Police Reunion

Sacramento, CA, US
Sleep Train Amphitheatrewith Elvis Costello & The Imposters
The Police accent a hit-driven show...

Elvis Costello once famously said of Sting, ''Somebody should clip (him) round the head and tell him to stop singing in that ridiculous Jamaican accent.''

That was nearly three decades ago, and in the years since, the two have apparently made up: Costello is the opening act on The Police's reunion (and reportedly final) tour. Costello even let Sting join him on stage Thursday night at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre for a rousing version of his classic 'Alison'. The pair seemed as relaxed and jovial as old friends.

Costello's 12-song set provided an energetic start to the night. Backed by the Imposters (essentially The Attractions with Cracker's Davey Faragher replacing original bassist Bruce Thomas) the veteran singer-songwriter mixed classics with new material. Standouts included keyboardist Steve Nieve's always tasteful notes, a particularly vitriolic rendition of '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?' and a sweet, simple 'Flutter & Wow', from his latest album 'Momofuku'.

Despite playing to an audience that included several rows of empty seats, Costello looked and sounded happy and energized. Certainly, the 54-year-old artist may not elicit the same nostalgic fervor as his tour mates but he's just as deserving.

But, no doubt, this was The Police's night. Founded in 1977, The Police quickly earned notice for its jazz-tinged, reggae-influenced new wave and, over the course of five albums, garnered countless hits and critical acclaim before disbanding at the top of its game in 1985.

By the time The Police took the stage at 8:45, the amphitheatre buzzed lightly with anticipation.

''There are 12,000 people here tonight,'' Sting said, summoning the near-capacity crowd to action. ''You know what that means? I want to see 24,000 hands in the air.''

The fans obliged, rocking out with an adoring, if somewhat restrained vibe. There were plenty of gentle dance moves but no outlandishly loud shrieks, screams or shrill whistles and, other than a woman dancing through the aisles barefoot, little mayhem.

Then again, it has been two decades since The Police called it quits and the audience, much like the trio featuring Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland, has noticeably aged. So, with the median concertgoer's age hovering near 40-something and Sting's unapologetically gray beard, the night's low-key mood wasn't entirely unexpected. Nor was it necessarily a bad thing.

On Thursday, the band highlighted the best of the best, opening with the evocative 'Message In A Bottle'. Moving through nearly 20 songs, the band cherry-picked through the vintage tracks such as 'When the World is Running Down', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Roxanne'. The latter, with Sting's high pitch of a caterwaul, seems as if it were written with the sole purpose of being sung beneath a breezy, starry night.

The band's pace has definitely slowed since its heyday and some songs, most notably 'Driven To Tears' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' lacked a vital intensity.

Still, the three musicians seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the night's best moments came via their frenzied take on 'Can't Stand Losing You', a vigorous 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and, during one of three encore sets, a sweet but melancholy rendition of 'Every Breath You Take'.

And, yes, the England-born Sting used that faux Jamaican accent throughout the set but at this point, even Elvis Costello would probably agree he's the earned the right to use it.

(c) The Sacramento Bee by Rachel Leibrock