice after all these years - and playing a two-hour show of greatest hits - makes for one irresistible concert ticket. But many of those songs featured snoozy new arrangements that turned the band into Police-lite.

Did you really pay $300 a ticket to hear 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' practically reduced to a lounge tune?

Guess there's no time like the past when it comes to the Police. But it's certainly a history worth celebrating, a band that took reggae, pop and post-punk, blended it all together, and made the music bounce up and down like it was riding a pogo stick.

So many of the Police's songs sound fresh after all these years, like the shimmering sentiments in 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', or the elegant angst of 'King of Pain'.

The Police's run was fast, just six years, and included a whole lot of infighting, including a broken rib for Sting (courtesy of Copeland). It seemed like the last band to reunite would be the Police.

But there they were, grinning on stage and enjoying the good vibes. If there was any bad blood between the three, they sure put on a good game face.

''Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Sting!'' said Copeland, in a very sincere and cheery voice, when introducing his bandmates.

Their musicianship remains solid, some 23 years after the Police's break-up. Sting - he of the ripped biceps and beat-up Fender bass - unleashed some especially wicked runs during 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'. Sting took a more comfortable vocal route and copped out on some high notes, but he can still unleash a ''Hey-yo-yo-yo'' chorus like it's 1983 all over again.

Many of Summers' guitar solos bordered on the atonal, like he was ready to drop by Yoshi's nightclub after the Police's set for a free-jazz throwdown. Rock guitarists don't get much more imaginative than him.

And Copeland remains a king of drum kits, laying down a variety of tricky beats and grooves designed for dancing feet.

Put all of this musicianship together, and you get a powder keg of a power trio. Or at least the potential for one.

The problem with the Police circa 2007 is dull arrangements. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', one of the band's most joyous tunes, was reimagined as reggae-lite. Summers also tweaked the original guitar line into something so choppy that it sullied the song's romantic heart.

'Wrapped Around Your Finger' bordered on snooze-jazz, like it was just waiting for a saxophone cameo from Najee. 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' was delivered without any angst, and with Sting opting for a vocal in the lower range, it all sounded flat. 'Spirits In The Material World' also lacked punch and propulsion, like something you'd hear at soundcheck. 'De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da' was so mellow that it was a ''de doo doo'' dud.

That's not to say the Police robbed the crowd - some 45,000 strong - of memorable music. 'Can't Stand Losing You' featured one fat guitar riff, and ''Message In A Bottle'' sounded spunky as ever. A faithful version of 'So Lonely' also had people bouncing around their seats.

The Police were simply best when they weren't trying to be so tricky. And if you're going to bring back the band, ressurect the spunky spirit of 1979. A ''quiet storm'' version of the Police is just a crime.

(c) The Sacramento Bee by Chris Macias