Police Reunion

Pittsburgh, PA, US
Post Gazette Pavilionwith Elvis Costello & The Imposters
Police come back to the 'Burgh...

Before last night's concert at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown, it had been 25 years since the Police performed in Western Pennsylvania.

That show, at the Civic Arena, was a year before the band parted ways in 1984. Enough time for nostalgia to soak in, for the songs to be passed on to successive generations.

But unlike Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen, the Police's audience - at least at yesterday's show - seems to be the folks who bought 'Zenyatta Mondatta' and 'Ghost in the Machine' on vinyl. Most of the crowd seemed to be on the plus side of 40.

The kids don't know what they're missing.

The show featured all the songs a die-hard fan could want, starting with the rousing 'Message In A Bottle'. But these were not note-for-note renditions. Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland are more than mere rockers; each of them has the chops to stretch out the music, re-invent it inside out, as if they were disciples of Miles Davis.

Thus, 'Hole in my Life', 'Driven To Tears' and 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' (which benefited from Summers' wonderfully understated guitar intro) had different textures than the originals.

For the most part, the experiments worked, save for a strange, dissonant interlude that interrupted the flow of 'Roxanne'.

Most brilliant was Copeland's tour de force performance in 'Wrapped Around my Finger', the evening's finest moment. Using an array of cymbals, kettle drums, chimes and other percussive elements, he elevated the song - which is ordinary by Police standards - into one of those unforgettable moments that lingers long after the final notes.

If Copeland seems to be the most passionate about the music itself, Summers is the band's artisan, adding shades of color to 'Driven To Tears' or just playing the guitar hero in 'Demolition Man'. Broad strokes or miniatures, he provided the perfect complement to each song.

That leaves Sting, the uber-front man, charismatic, genial, still looking like he just strolled off Mt. Olympus at 56, especially with a Zeus-like beard. And that voice! He sounds as if the years have had no effect on him, even though stretching out the vocals on 'Walking On The Moon' seemed a bit of braggadocio.

Still, you give the great ones an indulgence or two.

Elvis Costello opened the evening with a typically fiery set that included his gems 'Pump it Up' and '(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding', some very good songs from the new album 'Momofuku' (especially 'Stella Hurt') and his touchstone 'Alison', during which Sting came out, sang the second verse and stole Costello's thunder.

(c) Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by Regis Behe

Sting, Police make a strong return...

It took 25 years for The Police to return to the scene of the crime - that crime being a breakup that came far too soon.

Finally, Monday night, the band turned up at the Post-Gazette Pavilion on an endurance run of tour in the same stripped-down form that's been its signature - a trio with a sound big enough for a stadium.

Kicking it off with 'Message In A Bottle', the band delivered a set of perky pop songs that clearly aged well over the years. With a bit more maturity, better chops and perhaps a little tour fatigue, Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland slowed the songs down and added textures that surely weren't there when they played the Phase III and the Decade in the late '70s.

As a result, a song like 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' didn't come with the same sexual urgency it once did. But fans could have expected that, knowing the smooth adult-pop direction Sting has taken during his solo career.

As usual, he showed up in a great shape, still looking like the dashing heartthrob, despite sporting a thick gray beard. You can be sure the ladies in the crowd were feeling a flutter looking at those steely blue eyes. His one-of-a-kind voice hasn't changed much at all, and even hitting the notes of 'Roxanne' didn't seem to be a strain.

The Police have climbed the Billboard chart enough times to churn out with a hit-filled set of songs like 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', 'King of Pain' and 'When the World is Running Down'. 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' was a lively call and response with Sting taking the first part and the crowd finishing the thought.

The centerpiece of the set was 'Can't Stand Losing You' with Sting's call of ''e-yay-o' spiked by a cool distorted guitar solo from Summers, who had room to jam throughout the night.

Was it the cosmic experience everyone was waiting for? Maybe not. But it was good enough and a lot more people now can say they saw the Police.

While there's little to no punk left in Sting, the same can't be said of opener Elvis Costello - despite looking these days more like the big bandleader his father was.

The person who decided the set times obviously wasn't an Elvis fan because he got a less than an hour to play. He made the most of it, slamming one song into the next. The 13-song set was daringly heavy on the new album, 'Momofuko', ranging from the torchy ballad 'Flutter and Wow' to the breathless 'No Hiding Place'.

His four member Imposters, complete with keyboard wizard Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas from the Attractions, rocked harder than the Police ever could on classics 'Pump it Up', '(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea' and 'Watching the Detectives', Elvis' own wicked slice of reggae-rock.

Sting popped up for a duet on 'Alison' that was more a great photo op than anything brilliant musically. Then Elvis and the Imposters closed it out with a mad, frantic dash through '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding' and 'You Belong to Me' that made it all the harder to watch him leave.

It was a pleasure to have Costello on the bill - it would have been even better if he had been the headliner.

(c) Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Scott Mervis