Police Reunion

Belfast, GB
Stormont Castlewith KT Tunstall
Police take centre stage...

With his support for cool political causes and his much-publicised association with 'Tantric Sex', Sting is an obvious target for ribbing, even ridicule.

But anyone who doubts his musical genius should have been at Stormont on Friday night, for a long-awaited concert by the band Sting joined in 1977, The Police.

Long-awaited because in three decades of the band's existence, The Police had never before played in Northern Ireland.

And many fans, this reviewer included, thought they never would, particularly when last year's tour went to Dublin and didn't come north.

The sense of injustice was magnified by Sting's links with the Province - he married an actress from here, Frances Tomelty, when he was a teacher called Gordon Sumner.

When Sting reminded Friday's 15,000-strong crowd that he used to spend his summers ''in a place called Whitehead'', there were cheers.

Appropriately too, because we are lucky to have a connection with such a talent, whose immense skills as a tunesmith and musical all-rounder kept the audience happy for 90 minutes.

And there was no cheating: only Police songs were performed, none of his later music as an individual artist.

The greatest roar came for 'Every Breath You Take', inevitably performed as the finale (until an extra encore of 'Next To You').

But 'Every Breath' was a cue for many people to start waving their mobile-phones-as-cameras above their heads, an unwelcome reminder that the scale of the 1983 song's huge success has given it a sentimental edge.

More enjoyable, for Police purists, were other hits that had the crowd bouncing along, such as 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da' or the track that launched the night, 'Message In A Bottle'.

And the track which had the crowd singing along perhaps the most was the 1978 gem 'So Lonely', which never even made it to number one.

This was also a song that showcased Andy Summers on guitar, with a fine solo, before rolling back into the catchy chorus.

Getting the crowd moving was in itself a triumph, because anyone who remembers The Police, who wound up 25 years ago, is either middle aged or heading fast towards it.

While there were plenty of people in their 20s, and some in their teens, most of the Stormont crowd was over 40, many considerably so.

In sunshine, on almost the longest evening of the year, this was a sedate affair - as a rock concert performed by men in their late 50s or 60s is likely to be.

But superb camera work, shown on huge screens, meant that even those resting at the back of the venue got to see - for example - how much energy the band's founder and brilliant drummer Stewart Copeland was putting into the gig.

The venue, by the way, debuted well. Some of the crowd were disappointed to find that this was the first Stormont concert not to be held on the hill, under the shadow of Parliament Buildings.

Instead the show was put on in a site buried in the estate grounds amidst trees.

The screens showcased also how, Sting, even with a greying beard, looks better than a man in his late 50s should.

(c) Belfast News Letter by Ben Lowry