I should care, I'm a millionaire...
The occasion: had good intentions and muddy feet. It was really nice that Rico's band was opening the show, but since arriving on time meant a 45 minute wait to get in as we trailed zig and zag across the common in a thin line leading, eventually, to three very wide and under-employed entrances I heard them from outside the big top - whence they sounded great without convincing me that it wouldn't have been more fun inside.
So we made it and tried to find a spot from which my small yet dynamic companion, Mr Fielder, might be able to get a look at the band. We ended up at the back in what turned out to be a direct line from the central stanchion to Sting. Then we stopped still for a long time trying to stand taller and thinner as the last few hundred punters were shoe-horned in around us. This was okay while Jools Holland was playing boogie-woogie and 'Great Balls Of Fire' and addressing us with a true punter's appreciation of the privations the multitude were experiencing. But the pleasant feeling that we were being treated to a special show gradually drained away with the succession of delays and the desperate display put up by poor old Tommy Cooper. He's so popular that you could sense a thrill going through the crowd when his name was mentioned even though they were literally aching to see the Police.
Tommy took about five minutes to translate this welcome into booing, catcalls and a minor bombardment of plastic cups. For one thing he seemed terrified of the fine mess he'd got himself into and for another he'd forgotten how to project himself beyond the living-room close-up of TV. In sum, he died the death.
Thus discomfited we then had to put up with a good half hour of some berk, who basically had no idea of how to talk to a mass of people while bearing in mind that it is composed of individual human beings, ranted at us to move back a couple of paces, ranted some more when we'd done it (although it had been a quite wondrous feat of corporate good will and civilised instinct), told us the Police wouldn't play unless we did what he said, promised that everyone would be able to see alright (untrue for short people including the entire weenybopper contingent and that the band would be on in ten minutes (untrue) and two minutes (untrue).
Rarely can one person have got up so many pairs of nostrils at the same time - at least not since the Prime Minister's last broadcast to the nation. And yet a groundswell of bonhomie relating exclusively to the band rather than the organisation sustained an astonishing level of patience in a situation where any kind of disorder would have been tragic. It was uncomfortable and scary and l don't know whether we Brits are stoics or suckers but whichever, endurance was finally rewarded.
The Police: were practically perfect. They could have done no better justice to their recorded work to date - and by reinterpretation, not duplication. 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' was refreshed by vocal harmonies a street better than anything I've heard them do before on stage, then Stewart quietly ran riot through 'Walking On The Moon' with a range of tom-tom and rimshot surges energising every line without ever overwhelming the floating euphoria which made the song so winsome. They zipped through a crisp sequence of 'Death Wish', 'Fall Out' and 'Man In A Suitcase' before stretching into a fluent 'Bring On The Night' (the first time it's sounded right to me - I'd though the verse and chorus were irreparably disjointed).
Then 'De Do Do Do' cut through with a precise eloquence which almost every reviewer has found it necessary to deny for various socioeconocultural reasons I can't go into here (i.e. they've got the 'ump with the Police).
By now the set was running as sweetly as an inter-city 125 with the Queen on board. Sting was in good voice while Andy and Stewart took it in turns to spoon in the spices and pickles. The textures and techniques emanating from Andy in particular were a joy to hear, every one a vibrant contribution to the greater glory of The Song rather than an attempt to flash his deep skill and knowledge (exception: the puzzling HM outburst in the subdued 'Driven To Tears'?).
Hot and slick from their American tour there was hardly a word said and if a between-numbers gap lasted as long as three seconds it rated as a major rupture, but the music remained sympatico - warm, friendly, gentle, romantic, hypnotic, enveloping, although also cool, objective, abstracted, bleak... and in no time we were out of the thesaurus and into the singalongs.
'Roxanne', 'Message In A Bottle' and "what do you want?", "Blooaargh!', "Okay, vox populi, vox dei!" What?!
'The voice of the people is the voice of God'. Well, it beats "Tooting Bec you're the rock'n'roll capital of the f***in' world!" by a long distance doesn't it? I've never heard the Police play better and the sound was magnificent. As a group they have an uncommon ability to live in their own present, but somewhere in there 'Shadows In The Rain', the least likely selection from 'Zenyatta', indicated a feasible future - greater weight, depth and darkness; soul explorations beneath the radically conceived style and panache. Canary in a coalmine.
© Sounds by Phil Sutcliffe
Pass Image courtesy of Dietmar & Raphael