Sting in Manchester, NH...
For Mother's Day I took Katie to the Verizon Wireless Arena to see Sting, who she had always wanted to see in concert, but never had the opportunity. As members of the elder end of Generation X, The Police were a mainstay of our teen years, and this show was essentially The Police minus Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland - and Sting rocked the house. If there was ever an argument for a reunion tour, this was it. While this was Katie's first Sting show, it was my fifth (solo shows in 1985, two in 1988, and the final performance of The Police at the 1986 Amnesty International Concert at the Meadowlands - since then they have only played five tunes tunes together during two occaisions: Sting's 1992 wedding and their 2003 induction into the Rock 'n Roll hall of Fame). My first Sting concert was a stop on the 'Dream of the Blue Turtles' Tour promoting his first solo album. Twenty years later, his concert featured more Police tunes - in fact, more than half the music he performed was written before that concert in '85.
He burst out of the gate with 'Message in a Bottle', followed immediately by 'Demolition Man', and 'Spirits in the Material World' - three all-time greats by The Police. His pared down band of two guitars and drums, with Sting playing bass the whole night (like in his Police days) was the perfect vehicle to capture the raw energy and drive of The Police. Other classics of the evening included four tracks from 1983's 'Synchronicity', The Police's final album: 'King of Pain', 'Synchronicity II', 'Invisible Sun' (one of my favorite songs), and 'Every Breath You Take', which was one of three encores to his 80 minute set. At one point he got the whole audience singing 'Voices Inside My Head' while he simultaneously sang 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'. And his Police selections were rounded out by a personal favorite, 'Driven to Tears', a drawn out version of 'Roxanne' (which regained some fame recently in the film Moulin Rouge), and the driving 'Next to You', dug from deep in the archives - it was the first song on The Police's debut album, 'Outlandos D'Amour'.
Of course there were selections from his solo career as well. Much to my delight, he performed four song from 'Ten Summoner's Tales' (in my opinion, his best solo album): 'Fields of Gold', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Heavy Cloud No Rain', and 'She's Too Good For Me'. He answered the question of why, as an Englishman, he writes country songs (he apparently grew up watching Bonanza and Rawhide and playing cowboys and indians - He even played some of the Rawhide theme song for the audience on his bass) and sang two of his country tunes: 'I Hung My Head' (which was recorded by Johnny Cash before his death) and 'Lithium Sunset', which was the final encore of the night and performed much more like a Police anthem than the country song, as it was originally recorded. Sting payed tribute to The Beatles with a thoughtful rendition of 'A Day in the Life', saying that if it wasn't for them, he wouldn't be where he is. Also included in the evening's fare was 'Why Should I Cry for You?' and the lesser known 'End of the Game'. Quite a set for the true Police and Sting fan, which we count ourselves among.
Even with the many great Police tunes featured on this concert, I was yearning for a dozen more. Remember, The Police only released five albums, but there are eight, yes EIGHT, Police Greatest Hits albums. That is how good they were. I can list many, many songs I missed hearing, and I do wish he played for at least another 30 minutes (make that 60), but that is for another time. For now, suffice to say, this concert was great. Oh, and did I mention... We sat in the twelfth row, center!
(c) Russ Grazier, Jr, [Executive Director, Portsmouth Music and Arts Center]