Police settle into stride at Churchill Downs...
Well aware of their historic surroundings, The Police started off a bit slow but closed impressively during a two-hour concert on Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
While many bands have played the Churchill infield on Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) weekend, The Police follow the Rolling Stones as just the second band to headline a concert at the historic Louisville track, surroundings not lost on Police lead singer and bass player Sting.
''A few years ago, a friend of mine asked if he could name a horse after my son,'' Sting said to the audience early in the show, referencing A&M Records co-founder and Thoroughbred owner-breeder Jerry Moss. ''Sure enough, that horse made it to the Kentucky Derby. We all backed him at 50-to-1. That horse's name is Giacomo.''
The crowd cheered in approval of Jerry and Ann Moss's homebred 2005 Derby winner who shocked the field at odds of 50.3-to-1. (An older son of Sting, Joe Sumner, fronted the concert's opening band, Fiction Plane.)
In their first tour since breaking up in 1984 after the success of 'Synchronicity', which topped the album charts for 17 weeks, the Police seemed to be a bit off early as transition problems plagued their opening song, 'Message in a Bottle' and second effort, 'Synchronicity II'. For a band so driven by Sting's bass and drummer Stewart Copeland, such problems proved bothersome but the trio quickly found its groove and delivered a memorable show.
As if to beg forgiveness for the early problems, Sting mentioned the band had, ''been around since 1875,'' a reference to the first year the Kentucky Derby was contested.
Hitting on all cylinders, one of those early Police works proved to be a highlight as the band delivered a straight-forward but explosive version of 'So Lonely', from their 1978 album 'Outlandos d'Amour'. Other highlights included 'Truth Hits Everybody', 'King of Pain', 'Driven To Tears', 'Can't Stand Losing You'/'Reggatta de Blanc', and 'Demolition Man'.
Some of the band's biggest hits came off a bit flat. 'Every Breath You Take' offered little and 'Roxanne' started out in full, near-punk fury before the band inexplicably chose to add an extended jazzy mix to the song before returning to a rocked-out ending.
To its credit, the Police did not hire a large supporting cast - actually no supporting cast - for a tour that will reach six continents.
Churchill unveiled a few needed changes at its concert venue, which this time drew a more manageable crowd compared to the 44,000 who packed the grandstand in September for the Rolling Stones. While the stage remained in the same infield location near the eighth pole facing the grandstand, restrooms and concessions were added for patrons with floor seats. This ended a need to walk behind the grandstand that existed at the Rolling Stones show.
While the band certainly raked in a nice payday - floor tickets sold for $225 - the Louisville track is paid a set fee for its facility. Churchill President Bob Evans said such concerts are not a huge moneymaker for Churchill, but they serve as a way of building community relations. Before the show, thousands of fans arrived early and milled about in the paddock. Many were impressed by the surroundings, commenting on the largeness of the facility and details like the list of Derby winners throughout the paddock.
Evans said Churchill is working on another show for 2008.
(c) Thoroughbred Times by Frank Angst
The Police thrill crowd in Louisville...
With a roar from the crowd, a few crisp guitar chords and the long-familiar voice of lead singer Sting, it was suddenly 1983 again Saturday night at Churchill Downs.
The trip back in time was courtesy of one of the most memorable bands of the 1980s, The Police, which began with the band's classic 'Message In A Bottle'.
Melinda Gould of Union, Ky., had seen the group in 1983 in Lexington. ''They still got it,'' she said. ''They're like a fine wine. They get better with age.''
After the second song, during which one fan tried to moonwalk, Sting told the thousands in attendance that he was glad to be at the historic racetrack, noting that at his youngest son's urging, he bet on long-shot Derby winner Giacomo in 2005.
For many in the crowd, the concert was the realization of a long-sought dream. Take Mike Mather and his old buddies, Jim Bradford and Dan Magee. In 1983, the three college friends thought they had won tickets through MTV to see The Police during their 'Synchronicity' tour. They were wrong - and inconsolable.
''I haven't been the same since then,'' said Mather, who now lives in Cincinnati. But last night, 24 years later, and with wives and kids in tow, Mather and his buddies finished what they started. And maybe it was even sweeter now, Mather said, since his children - ages 20, 18, and 9 - were there to see the show with him.
''They grew up with The Police,'' he said. ''We've got videos of them dancing to their songs. I couldn't imagine we'd get to ever take them to see The Police. And to see them at Churchill Downs is just amazing.''
And despite their age and the many years since they last played together, the group didn't seem to miss a beat. Sting sounded as sharp as ever as the band played hit after hit.
And some in attendance said he looked good as well. ''Sting looks like he did 20 years ago,'' said Todd McFarland of Louisville.
(c) Cincinnati Enquirer by Jason Riley
Driven to cheers...
''You have no idea what this song is, do you?'' Sting asked as the sun set behind the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs on a spectacular summer evening. ''You will.''
With that, a bright guitar agitation by Andy Summers fell into place as 'Every Little Thing She Does in Magic', one of the 20 hits big and small that The Police restored to often-inventive new life before a crowd of 27,000.
This was a reunion that shouldn't have worked - a high-priced, high-profile rock 'n' roll indulgence by a band that self-destructed more than 23 years ago at the height of its popularity. But last night's Police raid proved the best way to go home again was by acting your age. This was a band that, despite demanding top ticket prices in the $200-$300 range, didn't seem interested in De Do Do Do-ing a recital of hits as they existed nearly a quarter-century ago.
Instead, The Police - bassist/ singer/megaceleb Sting, 55, guitarist Summers, 64, and drummer Stewart Copeland, 55 - stripped the mechanics of its '80s post-punk, reggae-friendly music down to essentials.
Arrangements were elongated, grooves were plumped up and solos - especially those from Summers - were abundant. This made a rethink of the Police's more popular material necessary. But that was where things really got fun.
For the wailing 'Synchronicity II', Summers was called upon to construct rugged but refreshingly economical guitar riffs that were sturdy enough to withstand Sting's most efficiently aggressive vocal performance of the night. For 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', Copeland replaced keyboard accents with the clattering of chimes and rumblings of timpani to create rhythms best described as an evil twin to bossa nova. And for 'Walking On The Moon', familiar reggae grooves melted first into waves of guitar ambience before detouring into tasty jazz flourishes.
But when The Police set its way-back machine for its most formative music - leaner, more obviously reggae-fied hits scored between 1979 and 1981 - the band worked as a more potent and singular voice. Having Sting lead the Churchill crowd in the wordless reggae skanking vocals of 'Reggatta de Blanc' was both a testament to the inviting vitality of the band's post-punk roots as well as to its crisp sense of elemental groove. That this fine little interlude was tucked into the middle of 'Can't Stand Losing You', a new-wave-ish grind recorded in 1978, provided an even bigger kick.
A host of works from 1980's 'Zenyatta Mondatta' seemed to especially ignite band and audience alike. 'Voices Inside My Head' and 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', melted into a single workout that opened with a meditative bounce that again let the Churchill crowd loosen its lungs. But the killer was 'Driven To Tears', which ignited into a loose-fitting jam that Summers injected with huge, cranky guitar blasts that shoved rhythms around like a bulldozer.
And then there were moments when The Police played things quietly safe. An encore of 'Every Breath You Take' cruised along with its usual undisturbed and metronomic pace, but still managed to stand as one of the creepiest love songs of the '80s. Similarly, the show-opening 'Message In A Bottle' uncorked the evening with a roaming guitar line from Summers that set up the tune's rigorous ''sending out an S.O.S.'' chorus.
While the absurdly fit Sting kept onstage chat to a minimum, he couldn't resist using Churchill's history as reference points for The Police's near dinosaur status in pop history. He joked that the pop charge of 'Truth Hits Everybody' was first designed in 1875, the same year Churchill opened. Sting also briefly made mention of Giacomo, the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner named after his youngest son. ''So I have some history with this place,'' he told the crowd.
Mostly though, it was cool to see The Police working as a band last night. Sure, there were some modest embellishments - a sampled or pedal-induced effect here, an arguably canned background vocal there. But this was essentially music designed, executed and brought back to life in a trio format.
Perhaps that explained the refreshing stylistic breadth of the program, from a tempered reworking of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' to a brutish finale of 'Next to You'. Such rich, involving sound came not from some revue-style rock orchestra. It was provided by three guys with a learned drive that gave The Police a purpose.
Opening the evening was a London trio called Fiction Plane, fronted by Sting's eldest son, Joe Sumner. There were echoes of The Police's stuttering reggae grooves in tunes like 'Cross the Line' and 'Two Sisters' and generous reflections of dad's broken tenor singing in Sumner's vocals. A pleasant enough curtain-raiser of a band, for sure.
(c) Lexington Herald-Leader by Walter Tunis
The Police deliver intense show...
The first six weeks of The Police's reunion tour has been largely met with resounding yawns by both critics and fans - but Saturday night at Churchill Downs the band delivered a focused, committed and frequently intense 20-song set.
Maybe they just needed some extra practice.
Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland came out roaring with 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Synchronicity II', the energy fairly cascading from a massive stage that threatened to dwarf the English trio. The songs were quick reminders of why the band made such an impact in 1978: its mix of pop, rock and reggae remains distinctive enough that no other band has successfully mimicked it.
All three musicians were in fine form and, despite their storied and combative history, seemed to get along famously.
Sting, 55, has lost a little off the top end of his voice but not enough to care about. Copeland, 54, remains one of rock's finest, most inventive drummers, a man who can make the simple seem complex and vice versa. And Summers, 64, may have been the show's most consistently impressive performer, tearing into solos with a thinking man's attention to detail combined with a real ferocity.
They played around with a few songs, stretching 'Roxanne' to twice its length, for example, but rarely did the changes seem gratuitous. The best moments were a perfectly gorgeous 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', fiery versions of 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Driven To Tears', and a celebratory 'Every Breath You Take'.
The band's only real misstep was with pacing. They worked up a serious head of steam several times only to derail themselves with a poorly chosen slow song - or, in the case of 'Walking In Your Footsteps', simply a poor song.
That's nitpicking, however. Any hard-core Police fan went home happy last night, if quite a bit poorer after $225 tickets and $7 beers.
Fiction Plane opened with an enthusiastic set of pop and rock that mixed early U2 with splashes of reggae and ska for flavor. The band was at its best on the more pop-oriented songs such as 'Cross the Line' and 'Two Sisters', where the reggae influence was most pronounced and highly effective.
Fiction Plane is fronted by Sting's son, Joe Sumner, and the vocal resemblance between the two is uncanny. It must be tough for Sumner's friends to not beg him to sing 'Every Breath You Take' on karaoke nights at the pub.
(c) Louisville Courier-Journal by Jeffrey Lee Puckett