Monday, July 23, 2007

Police Report

In the spring of April 1979, at the very beginning of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, I heard a song that just blew me away. The power of the guitar chords and the raw scratchy vocals were like nothing I had ever heard before. I had to hear more of this band called The Police. “Roxanne” was not a big hit and it peaked at 32. It would be over a year later until “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” cracked the top ten. But I was already a fan.

In 1984, I wanted to see The Police when they played Atlanta, but either financial or scheduling problems prevented me from making the show. This legendary performance was filmed for their “Synchronicity” video. They broke up shortly thereafter, so my chance to see them live seemed doomed. When they announced a reunion tour, my issue was not if, but how and where to see them.

Their current tour is sponsored by Best Buy and a special presale was offered for Rewards members. The catch was that you could only try for one show for the entire tour. I tried to get some tickets for the New York dates but got shut out and my chance for advance tickets seemed doomed. A few days later, I got an e-mail from the Philadelphia sports complex that they were having their own presale independent of Best Buys. I snagged tickets for the whole family and we made reservations for near the airport for the night.

The show was at Citzens Bank Park, which is a very nice knock-off Baltimore’s Camden Yards. We got to the stadium right at the printed start time of 6:30 and Fiction Plane fronted by Sting’s kid Joe Sumner was playing. The guy is the spitting image of his dad and even the lyrics bear a certain similarity. The sound quality was muddy, but I distinctly heard a call out to Jack Kerouac. Another big number included a rather bitter song about a girl that wanted him for his dad’s money but also slept with his best friend.

The Fratellis, an energetic poppy band, was the other opening act and The Police finally took the stage about quarter to nine. For the next nearly two hours, they rocked through all their hits and a few early songs. The opening songs had a slightly jazzy tinge and I got nervous that Stings solo sensibility had penetrated the band. When I saw Sting on his last solo tour, he went into a long noodling variation of “Roxanne” that sent me to the restroom and it was still wrapping up when I got back to my seat. This time he stuck with a version close to the tempo of that song I first fell in love with. The Police are not a jazz band and they stuck with the rock.

Sting has lost some of that edge his voice used to have, but he is buffer than ever, and he always sets my wife sighing. Andy Summers did journeyman’s work on guitar and one solo in particular was impressive, but he mostly stayed out of the limelight. The real star of the show was Stewart Copeland who must be the hardest working percussionist in rock. Throughout the night, he was drumming as well as rushing over to tympanis, bells, snares, and gongs. Recreating the heavily produced Synchronicity era songs live would wear out a drummer half his age.

The staging was no-nonsense and the light show was interesting but not overpowering. Our seats at the back of the lowest deck behind the first base dugout and under the overhang (which was nice since there were some sprinkles during the opening acts) had excellent sight lines. At that distance though, you needed binoculars just to see the smallish video screens.

I have my own thoughts about DinoRock, but I enjoy seeing a band I have loved nearly my entire life give a hard charging energetic show. I won’t mind getting stopped by these Police anytime.

For a good review of another stop on their tour, see trusty getto’s write-up. He does a Separated At Birth that I wish I had thought of.


trusty getto said...

It was a good concert, eh? Nothing like a blast from the past in authentic form to make me feel old!!!

Mooselet said...

I've always had a giggle when people play "Every Breath You Take" at their wedding. Listen to the lyrics, folks - it's not at all a romantic song... unless you married your stalker.

I had a cool Sting bucket hat that my aunt got from one of their concerts in the 80s, and I wore it with pride. Also played the Synchronicity tape (ah, the 80s) until it broke.

Thanks for the flashback.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Sounds like a great show. Wish I had a concert to look forward to this year, but Pittsburgh doesn't seem to be getting any artists I want to see to come through.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Funny you mentioned your "where were you when you first heard Roxanne" moment. I vividly remember being at a college party when someone cranked up the song. I was blown away and immediately went out and bought the tape the next morning.

Ok, next afternoon.

2fs said...

I have nothing but good things to say about Stewart Copeland's drumming generally. And Andy Summers is a resourceful, clever guitar player. And my mother told me, if you've got nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.