Police Reunion

Honolulu, HI, US
Blaisdell Centerwith Fiction Plane
The Police offer an arresting show...

''Utterly fantastic.''

That was the first thing Paul Kreiling, co-owner of downtown's Red Elephant, said after Saturday's concert by the Police at the Blaisdell Arena.

A recording engineer who has seen the trio in concert before, Kreiling said that ''they had so much energy, and they were so fine-tuned to each other. I think they loved it in here. It was the perfect rock concert. You can't ask for anything more.''

Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland triumphantly wrapped up the Pacific Rim portion of their worldwide reunion tour in Honolulu with concerts Saturday and last night - and almost anyone in either audience would heartily concur with Kreiling.

As soon as they launched into the opening 'Message In A Bottle', the Police had ecstatic fans in the palm of their collective hand.

The guys have aged well, especially charismatic front man Sting, who was in fit form both physically and vocally. (Although he was pacing himself, when he wanted to he could still hit the high notes.) A bespectacled Copeland was an absolute rock, laying down a solid rhythmic foundation, whether behind his drum kit or adding gentle accents wiithin a panoply of percussion instruments. Summers, still cutting an impish figure in his 60s, is a bolder guitarist after all these years. Whenever he had his trusty red Stratocaster strapped on, he would let loose with thoughtful, distorted guitar lines that could border on the boldly atonal.

The well-choreographed show used simple but effective lighting, and three video screens above-stage guaranteed most every one in the arena a good view.

Revisiting a time-tested repertoire, the Police gave some songs extended arrangements. That favored the more groove-oriented songs like 'Walking On The Moon', with Summers playing those familiar ringing and spacious chords. Sting also played the role of song leader, leading the crowd through every ''ohhh-whoa'' and ''be-yo-yo-yo.''

Only two songs in the set could've used a bit of that younger Police energy. 'Da Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' didn't have the exuberant bounce of the original, and the band opted out for the blander, smoothed-over version of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' from their 1984 hits compilation. (The magenta stage lighting was a nice touch, though.)

The joy of interplay was evident as they ended the first half with the syncopated swing of 'Hole in My Life' and a stripped-down 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'.

The more serious songs were given more of an dramatic oomph. A quiet if intense 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' had a more rueful air, with the chorus given a bit more gravity courtesy Copeland's kettle drum accents. 'Invisible Sun', originally influenced by the political violence in Northern Ireland, was the night's only message song, illustrated by a photo montage of children's faces the world over.

After ending the show proper with biting renditions of 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Roxanne', the band encored with a well-sung 'King of Pain' that quickly segued to the reggae-fied 'So Lonely', attacked with verve and authority.

Something unexpected occurred at the conclusion of 'Every Breath You Take', when Summers absentmindedly stayed onstage after Sting and Copeland had exited in anticipation of the night's finale encore. After an awkward moment, the guitarist started playing the introduction to 'Next To You', causing Sting and Copeland to return sooner than planned. Sting couldn't resist giving Summers a remonstrative side kick to the butt, which Summers quickly returned in kind.

Ahhh, some things haven't changed between these three musician-brothers.

When the Police are finally put to rest, look no further than Sting's son, Joe Sumner, to pick up the mantle. His band, Fiction Plane, had the choice opening slot through much of this tour, a showcase for their singles 'Hate' and 'Two Sisters'.

Like his famous dad, Sumner plays bass, sings and is quite the showman, and he plays in a trio, with guitarist Seton Daunt and Pete Wilhoit. They do, at times, sound like a junior version of the Police. All are fine musicians in their own right, though, and all they need is a memorable song or two to get them to the next level.

(c) Honolulu Star Bulletin by Gary C.W. Chun

The Police play Honolulu for first time in 24 years...

What's a crowd to do when Sting throws down a challenge?

Sting: ''The question is, Honolulu: Are you ready to sing?''

Crowd: ''Yeah!''

Sting, louder, with his hand behind his ear to signify that the almost 10,000 screaming voices in the Blaisdell Arena aren't loud enough to satisfy him: ''Are you ready to sing?''

Crowd, louder: ''Yeah!''

Sting, still not satisfied: ''Are. You. Ready. To. Siiiiiiiiiing?''

Crowd, louder still, shrill with frenetic energy: ''Yeah!''

Not that Sting really had to do much coaxing during last night's Police concert - the first in Honolulu since the band's 1984 'Synchronicity' tour and the band's last stop on their current reunion tour, which kicked off last May in Vancouver, Canada, marking the band's first concert since breaking up in 1985.

The challenge, which came two songs into the concert, was completely unnecessary.

All the crowd needed to lose its composure was to hear these words: ''Woke up this morning. Can't believe what I saw.'' The rest of the lyrics to 'Message In A Bottle' came easily to the thousands and thousands of people who were on their feet the instant the band ascended onto the stage in a metal cage.

Was Honolulu ready to sing? Silly question.

But first, a good-natured jab at themselves was in order. Guitarist Andy Summers emerged from the cage mid-brawl with drummer Stewart Copeland, a microphone stand the weapon of choice. The staged fight was, of course, a joke on themselves. The band's way of addressing the highly publicized internal strife that ultimately led to the group's disbandment only eight years after it formed in 1977. It's been 25 years since all that and now audiences are being introduced to a more tranquil trio. But if the new-found calm has any effect on the music, it's only served to make it better.

It was the band's musicianship that made it work in the beginning, and it's that same expertise that was evident last night in the band's slick - and confident - reworking of its catalog to update its sound, and to reflect what the Police has become.

Punk-tinged classics like 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' took on softer, smoother lines, allowing for the songs to be extended and filled in by lengthy, showy solos by Copeland and Summers, whose deftness with their instruments was exquisite and precise. Sting might have had the show stolen from him by his bandmates if it wasn't for his own skill in delivering incredibly solid vocals, frequently hitting those haunting high notes that he's honed as a solo artist (think 'Desert Rose' and 'Fields of Gold').

Though all of the material was exclusively classic Police stuff - there were no Sting-the-solo-artist songs - it was easy to hear the singer that Sting's become worked into the songs of the singer that he once was.

The reggae-inspired 'Roxanne' was less rocksteady and more jazz - a likely result of the musicians growing older and more refined and 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was transformed into a slow and winding ballad, accented by clean vocals slides and moaning guitar riffs.

The crowd sometimes had difficulty identifying the reworked songs, saving the screams that usually errupt with the first few notes of a favorite song until the lyrics could be heard. But a few words into the song and the roars came as fervently and unfettered as if nothing had changed. And wisely, the band left all the original melodies in tact, giving their fans something to sing about.

Sting, looking young, thin and fit in black skinny jeans, combat boots and a black skin-tight tanktop that showed off his sinewy, muscular arms, spent much of his time interracting with the audience, keeping them on their feet and launching sing-and-respond sing alongs that had the audience screaming back non-sensical phrases like ''eeyo-oh-oh-oh'' in response to his ''eeyo-oh,'' and ''de da da da'' in response to his ''de do do do.''

Some might say the Police saved the best for last, ending their 13-song set with 'Roxanne' (during which the arena was bathed in - what else? - red light) and capping everything off with a three-megahit encore that included 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely' and 'Every Breath You Take'. But it was during the band's less popular songs (that is, the ones that don't get radio play today), like 'Walking On The Moon', 'Invisible Sun' and 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da' that the band's status as a legitimate supergroup was most astonishing. Because there aren't many bands that could get 10,000 people - young, old and in between - to sing songs that are 25 years old as if the songs were fresh in their minds.

Here's the thing, though: The songs are fresh in our minds because we never stopped listening.

(c) The Honolulu Advertiser by Kawehi Haug