Outside Key Arena last night, there were a few religious protesters with big signs urging passersby to repent of their evil ways, but inside the venue was a packed house eager to see The Police for their first tour in twenty years. The crowd definitely skewed older (and drunker), kinda like your parents at Oktoberfest, and the stage was sparsely set for the band's three solitary figures. As always, Sting was in one of his sleeveless t-shirts that rode up in the back, all the better to show off how well he's aged, thanks to approximately nine thousand hours of yoga a day. The show kicked off with 'Message in a Bottle', complete with a greeting of ''Hey Seattle, how ya doing?'' to which the crowd, on its feet, responded enthusiastically: ''OH MY GOD, STING IS TALKING TO ME AND HE KNOWS THE NAME OF THE CITY IN WHICH I LIVE!''
The erstwhile Gordon Sumner's pipes are fully intact and he maintains the ability to hit (and hold) those high notes, whether the notes in question are an ''ee-yo-oh-ohhh'' or an ''ee-yo-ee-yay-ee-yay-yo.'' The entire band was in great form, with Sting playing an old beaten-up bass and Andy Summers (who damn near stole the show) on a weathered electric with a South Park strap. Stewart Copeland appeared ready for a race of some sort, what with his sweatband, bike shirt, gloves, and bottles of Gatorade next to his still-huge drum kit, but then again, with the intense way dude plays the drums, that's hours of aerobic exercise.
Most of the crowd remained on their feet for the entire two-hour set, which featured all the hits: 'Spirits in the Material World', a slowed-down, dreamy version of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', 'Walking On The Moon', 'Can't Stand Losing You', a completely revamped 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', and 'Roxanne', which of course featured heavy use of the red light. Speaking of the visuals, they were off the hook, with huge LED screens above the stage showing the band in HD, as well as 'Ghost in the Machine' logos and other throwbacks. There were sci-fi-looking towers with beams of light that would rise from the stage as needed. A scrim emerged for 'Walking in Your Footsteps' on which a plodding dinosaur skeleton was projected, which seemed like a big to-do for a relatively minor song. Only a couple visual miscues: 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' featured Stewart Copeland on the gong (and about nine million chimes and cymbals) and was accompanied by images of a sea of candles (wank wank). But the more egregious was during 'Invisible Sun', which mingled shots of the band playing with footage from Iraq. We're not really sure what the message was (war is bad, mmmkay?), but anytime you superimpose an image of an unbelievably healthy Sting over a poor Iraqi kid with missing limbs, we're gonna hafta give you a hearty ''fuck you.''
Thankfully, those were but brief unfortunate moments in an otherwise stellar high-energy show. Even the sign language translator was way into it (plus we learned ASL for 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da'). The set proper ended with 'Roxanne' and the biggest crowd sing-along of the night. The band brought it down for a call-and-reponse, deconstructed that, and then brought it back up again, closing with Sting doing his little Sting jump on the final beat. For the encore, the band engaged in a little faux-bickering before 'King of Pain' and a super-reggae version of 'So Lonely' with another monster Summers solo and the modified line ''Welcome to the Stewart Copeland show.'' During the final encore, we tried to ignore the gross Eastside couple across the aisle slow-dancing (literally) and swapping spit during ode to stalking 'Every Breath You Take'. We woulda been happy with that being the last song, but the band threw in one more ('Next to You') for good measure before the three of them held hands and took a bow (awwww).
Apparently they don't completely hate each other just yet. Tonight's your last chance to see them before they do.
The Police find their rhythm, but for how long?
With their rich catalog, this '80s trio proves they have staying power...
When drummer Stewart Copeland recently unleashed an online tirade about how ''unbelievably lame'' the Police were in the opening concert of their long-awaited reunion tour, it was, as usual, tough to decipher.
Was legendary lead singer and bassist Sting really a ''petulant pansy'' or was he the ''god of rock'' Copeland and long-suffering fans expected him to be? Was mad-genius guitarist Andy Summers ''in Idaho'' during the show - which actually took place in Vancouver - or right where he needed to be with the ethereal, adventurous fretwork that made the band's hits so distinctive? Was Copeland kidding or was he serious?
And can't they all just get along?
A packed house of over 20,000 disciples, more than happy to shrink bank accounts for tickets to a classic '80s show - which had very 2007 prices - decided to find out for themselves Wednesday night.
It was the return of the ''mighty Police,'' as Copeland sarcastically called them in his now-infamous blog post, the band's first official United States performance on the 30th anniversary tour, and as the people poured into KeyArena in Seattle, they had to be wondering if the group remains as innovative, smart and relevant as it used to be while catapulting to the top of the rock world during the Reagan years.
After all, 1983 was the year when the fifth and final album of their frenetic, fantastic seven-year history, 'Synchronicity', spent 17 weeks at No. 1 and spawned one of the defining rock radio staples of the last three decades, the stalker anthem 'Every Breath You Take'.
They sold out football stadiums, they bickered, they bickered some more, they flat-out fought, and then, poof! Sting took off for a high-profile solo career rooted in jazz and pop, Copeland wrote music for movies, and Summers flew under the radar with experimental solo and collaboration projects. The Police were dead.
Or were they? Somewhere along the line, rumors popped up. They re-recorded a slower version of their hit 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' for a greatest-hits collection in 1986. They briefly played at Sting's wedding in 1992 before quarreling again. They jammed out a few songs when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
And now, in 2007, they're back, three notorious neurotics who have once and for all decided to just shut up, play rock and roll, and add to their already-sizable estate values courtesy of this corporate boondoggle of a world tour sponsored by Best Buy.
But that's just business, and on Wednesday, from Copeland's opening gong blast and the signature Summers riff kicking off set the unmistakable opener ''Message in a Bottle,'' all was right in the musical universe once again.
Sting looked robust and invigorated at age 55, with the original Police hair color of bleached blond, a ripped yoga master's physique and, finally, the on-stage appearance of a somewhat angry punk-rocker - cutoff white T-shirt, black leather pants and combat boots. Police-heads who cringed at his early-2000s 'Desert Rose'-type schlock-rock and recent album of 16th century lute songs (whaaaa?) had to be pleased about that development, at least.
Copeland's shaggy salt-and-pepper, head-banded mane flew around as he eased comfortably into his kit and immediately displayed the world-beat-infused style that gave so many great Police tunes their exotic foundation. Summers didn't move around much, but it didn't take long for his sonic landscapes to resonate. The stage had little decoration save for a few video screens and ''The Police'' printed on Copeland's bass drum.
A true-to-the-recorded version of 'Synchronicity 2' with an impressive Summers solo ended, and Sting, whose voice was in vintage form, couldn't help but mention how long it had been since the band's last set of steady gigs. Some introductions were in order, and, with that, the first set of barbs were thrown around the stage.
''Andy, this is Stewart,'' Sting announced. ''Stewart, Andy.''
With the formalities taken care of, the Police concentrated on mining their deep war chest of hits. After a slowed-down, groove-oriented 'Spirits in the Material World' and a steady 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', they continued to settle into their old comfort zone, playing a mid-tempo rendition of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' and then speeding up 'Driven to Tears' to a crowd-pleasing crescendo.
It was at this moment that the first signs of the staying power of Sting's songwriting came into focus. 'Driven To Tears' was released on the 1980 album 'Zenyatta Mondatta' at the height of the Cold War, which explains the lyrics, ''Seems that when some innocent die / All we can offer them is a page in some magazine / Too many cameras and not enough food / 'Cause this is what we've seen.'' Sung in this day and age, it's just as powerful a message, if not more so.
After the requisite early standard 'Walking On The Moon', which highlighted Sting's underrated bass playing and Copeland's unparalleled hi-hat chops, those two musicians engaged in what might very well have been their second dysfunctional moment. Or not.
Right as Sting was about to commence his ''One, two, three, four'' opening of 'Truth Hits Everybody', Copeland stood up and addressed the seating sections directly behind the stage, claiming he hadn't noticed them until that moment. Sting sat down on his monitor, staring at his drummer until Copeland's whimsical moment, then barked, ''Are we ready now?''
Fortunately, if those were bad vibes, they didn't last long.
'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' was played and sung perfectly, an exquisite 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' featured Copeland on a percussion set complete with timpani and a xylophone, and 'Bed's Too Big Without You' brought back the band's reggae roots. 'Murder By Numbers', the song Sting said televangelist Jimmy Swaggart claimed was written by Satan, reminded the crowd of the group's devilish wit and political bite.
In fact, when Sting forcefully sang the last verse (''But you can reach the top of your profession / If you become the leader of the land / For murder is the sport of the elected / And you don't need to lift a finger of your hand''), his sense of disdain for today's world leaders was proven with a carefully enunciated expletive to enhance the last word.
The rest of the set clicked as if the Police had never taken a day - let alone almost 25 years - off.
'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' got the crowd moving, 'Invisible Sun' drove home the anti-war message with video images of Iraqi children, and Copeland powered 'Walking in Your Footsteps' with his percussive panache. 'Can't Stand Losing You' rocked the house, especially when the band tore into their instrumental Grammy winner from 1981, 'Regatta De Blanc', in the middle.
A funky, slightly experimental 'Roxanne' was fittingly bathed in red light, and the encore numbers of 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Next To You' plus the Police's group bow and seemingly giddy exit from the stage indicated that there might just have been a feeling of, well, friendship up there on stage.
In other words, the Police are back and it's a good thing, even if you really do have to wonder how long it's going to last.
(c) MSNBC By Doug Miller
The Police reunite for an arresting performance...
There was reason to be concerned before the Police showed up Wednesday at KeyArena: That stiff, joyless delivery of 'Roxanne' on the Grammys; drummer Stewart Copeland's heavily quoted blog rant about how sloppy he felt at the recent tour launch in Vancouver, BC had been.
Would the British band's first U.S. concert in more than two decades live up to the hype and satisfy all the Gen-Xers who bought the bulk of the tickets for two sold out Seattle shows? (The second is tonight.) Or would the tour be exposed as crass, disappointing money grab by a band that sold 50 million records in its heyday (tying the Tacoma Dome attendance record of 30,000 along the way, in case you're interested?)
Well, maybe the tour is a bit of a cash cow, with corporate sponsorship from Best Buy and tickets topping out in Rolling Stone territory at $225. But Wednesday's show was also a hell of a lot of fun as the Police - with singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Andy Summers reuniting with Copeland - reminded everyone of why they were the biggest band on the planet, circa 1983.
Visually, it was easy to recall the glory years with Sting still looking lean and sinewy in a white muscle shirt, black jeans and combat boots - a receding hairline the biggest clue to his actual age. (It's 55, for the record. Guess all that yoga he talks about is working.)
A shaggy, gray mane made the lanky Copeland look closer to his age. But he exuded a childlike joy as he pounded his kit - plus an assortment of gongs, chimes and drums that appeared on a platform behind it for some songs - with the ferocity of a man half his age. And what can you say about Summers who ripped off an assortment of fiery, crowd pleasing solos that belied his otherwise reserved demeanor?
The trio kicked things off with 'Message In A Bottle'. And while there were no real surprises during the set - the group hasn't unveiled any new material and played most of the songs on its new hits collection - it was more than a rote hits recital.
The trio tinkered with arrangements in ways that added flavor to the songs without distracting too much from the infectious hooks that power the material. Wednesday's delivery of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', for example, was atmospheric and downbeat, falling somewhere between the perky 1980 original and the dreary dirge that appeared a few years later on the singles collection, 'Every Breath You Take'.
Sting harkened back to the 1983 release of the band's biggest album, 'Synchronicity' during a cheeky intro to another song. ''I must have been 16 at the time,'' he joked. ''The Rev. Jimmy Swaggert - and I use the term reverend loosely - he cited the next song as being written by the devil himself.''
It was 'Murder by Numbers', a cynical indictment of politicians who slaughter thousands from a safe distance. Fans cheered as Sting punctuated the line about murder being ''the sport of the elected'' with a salute; and the jazzy number culminated in a rowdy back and forth between him and Summers.
A late set performance of 'Footsteps' was also given a slightly harder rock treatment. And images of skeletal brontosauruses marching across a curtain backdrop during that song and footage from the war torn streets of Iraq that played on video screens overhead during 'Invisible Sun' were the most memorable multimedia elements from a relatively low frills show.
But most effective of the revamped numbers was follow-up 'Can't Stand Losing You', which began with Summers playfully strumming the riff from 'Bonanza' before gradually morphing into 'Reggatta De Blanc'. In one of the show's most invigorating moments, Sting asked the crowd ''Can you sing?'' prompting fans to belt out the refrain with gusto: ''Pee-yooooooo! Pee-yoo! Pe-yo-yo!''
The band took a bow with - what else? - 'Roxanne'. The song turned into a jazzy jam that was a lot more enjoyable and inspired than the Grammy version. Guess it wouldn't have fit neatly between commercial breaks anyway.
A pair of two-song encores consisted of a mellow smash followed by a punchier selection. For the first one it was 'King of Pain' and 'So Lonely'. The second consisted of the immaculate 'Every Breath You Take' (a song that sounded romantic before the term ''stalker'' was added to our lexicon) and 'Next To You'.
It was a tight, satisfying performance that left this critic wondering. With so many hipster bands ripping off post-punk and new wave bands from the 70s and 80s, why aren't more turning to the new wave kings? Sure, the Shins used 'Message in the Bottle' as the template to their song 'Spilt Needles' (and we shall not speak of that horrible Puff Daddy rip-off of 'Every Breath'.) But there aren't a lot. And a lot of young bands might be well served by studying Sting's early play book. (Not so much the latter, latte rock years.)
Fiction Plane, a band fronted by Sting's kid, Joe Sumner, opened. The band showed promise if none of its material was especially memorable. One minute the trio seemed to have more in common with newer alt-rock bands like Snow Patrol than the Police. Then in spots Sumner would appear to have studied his old man's concert footage, whether it was how he sang certain lines or the way he carried himself, punctuating songs with an exuberant jump. Eh, maybe it's just in his blood.
(c) The News Tribune (Tacoma) by Ernest A. Jasmin
The Police still has more to say...
The Police opened the U.S. leg of its long-anticipated reunion tour with the bang of a gong and a parade of hit songs at KeyArena. Concertgoers responded with handclaps, singalongs and whoops of approval.
Singer and bassist Sting, looking thin and fit and sporting short-cropped, bleach-blond hair, led the famous group - featuring guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland - in a high-powered two-hour show featuring such era-defining songs as 'Message In A Bottle', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Every Breath You Take'.
Some songs featured new, more jazz-oriented arrangements, particularly an extended version of 'Roxanne'. The band has traded the raw punk of its early career for a more improvisational approach, making the show less of a nostalgia concert than a celebration of the group's creative triumphs.
Until the tour started last weekend at GM Place in Vancouver, B.C., the reggae-influenced rock trio hadn't played publicly since its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. The tour is the group's first since the 'Synchronicity' tour of the 1980s, when The Police were among the biggest rock bands in the world. The current tour is expected to be among the top-grossing of the year.
In Seattle, the good vibes and celebratory nature of the opening shows in Vancouver were still evident in the band's spirited performance, as well as fans' excited reaction to seeing their longtime heroes back on stage. Concertgoers often sang along to favorite songs they hadn't heard live in more than two decades.
The band's performance was tighter and more focused than the tour's opening night May 28 in Vancouver. On his personal Web site, Copeland blasted a second Vancouver show May 30, calling it ''lame.''
Sting, playing a scuffed and seasoned electric bass and wearing a tattered white tank top, smiled broadly for much of show and looked happy to be back on stage with his former bandmates. Summers looked far more serious, while Copeland was positively intense.
An oval stage featured a raised platform at the rear, three overhead LED screens, two side screens, banks of floodlights and dozens of spotlights on long shafts.
Among the most colorful songs in the set were a crimson-splashed 'Roxanne' and a rainbow-colored 'Next To You',the final song of the show.
A reggae-flavored version of 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' turned into an extended jam. During 'Walking in Your Footsteps', video images of a dinosaur skeleton were shown on a large scrim behind the stage.
Sting got a laugh when he introduced his fellow band members to each other: ''Andy,'' he said, ''meet Stewart.'' The tension of the 1980s 'Synchronicity' tour is just a bad memory.
Sting got another laugh when he introduced 'Murder by Numbers' as a song the Rev. Jimmy Swaggart had once cited as having been written by the devil. This was ''in 1983 I must have been 15,'' Sting said.
There were dark moments in the show as well. During 'Invisible Sun', which includes a line about ''killing everybody in the human race,'' overhead screens displayed videos of the devastation in Iraq.
Every available seat, as well as all the private suites, were filled for the historic reunion show. Merchandise counters did a brisk business selling official tour apparel, with shirts priced as high as each.
Opening act was rock band Fiction Plane, featuring Sting's son, Joe Sumner. Many concertgoers skipped the opening set and didn't miss much. Sumner is an excellent singer and guitarist, showing signs of his father's influence, but his songs aren't memorable.
A second Seattle show is Thursday night at KeyArena.
Depending on how well the reunion tour does at the box office - so far, so good - and how well Sting, Summers and Copeland get along over the next few months, another concert trek could follow. Summers has said the group might record a new album when the current tour ends, providing a launch point for a fully rejuvenated career.
Message In A Bottle
Spirits in the Material World
Voices Inside My Head
When The World Is Running Down
Don't Stand So Close to Me
Driven To Tears
Walking On The Moon
Truth Hits Everybody
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
The Bed's Too Big Without You
Murder by Numbers
De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
Walking in Your Footsteps
Can't Stand Losing You
King of Pain
Every Breath You Take
Next To You
(c) The Seattle Post Intelligencer by Gene Stout
The Police work magic in inspired reunion...
Competing with the memory of your own greatest performances is a daunting proposition.
But the Police, the classic English rock trio that had not played in the Seattle area since its memorable 1983 show at the Tacoma Dome, managed to pull this feat off pretty well Wednesday night at KeyArena.
Though the band wasn't exactly relaxed - you could often feel their concentration - they played their old songs with real spirit and commitment and were sometimes even inspired.
By the end of the show, pumping out those insistent punk/new wave beats, they had worked their magic. It felt like 1983 all over again.
Just before the band came on, a recording of the Wailers' 'Get Up, Stand Up' played over the sound system. An appropriate introduction, given the band's famous blend of reggae, punk-rock and pop melodies.
The affable Sting wore a white muscle shirt and tight black pants. The stage setup, while plain, had a high dais with a jungle of percussion instruments, supplying drummer Stewart Copeland with an arsenal for a few songs.
After Copeland banged a huge, ceremonial gong, the band kicked right into its set with the hard-driving 'Message In A Bottle'. Sting was in good voice, hitting those sustained high notes and warbling notes that made him a star.
It took a few tunes for the band to hit its stride, but the dark, threatening, 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' did the trick, about five songs in.
The down tempo 'Walking On The Moon' was a winner, too, as Sting initiated a call-and-answer of ''yo-yo-yo''-ing with the crowd.
Guitarist Andy Summers zinged a guitar solo on 'Driven To Tears', and Sting hunkered down on bass along with him.
The crowd, a nice mix of young and old fans, clearly was loving the band's generous revue of its greatest hits. Fans stayed on their feet throughout most of the show, clapping and singing along.
With the audience firmly in its palm, The Police zeroed in for the first one-two knock-out combination: 'Truth Hits Everybody' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', revving up the crowd with a pulsing, new-wave beat.
Bringing the mood back down, they sang 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'. Copeland mounted the percussion dais and that mysteriously floating voice of Sting's wafted out over the crowd.
The band was at its spooky best on 'Murder By Numbers' and turned in strong renditions of 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da' and 'Invisible Sun' and 'Walking in Your Footsteps'.
The band's last encore, ending their two-hour show, naturally included their greatest hit, 'Every Breath You Take', followed by a long, climactic jam on 'Next To You'.
It was the Tacoma Dome all over again.
The Police spent several weeks in Vancouver, B.C., tuning up their act before the tour opened there May 28.
After the opening concert, Copeland criticized the show as ''lame'' on his blog. A lot was made of this in the media around the world, but it was mostly just musician talk.
However, there was one moment in Wednesday's show when it felt like there was some tension between band members. During a particularly lively and loud guitar solo on 'So Lonely', one of the songs on two sets of encores, Sting said sarcastically, ''Welcome to the Andy Summers show,'' and Summers rolled his eyes.
Show-opener Fiction Plane featured Sting's son, bassist and vocalist Joe Sumner. He demonstrated tremendous vocal control and rock-steady time - sounding a bit like a young Sting, in fact. But the band's songs were one-dimensional, and at 45 minutes, went on far too long.
(c) The Seattle Times by Paul de Barros