Hits feast as Police back on the beat...
It has been 24 years since rock trio The Police graced the stage in Birmingham, so it was no surprise the band were given a rapturous welcome.
Reformed for a live tour of the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, this NIA gig kicked off the UK dates.
Sold out in minutes, there was little doubt that fans were keen to see the band playing live - even the £85 price tag did not put them off.
From the moment drummer Stewart Copeland rushed on stage and banged a giant gong it was non-stop hits.
Beginning with the band's first number one hit from 1979, 'Message In A Bottle', they offered a string of former chart-toppers as well as a few album tracks.
Numbers like 'Synchronicity II' and 'Voices Inside My Head' gave guitarist Andy Summers the chance to take centre stage with some blistering solos and duets.
While Copeland also had his moments with crashing drums and percussion on 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'.
But the focus was largely on Sting whose sleeveless T-shirt displayed some impressive biceps.
He urged the audience on to sing and clap through old favourites such as 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Roxanne'.
There was plenty of time for nostalgia as Sting reminisced about previous concerts at the NEC - one of which he said saw him performing with a broken hand and Summers suffering with a gallstone.
The past was also relived with a lively encore featuring 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Next To You', accompanied by a series of old photos of the band in their 1980s heyday.
At their height, The Police could boast five number one albums in a row, it was no wonder they could easily manage a twohour set of memorable tracks.
But while they gave the show plenty of energy there was something missing.
Maybe it is the legacy of the band's many years apart but there just didn't seem to be that enthusiasm which I would have expected from such a long anticipated gig.
There was also a muted audience response through much of the concert. While the crowd was quick to get to its feet there was little dancing in the aisles.
It couldn't have been the music that was the issue, maybe the show was just so slick we felt a little bit redundant.
Sting left promising to be back which means the hundreds of hopeful fans who were unable to get tickets for these two sell-out dates in Birmingham may have the chance to decide for themselves.
(c) Birmingham Mail by Diane Parkes
Re-formed Police are still arresting...
Having gone their separate ways nearly 25 years ago, The Police's decision to re-form for this reunion tour initially seemed somewhat odd. Having each forged relatively successful careers outside The Police as musicians and, in the case of Sting, also as one of the top 10 most pretentious men to have ever walked the earth, there seemed little need to try to recapture past glories. After all, when even no-hopers such as the Spice Girls are at it, it's clear that reunions truly are the last refuge of the desperate.
Within a few seconds of them launching into 'Message In A Bottle', however, all those quibbles fly out the window. Who cares why they've re-formed when, even after all this time, they still sound so tight, energised and downright youthful?
''The last time we played here was in 1983,'' says a white-vested Sting. ''I had a broken hand and Andy had some kind of kidney problem. We're in better shape tonight.'' Musically, he's right. From a stunning take on 'Syncronicity II' which leads into a room-filling 'Walking On The Moon', the individual skill each of them bring to their instruments combines to create something pretty powerful.
Hits come thick and fast: 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', 'Can't Stand Losing You', 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take'. All sound bigger, fuller and more epic than if you'd heard them only on record.
Looking increasingly embalmed and ageless, Sting still has the vocal chops to send shivers down the spine and his bass playing is as nimble and driven as ever. He is obviously the frontman but this is very much a three-piece band, with Stewart Copeland's drumming something to behold - even if he increasingly resembles a professional basketballer gone to seed.
The real revelation is Andy Summers who, at 64, may look a bit like Keith Richards's long-lost brother but can still pluck out a chord and strut around the stage like a man half his age (which is more than you can say of Keef).
It's a surprisingly exciting show that left you wanting more. After 25 years, The Police have been worth the wait.
(c) The Express by Marcus Dunk
Good musicianship and bad blood...
The Police never officially split up. They drifted apart after their 1984 tour 'Synchronicity' amid rancour over the band's direction. Sting, the lead singer and chief songwriter, was eyeing up a solo career. The guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland resented being under Sting's bass-slapping thumb.
With egos clashing like the cymbals in a Copeland drum solo, the trio went their separate ways. Sting became a global superstar, Summers and Copeland faded bitterly from view. There were fleeting rapprochements - they played together at an Amnesty concert in 1986 and at Sting's wedding in 1992 - but the trio's dynamics remained awkward.
''If I ever reform The Police, I should be certified insane,'' Sting once declared. Yet here they are, back on tour 30 years after their first record. There has been much talk of ''healing'' in interviews. Sting, confronted with his ''insane'' quote at a press conference, chuckled about owning a white coat. The man formerly known as Gordon Sumner doesn't lack chutzpah.
Perhaps that's why the great environmentalist allowed an advert for a gas-guzzling sports utility vehicle to be screened before The Police's set at the Birmingham NIA. Sting's inconsistencies are glaring, yet they don't seem to bother him one jot. Reviled as insufferable by rock's bien pensants, the singer sails along with an air of blameless rectitude: the legacy of his days as a schoolteacher, no doubt.
The reason for his return to The Police's fold is opaque. Vast sums are being generated - over 0m on the North American leg of the band's tour - but Sting is surely wealthy enough to make money a secondary motivation. Genuinely mending fences with his band mates is a possibility, though that took a knock after their first comeback show in Vancouver when Copeland described the singer as a ''petulant pansy''.
It's most likely that he simply misses playing with two excellent musicians. Their NIA show was a reminder of how ambitious and technically adept The Police were. Summers' guitar-playing was dextrous and richly varied. Copeland's drumming was a study in controlled force. Sting's bass work and singing were faultless. Yet something was missing.
They opened with 'Message In A Bottle'. Sting, in sleeveless white T-shirt, skinny dark trousers and bristling blonde hair, resembled an immaculately preserved 55-year-old version of his younger self. Copeland, who is the same age, was also in good condition. Even the comparatively antique Summers, a 64-year-old who played with 1960s bands such as The Animals before finding fame with The Police, turned in an impressively busy performance, his hands a blur over his fretboard.
'Message In A Bottle' was a canny choice with which to start the set. Its lyrics are about attempts to communicate and connect - the castaway Sting sending ''an SOS to the world'' and receiving ''a hundred billion bottles'' in reply - which its sing-along catchiness also dramatises. It is the perfect stadium anthem.
Yet the band didn't stay true to it. A slow version of 'Walking On The Moon', elongated by a jazzy breakdown, sabotaged the song's lilting appeal. 'Roxanne's' exhilarating rhythms were interrupted by a tedious passage of musical noodling. Some of Summers' guitar-playing was exceptional, such as the wash of sound he conjured during 'Invisible Sun' and the deft feedback he employed on 'Walking in Your Footsteps'. Other times his solos would erupt into a song like noisy attention-seekers at a party.
The Police, scorned by fellow punks for being too musical, were always a mix of sophistication and populism. Twisty time-changes coexisted with earworm choruses; world music borrowings were incorporated into western pop. At their peak they were able to resolve the tensions, both musical and personal. But no longer. An unimaginative light show and absence of stage decoration focused attention on the trio, who interacted professionally rather than with warmth. Their musicianship was admirable but it lacked connection. The ''message'' was not heeded.
(c) The Financial Times by Ludovic Hunter-Tilney
The Police at NIA, Birmingham...
The last time the Police played Birmingham, Sting told the audience at the city's National Indoor Arena last week, was in 1983, ''when I had a broken hand and Andy Summers was suffering from gallstones''. In an otherwise tight-lipped performance where the music did the talking, this brief announcement revealed a lot about the Police, past and present. It hinted at the backstage fist fights between Sting and the drummer, Stewart Copeland, that led to the bass player injuring his hand and the group disbanding within five years of becoming the biggest rock act on the planet.
Audible in that curious reference to gallstones was an acknowledgment that even in their heyday, the Police were no spring chickens. At a time when youth ostensibly called the shots in new-wave rock, they were seasoned veterans - another reason they were able to travel so far so fast, before tiring of the grief that megastardom brought in its wake. That their current world tour has been greeted as the rock event of the year is a reflection of the fact that many, if not most, Police fans never had the chance to see them in action. No band has ever quit when it was further ahead than the Police after wrapping up the 'Synchronicity' tour in 1984.
The show they debuted in Britain on Tuesday night was a far less elaborate affair than their previous swan song. For most of their 1? hours on stage, we were back with the Police Mk 1, the ruthlessly efficient, punky reggae machine of the first three albums, playing rhythmically taut, relentlessly catchy guitar rock. They had no backing musicians and nothing much in the way of a set. When they strolled on and piled straight into 'Message In A Bottle', the Police looked and sounded much the same as the band that stormed the pubs and clubs of Britain in 1978. The man with the battered bass and the white T-shirt had the same lithe presence and searingly precise vocals. Copeland's glasses had shrunk to granny size, but he was still smiting his drum kit like the hyperactive blacksmith of old. Time had taken its toll on Summers, now a jowly, chinless 64-year-old, his features contorted in a fixed frown of concentration, but his guitar-playing was the revelation of the evening. His solo on 'Driven To Tears' rivalled Hendrix in the delicacy of its fretwork and masterful use of controlled feedback.
With so many hit singles at their disposal - all but one of which, 'Spirits in the Material World', got an airing - the Police were never likely to lose momentum. Things briefly flagged with a rather plodding 'Invisible Sun', and the bits when Sting went off piste, yodelling ''Roxanne, oh-eeh-oh-oh-oh'', were as tiresome as ever; but they accounted for less than 10 minutes of a show that otherwise kept its foot to the floor.
The set reached its climax before it ended, with an epic reworking of 'Can't Stand Losing You', during which the hall was strafed with lights and Summers's guitar performed more sonic somersaults. Three encores later, the temporarily reunited trio were dancing about, triumphantly punching the air. It was nice to feel that on this occasion they probably weren't about to carry on punching each other in the dressing room afterwards.
(c) The Sunday Times by Robert Sandall
More than just the Sting show...
Thirty years ago, The Police couldn't get arrested. Stewart Copeland had left progressive rockers Curved Air and persuaded Sting to quit his teaching job and his jazz fusion group, Last Exit, and to move from Newcastle to London.
The pair originally played behind David Bowie's former publicist, the punk wannabe Cherry Vanilla, but even when Andy Summers, a veteran who had played with Kevin Ayers and Kevin Coyne, replaced their guitarist Henry Padovani in August 1977, the trio were going nowhere fast. Copeland even charted with his punk alter ego, Klark Kent - remember 'Don't Care'? - while the original 45s of 'Roxanne' and 'Can't Stand Losing You' languished in the bargain bins.
The Police looked like method punks and also-rans. But they refused to give up. In the autumn of 1978, they played every US dive Copeland's brothers could book them into, and began their meteoric rise. Within 15 months, they'd scored half a dozen hits and had two best-selling albums in the UK. In 1984, they went their separate ways and, despite a short-lived reunion attempt two years later, left us wanting more.
Until the end of last year, that is, when Sting woke to a voice in his head saying ''reform The Police, that will really surprise everyone''. Their world tour has so far played to about one million fans in North America and grossed close to $100m (£50m). Birmingham is only the fourth stop in Europe, after three dates in Scandinavia, but the group are already firing on all cylinders.
The heady rush of 'Message In A Bottle' is an ideal opener and a statement of intent, pointing to a crowd-pleasing set that encompasses just about all the hits but also showcases some choice album tracks and gives the three musicians the chance to stretch out. Lithe and lean, in a white T-shirt and playing a battered bass, Sting still looks like Malcolm McDowell's evil brother. He jokes about the early days when the band only drew an audience of five in Birmingham, and admitted that 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' is ''a little bit autobiographical'': the teacher in Sting could resist the schoolgirls but the songwriter in him knew what experiences to draw on.
Introducing cultural references to the likes of Nabokov - and then Arthur Koestler in other compositions - helped broaden the palette of pop and made up for the cod-patois ''so me say'' of the Police's early reggae-tinged material. In 'Don't Stand' Sting also throws in a soulful ad lib, reminding you what a fine singer he can be. This is by no means the Sting show, though. As they segue from 'Voices Inside My Head' into 'When the World is Running Down' and drift into Ray Charles's 'Hit the Road, Jack', their interplay becomes hypnotic. The way they can lock into a groove and then go off on a dubby odyssey is what makes them such a compelling live act.
Wearing glasses and white gloves for a better grip, Copeland can be an incorrigible show-off with his stick-throwing, gong, array of percussion and splash cymbals; he even drinks water while keeping a steady beat with his other hand during 'Roxanne'. But his polyrhythms drive the band on to always greater heights. He fully deserves Sting's accolade: the drummers' drummer. At 64, Summers is old enough to be a Rolling Stone, but he does the work of two guitarists, throwing in echoing chords one minute and soloing across the frets next. If anything, Sting is the most subdued of the three. Having got so much stick for trying to save the rainforests, he lets the photomontage of kids from war-torn areas of the world (by his friend Bobby Sager) do the talking, giving a new universal meaning to 'Invisible Sun' .
When the band encore with a genuinely affecting 'King of Pain' and the brooding 'Every Breath You Take', the couple in front of me are no longer holding hands. They're clapping along and beaming big smiles, mirrored by those onstage. The Police have gone back to square one, and even if they didn't quite match the highs of the 'Synchronicity' tour I caught in 1983, they make the most of their chemistry. Sting has performed many of these songs throughout his solo career but Copeland and Summers still draw the best out of him. They are his ''get out of jail'' card.
(c) The Independent by Pierre Perrone
The Police: Still a force to be reckoned with...
Thirty years after they took their first stumbling steps towards pop stardom, the Police are back on stage in Britain. On Tuesday night in Birmingham the band began the British leg of a world tour that has already been seen by a million in North America - and it is undoubtedly one of the hottest tickets in pop for some years.
They last played together in Britain in 1983, but their subsequent break-up was more of a fizzling out than a proper split.
Although personal relationships between the three were somewhat dysfunctional, they were still hugely successful, and, as guitarist Andy Summers recently pointed out, their creative juices were still flowing. But somehow they just drifted into their various solo projects.
So, apart from raking in huge sums of money, this tour could be seen as a bit of unfinished business for Summers, singer and songwriter Sting, and drummer Stewart Copeland.
But are those creative juices still flowing? Can this famously accomplished trio still cut the mustard? The answer is that they most surely can.
Within the first few bars of the opening song, 'Message In A Bottle', it was clear that the tightness, the cohesion, the glue that used to mark them out as a great band is still there. And energy, too: with barely a pause for breath, they launched into the ferocious 'Synchronicity II', a complex song whose changes of pace they handled seamlessly.
''The last time we played here was in 1983,'' said Sting. ''I had a broken hand, Andy had some kind of kidney stone. We are in better shape tonight.'' Quite so. The video screens above the stage revealed a band who, though a little jowlier than they were back then, are hardly in the grip of the ravages of middle age.
It's a tricky business, being a three-piece band. There is no room for self-indulgence; everyone has to be working for the common cause, otherwise it all starts to sound a bit thin.
The Police, though, show that they are dead good at it. Sting's propulsive bass-playing; Copeland's crisp, busy but unfussy drumming; the elegant economical chord work of Summers - all this added up to something tense and muscular.
At times, perhaps, they pushed their luck and spent a bit too long indulging themselves rather than entertaining the crowd, banging away while the fans looked on a little bewildered.
It has to be said, too, that this was a night that may have shimmered and bristled with energy, but it never quite exploded into life. The crowd seemed subdued, and it would have helped if the band had jumped around a bit.
But still, it was fun and genuinely exciting to see them together again, and in the end they delivered a string of hits - 'I Can't Stand Losing You', 'Roxanne', 'Every Breath You Take' - that had the fans finally roaring and stamping their feet.
(c) The Daily Telegraph by David Cheal
The Police at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham...
Sting was in a reflective mood as the Police played their first show on British soil in more than 20 years. Just two numbers into the set, he began reminiscing about the last time the group had played in Birmingham. ''It was 1983,'' he told the 13,000-capacity crowd. ''I had a broken hand; Andy had a kidney stone. We're in much better shape now.''
The reunited trio provided an eloquent rebuttal of the live-fast-die-young ethos which rock stars are supposed to embrace. Neither the chiselled Sting nor the wiry drummer Stewart Copeland, both 55, were carrying an ounce of extra fat, and if Summers looked a little jowly on the huge screens above the stage, he still cut a rakish dash at the frankly implausible age of 64.
And, if anything, their prowess as musicians has been enhanced by the passage of time. During a sequence that welded together 'Voices Inside My Head' and 'When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around', Sting played impossibly syncopated bass lines and sang in a conflicting time signature, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Summers soloed during 'Driven To Tears', among several others, in an angular, jazz-fusion vein that was more Thelonious Monk than Jimi Hendrix. And 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was retooled as a showcase for Copeland, who clattered around a maze of percussion instruments, and on other numbers clanged out his trademark fractured triplets on various cymbals and bells.
It was certainly not a case of simply trotting out the greatest hits - although there were plenty of them to go round as well. They began with 'Message in a Bottle', 'Synchronicity' and 'Walking On The Moon', an instant reminder of Sting's uncanny knack of locating a catchy tune and the group's collective ear for an arresting arrangement. With no help from any additional musicians, the three men each managed to cover an extraordinary amount of territory individually, while still locking together securely as a unit. Some of the rhythmic contortions on 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' seemed to have been arrived at by means of an advanced mathematical calculus, yet still led up to a chorus that everyone could sing along to.
But for all the dexterity of the musicians and the populist appeal of the songs there was a slightly aloof air to the performance as a whole, as if the band were there to prove something to themselves rather than to the audience. Sting, nevertheless, encouraged the fans to clap and wave along, and when the group rolled into 'Can't Stand Losing' You the stands at the side of the hall were literally bouncing.
But a final encore of their early headbanging opus 'Next To You' suffered from a disappointingly languid treatment. The Police may be many things, but their punk credentials - which were never all that convincing in the first place - were left a very long way behind at this most sophisticated of arena-rock shows.
(c) The Times by David Sinclair
Comeback boys still cut it...
Oh dear. There's nothing worse than seeing middle-aged men dress like they did in their teens.
But enough about the blokes in the front row of the 13,000 crowd - the band still looked the part and sounded even better in their first UK concert since 1983.
Close-cropped Sting, immaculate in vest-top, combat boots and skinny black trousers, was at his lock, stock, menacing best, prowling the bare stage with the air of a man gleefully casting off his peacenik persona and saying: ''Stuff the rainforest - let's rock.''
OK, he didn't actually say that, but you get the picture.
Andy Summers obviously wanted a bigger role in the comeback band than he ever got first time round, and new arrangements bring his under-rated guitar playing to the fore.
Stewart Copeland meanwhile resembles a loveable mad uncle, jubilantly smashing his way through the set, hurling sticks skywards and giving the whole thing its frantic, driving drum backbone.
All through the two-hour show, the three combined for a far heavier sound than they ever managed to put down on record. And the set-list revealed that, while there were plenty of greatest hits, the trio wanted weightier numbers to get their teeth into.
Hence classic opener 'Message In A Bottle' gave way to the lesser-known 'Synchronicity II'.
Not that a show including 'Roxanne', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' could ever really sound unfamiliar to anyone over 30.
Highlights were a powerful version of 'Invisible Su', an extended 'Can't Stand Losing You' and initial set-closer 'Every Breath You Take'.
But that was before Summers called his bandmates back out for the three-minute new wave blitz of 'Next To You'.
Well, we wouldn't want to end on a soppy note would we?
(c) The Express & Star
The Police at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham...
Most 15-year-olds only know The Police's 1978 hit Roxanne second hand, as a reference in the Arctic Monkeys' song When the Sun Goes Down. Jasmine Ogden is the exception. The teenager from Milton Keynes has been a Police fan since babyhood: ''My mum was obsessed with them.'' And her favourite song? ''Debatable, but probably Genie in a Bottle.'' She may be confusing Christina Aguilera with the Police, but her mother, Kat, 36, confirms that the Police are a family favourite. ''I first heard them when I was nine and I've been betrothed to Sting ever since,'' she says, just as a flurry of activity on the stage signals that the band are about to make their first appearance in Birmingham since 1983.
It hasn't generated as many headlines as the Spice Girls' reunion but the decision to reform The Police has induced many people to dig out old albums and reacquaint themselves with what a good band they were.
Their split in 1984 saw them go out at the top of their game, meaning that there are no inferior records or misguided ''new directions'' and nothing to prove. Well, apart from whether Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland can spend nine months together without succumbing to the mutual antipathy (generated by Sting's personal popularity) that did for them last time.
It seems they can: four months into their comeback tour the trio really are letting bygones be bygones. Operating as a purposeful unit, they've been serenely vacuuming up the dollars and euros while leaving fans feeling they've got their money's worth. If they stick to their promise to make it a one-off, this tour could become the gold standard of reunions: they go in, they play every last hit with gusto, they leave. And in their wake, thousands of people dreamily hum 'Roxanne' and 'Message In A Bottle'.
Sting, of course, still doubles as frontman and looker (a walking advert for yoga's beneficial effects on the biceps), neither of which will endear him to the grizzled old punks who still see him as a jazz-loving muso who sneaked into a career by posing as a punk. (In an early example of advertising endorsement the trio dyed their hair blond for a chewing gum add, infuriating real punks even further.)
But the three are in much better shape, physically and musically, than most of their cooler contemporaries. When you consider that one of sixty-something Summers' contemporaries is Keith Richards, their rude health is even more remarkable. Summers is far more lifelike than Richards has been at recent Stones gigs, he tears up one ripping solo after another even when, strictly speaking, it's not required. Summers, a 1960s British Invasion figure before successfully becoming Sting's backing musician, is determined to have his musical say, and there is no stopping him.
This makes every song twice as long as it need be and forces the now bespectacled Copeland to work like a maniac. Other than that there's little to fault about the show. Because The Police were always as much about musicianship as turning out sharp, cod-reggae tunes, every aspect of the music is top notch. Just as well because there are no visuals to speak of other than those Stallonean biceps.
'Message In A Bottle', 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' are banged out with the clout of an old Smash Hits yearbook being bashed over our heads - they've aged not a whit and are brilliant. 'Roxanne' and 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' maintain their magic despite being dragged out several minutes too long.
It's hard to criticise any bit of the two-hour show. All right, they could have dumped 'Synchronicity' because it was hardly a hit anyway, but what is not to love about a gig that offers up such great songs for one (final?) time.
(c) The Guardian by Caroline Sullivan
Back on the beat and just as arresting...
If you were to list, in true Nick Hornby style, the top five bands most people would like to see reform, up there with the likes of Pink Floyd, The Jam, and The Stone Roses, you'd always find The Police.
Well, while world waits for those others to kiss and make-up, Messrs Sumner, Copeland and Summers have done just that.
That's no mean feat for a trio that imploded in the mid-80s - after just five studio albums - but as many number one singles.
At the time there were few bands as big.
Unsurprising thenm that tickets for their UK tour - which kicked off last night at a packed NIA - were snapped up quicker than you can say De Do Do Do De Da Da Da.
Even when some were £85 a pop. Along with Prince's 21 show residency at the O2 Arena, The Police are this summer's hot ticket.
Stewart Copeland's a little greyer and Sting a little more muscular, Andy Summers hardly looks any different from when they split two decades ago.
''It's good to be back in the Midlands,'' said Sting. ''Last time was back in '83 I think. I had a broken hand and Andy had a akidney stone - this time we are in better shape.''
He was right, the songs were every bit as good too - 'Message In A Bottle', 'Walking On The Moon', 'Can't Stand Losing You', 'Roxanne' - all classics that have stood the test of time.
As with his Purpleness, The Police gave the crowd that they wanted - greatest hits - along with a good smattering of some of their catchy album tracks - 'Voices Inside My Head', 'Driven To Tears', two worthy to mention.
The setlist may have carried few surprises, but few would have have wanted many. If all reunions were this enjoyable, the Friends Reunited website would be in meltdown.
The Police play the NIA again tonight.
(c) The Birmingham Post by Jon Perks