I’m not what you’d call a hardcore Police fan, but I have all their albums and enjoy them quite a bit. I followed Sting’s solo career for a while too, but hopped off the train around the Brand New Day album, as the music had finally passed my boredom threshold. When I heard that the band was getting back together, I was excited. Could it be that the long-gone rock & roll Sting was returning at last? I was just a shade too young to see them back in their 80s heyday, so this could be my chance to see one of the few bands I really like and haven’t yet seen in concert. I hoped the tour would come to Denver. And it did! With the top tickets going for TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS. Two hundred and twenty-five freaking dollars. Probably more like $245 after Ticketmaster finishes extracting its pound of flesh. I got depressed when I heard this. Sure, I’d love to see The Police, but I am not in a place in my life where I have $250 to drop for them. I decided that I couldn’t see them after all, but I did not feel at peace with the decision. As the show date got closer, I got more and more bummed, feeling like I was going to miss the opportunity to do something I really wanted to do through circumstances I couldn’t control.

Then, somehow, something broke the spell. I think it was partly having a fantastic time seeing Stevie Nicks at Red Rocks on May 28th, partly balancing my checkbook, partly taking some steps to lift myself from the minor funk I’d been in. Anyway, I decided I was being ridiculous. No, I’m not going to spend $250 to see The Police, but I could still go! I’d gotten so used to sitting in good seats that I’d somehow forgotten it was possible to enjoy a concert from anywhere else. So I determined that I could buy one of the $90 or $50 tickets and be perfectly happy. First, though, I thought I’d check out eBay and see if I could get a good deal there. Happily, the band chose to play 2 shows here, which attenuated the demand enough to make it a buyer’s market for secondhand tickets. I ended up paying $75.60 for one of the $250 seats! And that’s including shipping! Huzzah!

So I went, and had a great time. There was reason to be a bit wary. Not only had Sting veered well into dullness (for me), but the last thing The Police recorded was the wretched “Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’86”, which took a good song and vampirically sucked all the life out of it. The possibility existed that the entire show would be slow, jazz-inflected reinterpretations of Police hits. Happily, this was not the case. It was a rock & roll band on the stage last night, and I’m so glad I got out of my own way so I could see them.
Here’s the set list:

Message In A Bottle
Synchronicity II
Spirits In The Material World
Voices Inside My Head/When The World Is Running Down You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around
Don’t Stand So Close To Me
Driven To Tears
Walking On The Moon
Truth Hits Everybody
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
The Bed’s Too Big Without You
De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Walking In Your Footsteps
Bonanza/Rawhide (just a few notes)
Can’t Stand Losing You/Regatta De Blanc
Roxanne

1st encore
King of Pain
So Lonely

2nd encore
Every Breath You Take
Next To You

A few notes:

  • The Internets tell me that this is virtually the same set list they’ve been playing throughout the tour, albeit with some of the ordering rearranged and “Murder By Numbers” cut from after “The Bed’s Too Big”. Oh well, if they’re going to cut a song, I don’t mind terribly that it’s that one.
  • Sting’s bass looked incredibly ratty and ancient, which I actually appreciated.
  • Andy Summers’ guitar strap had lettering on it reading “OH MY GOD THEY KILLED KENNY!” There were also a couple of pictures of Kenny, though I couldn’t quite tell if they were pictures of him being killed. Summers looked considerably more aged than the other two, which I suppose makes sense given that he’s about 10 years older than they are.
  • I have decided that I love Stewart Copeland. I always liked the rhythms in the Police’s songs (especially the later songs), but seeing him do them live was a huge kick. I also quite enjoy that he crankily slagged the first appearance of his own band’s reuinion concert. Despite his complaints, I didn’t find this show to be “unbelievably lame.” He seemed to be having fun, though. At one point he teased the people with seats behind the stage, pointing out to the front row and saying, “Doesn’t it look great out there?” That sounds meaner than it was — it was all in fun, I think.
  • The show kicked off with my two favorite Police songs, which made me really happy. The one problem was that Summers’ guitar was buried too low in the mix for those first few songs, so the distinctive riff from “Message” was barely audible from where I sat.
  • Some of the songs lost a little bit in concert. In particular, “Spirits In The Material World” is a song I love, but which felt a bit blunted in this show. Their new arrangement smoothed out some of its skittering, off-kilter rhythms, and because it was only the three of them onstage, the synth part wasn’t played. It turns out the synth part is my favorite part of that song. Also, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” wasn’t the ’86 version, but it was more lifeless than I wanted it to be. Call it “Don’t Stand So Close To Me ’84.”
  • On the other hand, several of the songs were far more intense than on record. “Driven To Tears” was fantastic, and “Walking In Your Footsteps” sounded amazing. Also, some of the new arrangements were excellent — in particular, inserting “Regatta De Blanc” where the bridge of “Can’t Stand Losing You” might have been was inspired. Also, the melding of “Voices Inside My Head” with “When The World Is Running Down” was cool — they played the first verse of “Running Down” in the style of “Voices”, then kicked into the song’s more energetic regular rhythm.
  • Speaking of energy, all three of them had lots of fun rock & roll energy, with the jumping and spinning and crazy antics.
  • The “Bonanza” business happened as Summers was trying to make some adjustment or other, and Sting began playing the Bonanza theme on his bass while we waited. “We are in Denver, after all. Every week, they went to Denver. Why?” After Summers was ready, they played a few bars of country and Sting shouted, “Rawhide!”
  • Some of the other shtick was more canned, though it was enjoyable enough. For instance: “Since it’s been quite a while, I’d like to introduce the band. Andy, this is Stewart. Stewart, Andy.”
  • I really thought “Every Breath” would be the last song. “Next To You” was a great surprise — a song I really like, and they kicked ass on it.

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3 responses »

  1. ctate says:

    I have a sense that people tend to forget just how freaking GOOD the Police were as instrumentalists. Sting was a kick-ass bassist, and Stewart Copeland’s a drum god and a talented writer to boot. His work on the soundtrack for the B-list TV spy show “The Equalizer” was fantastic.

    The Police got started as more or less a punk reggea band… how much of that has survived to the present?

    • paulobrian says:

      The Police got started as more or less a punk reggae band… how much of that has survived to the present?

      Since they haven’t really recorded anything new, “how much has survived to the present” is basically the same as “how much had survived as of 1983?” Which is to say… not much. By Synchronicity, they’d pretty much left behind the whole “white reggae”/”regatta de blanc” thing, I think.

      However, they can certainly still do it! They played several of those older songs (Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You, The Bed’s Too Big) in all their reggae-punk glory.

  2. Anonymous says:

    great review

    Yay, I feel like I was there. Which is good, because I wasn’t. For some reason, I find the “let me introduce the band” joke pretty damn funny.

    trrish

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