Police Reunion

Baltimore, MD, US
Virgin Festivalwith Fiction Plane
Police really are that good - The biggest surprise of their 100-minute set was the ferocious playing of Summers...

It's good to be Sting.

Two days ago, Billboard reported that the first leg of the Police reunion tour grossed more than $107 million from 38 shows that drew 929,941 fans (not including the band's headlining stints at Bonnaroo and last weekend's Virgin Festival).

The biggest take came from the trio's July 5-6 stop at Wrigley Field in Chicago, which brought in $9,494,248 from almost 80,000 people.

Tickets on the tour range from $50 to $350, depending on the market. (The top price at Philly's Wachovia Center, where the band plays Nov. 14, is $225; at the smaller Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City a week earlier, it's $350.)

If I were reading these numbers a week ago, I'd have a growing contempt for Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. But mostly Sting, the already-richest of the trio.

Knowing the kind of numbers they would draw in stadiums, knowing the tour would be a Bonds-powered homer, they couldn't have pulled a Garth Brooks and charged a flat $50 for every seat in the house? (I know Brooks' tickets were $20 - let's call it cost-of-living inflation.)

Even the Wrigley shows would have grossed $4 million. Surely enough for the toned and beautiful Sting to purchase a few extra yoga mats.

But then I caught The Police's closing set Saturday at Virgin Fest in Baltimore, and for the first two minutes of 'Message In A Bottle' I was numb. Couldn't even scribble anything in my notepad. They really were, as everyone I knew who had seen the show said, that good.

While I trust my friends' judgment, I was a little skeptical because The Police's performance at Live Earth a month ago didn't raise any hairs on the back of my neck - especially when they trotted out Kanye West to demolish all good will with his stilted rapping during 'Message'.

Couple that with Copeland's self-flagellating blog after the band's opening night in Vancouver, British Columbia, at the end of May and Sting's penchant for twisting some of the hits into jazzy jams, and my confidence in what I initially thought would be the best tour of 2007 started to rapidly fade.

But as he strode in black combat boots across the giant stage set up on the infield at Pimlico Race Course, Sting beamed, a mischievous gleam in his eyes evident on the big screens.

There could have been a good reason for his cheery demeanor.

Earlier Saturday, I chatted with someone who works at CBS Radio, the parent company of the now-completely-deceased-as-a-rock-station WHFS (though it's on life support at HD radio). Since 1990, the station has been known for its annual concert festivals, usually held at RFK Stadium in Washington. Even when its format was flipped in 2005 to tropical Latin music, the HFStival lived on.

Last year, a two-day HFStival was held at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., with Kanye West, Counting Crows and Matisyahu among the main acts.

This year, CBS wanted to hold the event with The Police as headliners. It bid $1 million. Richard Branson, the bazillionaire behind the Virgin empire, and, obviously, Virgin Fest, outbid them.

Game over. Bazillionaire wins.

Considering $1 million is about the usual guarantee The Police are getting for every date of this tour, it's a safe assumption that Sting and the boys were nabbing a paycheck in the $1.5 million range Saturday.

I'd be smiling, too.

Still, if you're considering trying to catch one of their shows when they return this fall for a handful of East Coast dates - Halloween at Madison Square Garden, the aforementioned Atlantic City and Philly shows plus Boston and Atlanta - a lot would have to go wrong for you to be disappointed.

The biggest surprise of their 100-minute set was the ferocious playing of Summers.

Yes, Copeland is an amazing athlete behind his giant set of toys, especially when he gets to play with a forest of cymbals and percussion for 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' or chew into a solo during 'When the World Is Running Down'. And his love affair with the ride cymbal and snare drum is a beautiful thing to observe.

But Summers, the elder statesman at 64, is an unheralded marvel.

You wouldn't expect him to tear into a solo with the intensity he exhibited during 'Synchronicity II' any more than you would expect him to be wearing a ''South Park'' guitar strap with the eternal catchphrase ''Oh my God, they killed Kenny!''

But he did. Both.

Yes, there is some minor tinkering to some songs - the rephrased syllables in 'Bottle' and a reggae-ified 'Don't Stand So Close to Me'. But for the most part, singalongs such as 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da' and 'So Lonely' were punctuated with Sting's favorite phrase - ''eee yo oh'' - and kept intact.

So maybe The Police are overpaid and a little greedy. At least - evidenced at this show - they're giving fans a crisp, hits-filled show with some impressive musical phrasing.

It's good to see Sting working to afford his next Italian villa.

(c) Richmond Times-Dispatch by Melissa Ruggieri

Wilted Virgin crowd comes alive for Police...

By the time the Police took the main stage at the Virgin Festival at Pimlico in Baltimore Saturday night, the sweltering 98-degree heat of midday had cooled to tolerable levels. A thick aroma of sunburned flesh, sunblock, marijuana smoke and spilled beer hung low in the air. The crowd, exhausted and slimy with sweat, was massed shoulder-to-shoulder for the most-anticipated act of the day.

The Police did not disappoint. Their set, clocked at a little over 90 minutes, was a litany of hits, with nary a B-side in the bunch. The group only released four full-length studio albums throughout a late '70s and early '80s heyday that was as notable for its brevity as it was for its popularity. In a way, their limited but highly acclaimed run added mystique to this reunion tour and they arrived with an aura of legend unsullied by bloat and mid-career mediocrity.

The trio looked much the same as it did when it first rose to fame. Drummer Stewart Copeland played with controlled ferocity, making a blur of the mop-top hair he styled on the early album covers. Guitarist Andy Summers played what looked to be the same battered Fender Telecaster he used to chop out the twangy reggae riffs on songs like 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'So Lonely'. And except for a few wrinkles, global pop star Sting might as well have stepped from a time machine onto the stage, in his tight jeans, muscle shirt and little black boots. He played a beat up, unvarnished bass guitar that looked as if it has been made from the wood of an ancient sailing ship.

Only Sting's voice revealed the decades that have passed since the Police broke up in 1986. Songs like 'Walking On The Moon', 'Roxanne', and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' are punishing in the upper registers, and Sting can be forgiven for steering clear of some of the highest notes. Musically, though, the show was a reminder of the band members' virtuosity as musicians. Mr. Summers, whose skill as a soloist is easily overlooked in the four-minute pop song motif, took flight on Saturday, playing several extended solos. Mr. Copeland's marvelous drumming, even more than Sting's voice, is still the spine that hold's the Police's best songs together.

Like the Police, hip-hop's Beastie Boys could be cynically characterized as 1980s retreads. And there is something about the spectacle of a gray-haired MCA (Adam Yauch) stalking the stage behind cohorts Mike D (Mike Diamond) and Ad-rock (Adam Horovitz) that at first glance borders on the ridiculous. But the hyper-enthusiasm of the crowd suggested that the rap trio will land prime gigs even when its rhymes turn to the virtues of prune juice and adult diapers.

Jocular, bombastic and a little unprepared, the Beastie Boys barefaced their way through a selection of their greatest hits including 'Brass Monkey' and 'Sabotage' and a botched version of 'No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn'. But the crowd didn't require apologies, as concertgoers pogoed, slam-danced and crowd-surfed through the entire set - even during the instrumental funk-jazz excursions from the band's new record.

The heat of the day peaked during an afternoon set by troubled chanteuse Amy Winehouse. Her soulful musings on addiction and infidelity seemed out of place at this testosterone-dominated festival, and it appeared that for many her presence was as much a curiosity as Virgin Festival sideshow attractions like Incredibly Strange Wrestling and the Charm City Roller Girls. In her trademark short shorts, orange hoop earrings and a rolled up black tank top, Miss Winehouse looked thin but not as emaciated as the gossip magazines would have you believe.

Flanked by a seven-man band, including a spirited brass and wind section featuring a flute, trumpet and saxophone, the sulking singer repeatedly patted her prodigious beehive hairdo, lifting her long mane off her neck in an attempt to fend off the scorching heat. Fans expecting drunken antics from Miss Winehouse even at 2 p.m. were met instead with hip wiggles, an irritated pout, and one show-stopping miscue when the singer accidentally unplugged her microphone. Even highlights like 'You Know I'm No Good' and 'Valerie' receive muted feedback, although to be fair it was not clear who was to blame for the lack of energy - Miss Winehouse or the overheated crowd.

At the end of her set, she rushed through a version of 'Rehab', her biggest single to date, looking less like a singer shortlisted for the Mercury Prize than an antsy first-timer. Grabbing her shirtless husband's hand, she stalked backstage amid cheers chanting the name of the next act.

Fountains of Wayne opened the show with what must be, for it, a rare noon performance. Singer Chris Collingwood told the crowd, ''I haven't been up this early since the 1980s.'' Despite the hour, Mr. Collingwood and his band mate and songwriting partner Adam Schlesinger cranked out a more than serviceable 45-minute set, mixing up new songs with gems from the catalog. Though they neglected to play their 2003 hit 'Stacy's Mom', which is to Fountains of Wayne what 'Freebird' is to Lynyrd Skynyrd, they offered a zippy take on their 1999 gem, 'Denise'. Mr. Collingwood was later spotted strolling the festival grounds, taking in a set by Peter Bjorn and John, mercifully unmolested by fans.

For an all-day rock 'n' roll affair, Saturday at Virgin Fest was conducted with military precision. The event began and ended on schedule almost to the minute. Lines for the portable toilets were short, although the queue for the drinking fountain stretched to almost 300 people for much of the day. Except for the antics in the scrum in front of the stage, an excited but somewhat muted spirit ruled the day. Many of the thirty- and forty-somethings in the multigenerational crowd, (estimated at 45,000 by festival organizers) crammed under tents to escape the sweltering sun. The hydration tents proved popular as well, misting parched concert-goers as if they were wilted hydrangeas.

(c) The Washington Times

Rockin' steady - After the Police on Saturday night, yesterday's Virgin Fest crowd was a little tame - until Velvet Revolver and Smashing Pumpkins showed up...

Under threat of rain, about 32,000 fans reveled in the rock sounds of Velvet Revolver and the Smashing Pumpkins during Day 2 of the Virgin Festival. Yesterday came as a laid-back counterpoint to the nearly 42,000 concertgoers who flocked to Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, sweltering in near-100 degree temperatures to hear the Police.

About 500 overheated fans had sought medical attention Saturday, but only about 200 needed treatment by 6 p.m. yesterday, and then for various ailments, officials said.

Initial estimates from promoters put Saturday's attendance at 70,000, but figures released yesterday were 42,000 for Saturday and 32,000 for Sunday, for a weekend total of 74,000. Single-day capacity is 60,000; last year's one-day, inaugural festival drew about 40,000 fans.

Festival publicist Bethany Vanderhoff did not comment on the promoters' expectations for attendance, whether they were met or what this might mean for next year. However, last night she recalled chatting this weekend with Richard Branson, CEO of festival sponsor Virgin Group.

''He told me, 'See you next year.'''

After Saturday's heat, perhaps the festival's biggest problem was an abundance of riches - bands such as the Police, the Beastie Boys, the Smashing Pumpkins and Amy Winehouse spread, sometimes concurrently, over the north stage, south stage and dance tent.

''This was run a hundred times more conveniently than I thought it would be with a festival this big,'' said Jason Horowitz, 23, a financial underwriter from Queens, N.Y. He and friends drove down Friday night. ''My only complaint, though, is that they should let people camp out. There were so many good acts, I couldn't see all I wanted to see.''

The highlight of the second annual festival was clearly the Police. The reunited 1980s trio of Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers closed Saturday night with a succinct hourlong version of their 2 1/2 -hour stadium set.

Sting, in good voice, was strongly supported by his old bandmates. Copeland's cunning, frenetic work on the drums sparkled with jazzy improvisations as Summers' blazing guitar lines took smart, engrossing turns. Their work was finely anchored by Sting's elastic bass lines. All three are better, more relaxed musicians than they were 20 years ago.

The group has been on the road most of the summer, rewriting its history by reinvigorating the hits. During Saturday's show, the trio mostly stuck to the old arrangements, taking a few style liberties here and there.

'Walking On The Moon', for instance, was beefed up with an undulating, funk-suffused groove, and 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was textured with atmospheric, Middle Eastern-inspired percussion - timpani, chimes and a gong.

On 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', Sting fell slightly out of sync as he rushed through the lyrics during the first verse. He eventually fell back into the groove, though, as he, Copeland and Stewart delivered a satisfying set.

Yesterday's lineup at the festival was heavy on noncommercial acts whose sounds and stage antics were bizarre but fun. Acts such as Brazilian electro-rock collective CSS, singer-songwriter Regina Spektor and Baltimore's Dan Deacon gave surreal performances that mingled disparate styles in quirky, inventive ways.

Early in the day, Deacon was king of the festival's dance tent, where the audience was just as much a part of the show as his quirky music. His 30-minute set felt like a strange kids' show where attendees were invited to form a circle and ''dance sassy'' as Deacon chanted over hyper, neon-colored music that pulsed with squishy synths and buzzing noises.

Spektor, the Russian-born, New York-raised singer-songwriter, garnered rave reviews this year with her latest album, Begin to Hope. Her performance, like the album, was not particularly moving. She accompanied herself on piano in a style that brought to mind Carole King and Laura Nyro. Although Spektor is a fine singer and pianist, her whimsical songs are too quirky for their own good.

Later on the south stage, Jewish reggae-rock star Matisyahu gave a less manic performance. His songs of political and spiritual uplift were emboldened by tight musicianship from his six-man band. Fuzzy, psychedelic guitar lines charged the lilting reggae rhythms and busy percussion. The keyboardist thickened the mix with distorted, synthesized noises. But Matisyahu's rapping grounded it all.

Having just released the album 'Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga', the indie-pop band Spoon gave a loose-limbed performance that felt more like a rehearsal than an actual show. The music, though, worked. The beats were tense, the guitar chords choppy. But the quartet needed to tighten up the act.

Panic! At the Disco lacked energy and, for reasons unknown, performed a cover version of 'The Weight', one of the most overrated songs of the late '60s. Everybody, including Aretha Franklin and the Staple Singers, has done the song. And if those legendary acts weren't able to add anything interesting to it, what made the guys of Panic think they could?

The Wu-Tang Clan, yesterday's only nod to hip-hop, barreled through its greatest hits as the large crowd waved the ''Wu'' sign in the air - palms up, thumbs touching. The nine-member collective, including high-profile members Method Man, Ghostface Killah and de facto leader RZA, came on 15 minutes late. And the set was beset with sound problems. Without taking a breath, the group and its DJ revisited Wu-Tang's heyday with such hits as 'Protect Ya Neck' and 'Sucker M.C.s'.

Later in the evening, as the rain finally came, Velvet Revolver revved up the energy on the south stage. This was the supergroup's first show on its national tour behind its solid new album Libertad. The band rocked as if the guys had something to prove. And maybe they do. Libertad is the follow-up to the quintet's multiplatinum debut, 2004's Contraband.

During the well-paced hourlong set, Velvet Revolver dipped almost equally into both albums, opening the show with the rollicking 'Let It Roll', the first song on the new release. The steely approach of lead singer Scott Weiland doesn't always mesh with the high-powered playing of his bandmates. But he is a charismatic frontman, and he shone on the surging rock ballad 'Fall to Pieces', a big hit from Contraband.

The Smashing Pumpkins closed Virgin Festival on the north stage with a rambling, disjointed show whose sonic template was pulled from the bloated Zeitgeist, the band's latest album, released last month. For all intents and purposes, it was the Billy Corgan show, as he led the newly re-formed group through songs that were little more than overcooked, interlocking guitar riffs and pummeling drums.

Even songs from the Pumpkins' golden era, such as 1993's 'Today', were given the Zeitgeist treatment, in which Corgan and his band-mates buried the melody beneath a web of showy, wailing riffs.

But the band pulled back toward the middle of the show on the stark piano ballad, 'Death from Above', the B-side of the latest single, 'Tarantula'. Corgan whined his way through the song. It was almost insufferable, but it was still better than the overreaching rock grandiosity of the show's earlier half.

Compared with Saturday, the day's overall vibe was lethargic. But with 32,000 concertgoers, it was still a hub of activity: Charm City Rollergirls gave demonstrations; fans picked up trash for points toward swag; Paul ''Paco'' Fish, 25, of Baltimore walked around, dressed as a bush; and Warren Polinsky of Washington suffered through his second day as a pedicab driver.

Polinsky had been taxiing fans everywhere from the South Stage to the Port-O-Potties since 10 a.m., and by 5 p.m. yesterday was spent. But that didn't stop a seemingly inebriated fellow - who insisted on calling him Brian - from making several attempts to get on the cab.

The man fell twice, saying, ''Call me Grandma!'' as his pants dropped to his ankles. He pulled them back up and, at long last, got in the cab.

Luckily, a colleague interceded so Polinsky could get a break.

''I'm really exhausted,'' he said with a defeated look as he pedaled away.

(c) The Baltimore Sun by Rashod D. Ollison

Gimme Swelter - At the Virgin Festival in Baltimore, Rock Hot Enough to Fry an Ear...

If the Virgin Festival isn't the hottest entry on the summer music circuit, then it's off by only a few degrees. As the two-day rock bacchanalia set off Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, the headliner was the heat: Temperatures pushed into the upper 90s and the heat index pushed past 100 as some two dozen artists including the Police, Modest Mouse, the Beastie Boys and LCD Soundsystem cranked it up to 11. ''It is hot like a mofo,'' declared Adam ''Adrock'' Horovitz of the Beastie Boys. ''We're sweating with you, people.''

For those about to rock, we sweat all over you! All 42,000 of you - the festival's estimated attendance Saturday, according to a spokeswoman.

As darkness and temperatures fell, the Police - the festival's main attraction - opened their set with a heated version of 'Message In A Bottle'. The taut, nervy song was powered by Stewart Copeland's hyperkinetic drumming and Andy Summers's corkscrew riffs. Summers, in fact, was the star of the newly reunited band's set, spiking the songs with sharp-edged fills and pealing solos on songs including the shifty 'Can't Stand Losing You' and the chugging 'King of Pain'.

''Welcome to the Andy Summers show,'' Sting sang, tweaking a lyric during 'So Lonely'. Summers summarily unleashed a brilliant lyrical solo. Still, the spotlight stayed on Sting, whose image was beamed onto the giant video screens that flanked the stage. No wonder these guys didn't get along.

Sting was in fine form, though, singing with fire throughout the band's closing set. He even rushed excitedly through some of the old warhorses, including a jazzed-up 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.

Modest Mouse didn't have the drawing power of the Police, but the band still turned in a headliner-worthy set on the second stage. Though the addition of former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr has been the big story for the group this year, Marr's presence was largely secondary on Saturday. Modest Mouse's most distinctive features remain frontman Isaac Brock's anguished yelp and the group's jagged, percussive songs.

The band employs two drummers, which gives propulsive rockers such as 'Doin' the Cockroach' even more muscle. It makes for an overall sound that's sort of tribal indie rock, along the lines of Talking Heads. This was especially true on 'Tiny Cities Made of Ashes', one of the most sinister indie-funk songs you'll ever hear. Brock capped the song by delivering a guitar solo with his teeth.

The Beasties played hardcore punk, meandering jazz-funk instrumentals and obnoxious '80s metal numbers. But the group's core competency is pass-the-mike rapping, and in that vein, 'Root Down', 'Intergalactic' and 'Sure Shot' were knockouts, with Adrock, Mike D (Michael Diamond) and MCA (Adam Yauch) trading off crisp but chaotic rhymes as Mix Master Mike punched up the tracks with classic break beats and scratch fills.

While Mix Master Mike showed off his beat-juggling skills, world-renowned DJs Sasha and John Digweed put on a clinic in spinning progressive trance - every one of their crescendos and seamless transitions met with pumping fists in the crowded dance tent.

Perhaps the hottest performer coming into the festival, at least in terms of buzz, was Amy Winehouse, the superlative retro-soul singer and songwriter whose 'Back to Black' is one of the year's most acclaimed albums. The erratic, unpredictable British singer has a growing reputation for skipping gigs - overseas bookmakers have even been setting odds on her no-shows.

In some ways, though, she wasn't really here. (And no, that's not a reference to the singer's emaciated physical state, though she did look something like a tattooed skeleton in skimpy khaki shorts and midriff-baring tank top.) Performing on the festival's main stage in the mid-afternoon sun - a curious place to find a woman who looks like a drag queen Elvira - Winehouse seemed to go through the motions on a good chunk of her self-penned songs. That included some written from a place of real pain, including 'Wake Up Alone', which Winehouse dedicated to her husband; even then, she failed to sing with depth or conviction and sounded almost robotic.

As far as robots go, this one has a fine soul-jazz voice. So even when Winehouse mails it in, she still sounds pretty good. And on certain songs, she sounded downright fierce: the sassy, scathing 'Me & Mr. Jones', the self-loathing 'You Know I'm No Good' and a fiery cover of the Zutons' 'Valerie'. The deeper into the 40-minute set she got, the more she seemed to drill into the emotional core of the songs. Closing with her defiant, defining song, 'Rehab', Winehouse tumbled to the finish line. Was there some other place she wanted - if not needed - to be? In her air-conditioned trailer, perhaps?

''I feel good that we have enough shade tents and water and misters to give people relief,'' said promoter Seth Hurwitz about the Pimlico crowd. ''There's the people who don't know how to take care of themselves, and you can't do much for them. But the people who can take care of themselves - we're ready for them.''

Festival officials said approximately 90 people were treated at Pimlico for heat exhaustion and other ailments, with 15 receiving additional treatment at area hospitals. Baltimore City Fire Department's emergency medical service trucks - which circled the venue like mechanical vultures - appeared to make frequent stops. Shade tents were full for most of the afternoon, as were the ''refresher'' domes, with their water misters and showers. (Towels not included.) At the back of the dance tent, some festival-goers napped on blankets - even as Felix da Housecat spun pulsating, bass-heavy club songs with loud, swelling crescendos.

Pimlico's shaded grandstands were also open to the festival-goers - a change from the inaugural U.S. Virgin Festival last year, when only VIP ticket-holders were admitted to that area. Around the 140-acre track, there were long lines at the water spouts. And while cold beverages sold briskly, some of the food vendors slumped idly in their booths. Worst sellers? Fried dough, french fries and fried chicken tenders.

Fountains of Wayne proved to be a smart choice to open the festival on the main stage, as the band's sunny pop songs were the perfect background music for people trying to get situated around the track. Performing at the most un-rock-and-roll hour of noon, singer Chris Collingwood noted that he hadn't ''been awake this early since the '80s.'' But it didn't show in the performance, which had enough energy - and, more important, catchy hooks - to win over the early arrivers.

Clear across Pimlico on the second stage, the British alternative rock trio Fiction Plane began to play. The group is fronted by singer-bassist Joe Sumner, who happens to be the son of Sting, who happened to be headlining the festival Saturday with the Police. And to think that Fiction Plane has a serious song about nepotism, 'Running the Country'. Hah! Sumner sounds an awful lot like his famous father in terms of his vocal timbre. And on 'Two Sisters', the full band got into the echo game, with drummer Pete Wilhoit playing a jittery, Stewart Copeland-style reggae backbeat behind Seton Daunt's scratchy rhythm guitar as Sumner sang in a high, slightly pinched voice. It was pure Police. Other data points included Pink Floyd and Coldplay.

With no particular stylistic thread tying the festival's lineup together, Saturday offered a smorgasbord of sounds. Incubus played nu-metal that matched sludgy guitars, thunderous bass lines and turntable scratches with Brandon Boyd's howls. The trio Peter Bjorn and John did the twee-pop thing, while Paolo Nutini, a baby-faced singer-songwriter from Scotland, performed soulful pop that seemed to split the difference between James Blunt and Van Morrison.

The Fratellis, also from Scotland, provided a jolt with a tight set of loud, snappy pub punk. Most of the trio's songs - such as 'Flathead', which you might recognize from an iPod commercial - are about drinking, partying and what results when you combine the two. The sweltering weather wasn't the best for downing brews, but the band sounded fine all the same. Still, the songs began to blend together after 30 minutes, at which point the set lost steam. But that's the beauty of a festival: Just as things turn tedious, the band wraps it up. Or, you can just wander elsewhere to hear another band.

While the Fratellis were stuck on repeat, Cheap Trick was making a marvelous power-pop racket by blending savage, metal-edged riffs with pretty pop melodies. The musicians from Rockford, Ill., were quite a sight to behold - especially guitarist Rick Nielsen, who wore all black while working his way through a dizzying range of guitars, from a double-neck to a Flying V. The guitars were run through a towering stack of checkerboard amps that happened to light up in the middle of 'Dream Police'.

Singer Robin Zander, wearing a Cheap Trick muscle shirt, was in fine voice (how is he still hitting the high notes of 'The Flame'?), while drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson provided a rock-solid rhythmic foundation - particularly during a driving version of 'I Want You to Want Me'.

Sometimes, though, leaving a set early proved to be an unwise decision. Halfway through LCD Soundsystem's dynamite set of dance rock on the second stage, the crowd began to thin out - presumably because the Beastie Boys were about to go on across the infield. They missed a superlative four-song suite as LCD Soundsystem, performing as a sextet, let loose down the stretch. There was 'All My Friends', a slowly building epic arranged around a hypnotic piano loop and a New Order-inspired guitar riff. Then came a trio of songs from LCD's debut album - the pulsing 'Tribulations', punk stomper 'Movement' and percussive jam 'Yeah', whose title summed up the band's climactic finale.

Among the three staging areas, there was plenty of the requisite festival stuff: art installations, including sculptures made from heavy-machinery parts; a wrestling ring; burlesque acrobats; vendors selling straw hats and tie-dyed bikinis; activist groups hoping to save Darfur and help the homeless and plan parenthood; a band playing car parts. There were also official festival participants dressed as shrubs, on roller skates and on stilts.

On Sunday, 22 more artists are scheduled to perform, including Smashing Pumpkins, Wu-Tang Clan, Velvet Revolver, Panic! at the Disco and Bad Brains.

(c) Washington Post by J. Freedom du Lac and David Malitz

At Virgin Festival, Police phenomenal, heat abominable...

More than an hour before the Virgin Festival started at noon yesterday, concertgoers were pouring bottles of water down their shirts.

Hot? Try brutal.

With a heat index of about 103 degrees all afternoon at Pimlico Race Course, it was often difficult to concentrate on the music filtering from two stages, set almost a halfmile apart on the track's infield.

Officials at the on-site medical tent said that by 7 p.m., about 400 people had been treated for heat-related issues, and about 50 people passed out. None of the problems were life-threatening.

Attendees had a few ways to combat the weather. Water fountains were stationed around the grounds - lines were about 100 people deep all afternoon - and misting tents, shade tents and a ''Refresh Dome,'' a damp, foliage-filled area, offered brief relief.

But with 10 hours of music capped off with the Beastie Boys and The Police - on the only area appearance of their reunion tour - true music fans coped with such icky impositions as Portalets that seemed to have last been cleaned when Seabiscuit raced here.

Organizers estimate that the two-day fest, now in its second year, drew about 70,000 people. The Police closed the night with a phenomenal 100-minute set that demonstrated why their reunion tour has been met with such rapturous response.

A happy-looking Sting playfully batted beach balls tossed on stage in between belting 'Synchronicity II', with guttural force. ''C'mon, you want to sing?'' he then asked the crowd, leading them into some ''ee-yo-ohs'' to kickstart 'Walking On The Moon'. While some hits were slightly altered - a different key for 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', a jazz-tinged 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' - the band infused every note with passion and technical proficiency.

The jam that Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland engaged in during 'When the World is Running Down' would have blown away bands three times their size. Just one reason why they're legends.

Before The Police closed the night, the Beastie Boys, the New York rap trio that has sustained a 30-year-plus career, offered an invigorating set of classics and new material.

The Beastie Boys aren't those goofy kids from the'80s imploring you to fight for your right to party anymore. But now, even in their 40s, they're sharp, energetic and could teach these one-hit wannabes a few things about rapping.

From the dance-tastic 'Put My Root Down' to the expert old-school scratching in 'Makin' with the Freak Freak', the main threesome, clad in suffocating three-piece suits, skipped around the stage like teenagers. Longtime fans were rewarded with zippy runs through 'Brass Monkey', 'No Sleep Til Brooklyn' and 'Intergalactic'.

Aside from the two headliners, the concert also featured 12 pop and rock bands - most with a penchant for jeans and T-shirts - that ranged from the dependable Cheap Trick to the jam-inducing funk rock of Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals to the new rock of Sting's son, Joe Sumner and his band Fiction Plane.

Other musical highlights:

Scotland's The Fratellis, one of the best new bands out there, have a crunchy, yet melodic sound likely appreciated by fans of Franz Ferdinand.

They're the band behind that iPod commercial (the song used is called 'Flathead', but it's more familiar for its ba-da-da-da-da-ah-oh refrain), and, as demonstrated during its 50-minute set, are a lot of fun live. That song arrived early, pulsing urgently as drummer Gordon McRory's (aka Mince Fratelli) sticks danced across the tom toms.

LCD Soundsystem, who brought their rave-rock to a fawning crowd of at least 10,000. The band's melding of syncopated dance beats and serrated guitars is hugely appealing, especially on the self-deprecating 'North American Scum' and 'Time to Get Away'.

Amy Winehouse, the notoriously kooky British soul singer behind the unlikely radio hit, 'Rehab', was interesting to observe with her skeletal body covered in tattoos, a towering beehive and her swaying dance moves that suggested Diana Ross after a few gin and tonics.

Joined by a taut band, including two brass players and two male backup singers, her organic voice that indicates she has seen a lot of hurt and whiskey sounded record perfect on 'Tears Dry on Their Own'.

But as good as Winehouse sounded, she could have used a hint of stage presence. Aside from a standard, ''How is everyone, Baltimore?'' and introducing her band, she never spoke, merely segueing into songs that started to sound alike. Even when 'Rehab' sent the throng into happy chant-a-longs of ''no, no, no,'' Winehouse delivered the song as if she were reading the lyrics from the back of a magazine. How about a little effort for the fans?

(c) Richmond Times-Dispatch by Melissa Ruggieri