A sour spirit's bitter venom...
Breathe two, three, Gang of Four. Charge the pace, lead the pack. Gateshead. Lead the pack. Warm 'em up. Three, four. And there goes Jon King on a spurt - running to a burnt out beat. Cinders with no fairy Godmother (not even Sara Lee) to invest metamorphic properties into the set.
When Gill shouts "Let's regress to our childhoods!", he means it. The Gang of Four have regressed to a pre-natal state, an incubatory existence that is suffocating in its security.
The funk trappings become a womb-warm enclave of safety/predictability that blankets the tracks in much the same way as the clouds smother the stadium with their cloying, concrete grey. The workers on stage failed to control the means of production - if they had the workers on the floor would have shown solidarity (and clapped)
The hotch-potch audience seemed more intent on the local ales than on the imported victuals. In fact by the time The Beat came on the stadium seemed to be emptying - at its peak the audience may have reached 9,000 which was poor by any standards. But who cares about the crowd? When Roger and Wakeling take to the stage, they push the pressure so high that the clouds disperse and the Gateshead stadium wraps up in a Wizard of Oz whirlwind and lands in the West Indies with a thud and a toast.
New tracks spun around the stadium at breakneck speed, 'Ackee 1, 2, 3', a searing, calypso dance of strength: The Beat bring 'Unity Ina Community' to Gateshead. The Beat lose the tongue, rock the mike, shuffle your feet and move your mind. There were cries for 'Stand Down Margaret' - a call that was answered with venom.
'Get A Job' could have been the theme for this most depressed of areas. The lack of crowd, the thousands that couldn't afford the tenner to get in, The Beat shouted the message to them. "That likkle woman by the name of Margaret" should listen to this hottest of toasts.
It was sad in the light of the performance to see The Beat playing second steppers to U2. It was a shock to see the usual musical hierarchy so inverted - musically it was a gross mistake as The Beat easily outshone Bono's Emerald Express.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness (and Bono obviously feels very close to God). The pomp and ceremony of U2's pseudo-religious rock filled the arena. Through the echoing love psalm 'Gloria' to an overdrawn 'An Cat Dubh', U2 wowed the crowd. 'I Will Follow' led the audience into their own promised land - but Bono had better watch his step because he's walking on thin water.
Throughout the set we were treated to Bono's own brand of Christian peace politics: "The only flag I believe in is a white one," "Give peace a chance" and an authentic "God bless you."
Bono's friendly and mutually returned gifts of peace and love were in sharp contrast to the rantings of an enraged Sting. The Police had arrived - the return of the prodigal son. This boy is a Local Hero. Local enough to waffle about his childhood. Local enough to be one of The Boys. Star enough to kid the crowd into believing him. Amongst family and friends Sting showed us a tantrum - and gave all of us a lesson in propaganda, and how to use a gig as an organ for your own personal rantings. "For avid readers of the Sun that are here - tonight's mystery blonde is Andy Summers!" "The Daily Mail - the nosy bastards!"
Sting wasn't a Brendan Foster on this running track - more a bad boy Steve Ovett. Twp, three, four... keep your head above water, keep the Press machine churning. When Sting says: "I'm singing this in French, because it's about er... how can I say it... er... FUCKING!" your are shocked into laughter. Sting, whatever the Press would have you believe, is about as controversial as Page Three. They have christened and wet the head of their new Jagger. Let's talk mega-star and gossip column.
Think of a Police single, times it by two, add a figure between nine and 15,000 and the Police played it (and the audience sung it). The word for the crowd to move in came with an SOS and a bottle. The spell continued with 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Spirits...'
But live, the Police depend not upon the individual strength/genius of their singles but upon the strength of their sound. The totality of their lumbering dubbing and the fluidity of their delivery coupled with the back chat from archangel Sting leads to a spoon-fed adulation from the devoted.
The Police sound the depths of familiarity with such aplomb that the overkill of Summers' guitar is unnoticed by the less discerning 'pop' fan. In places the excess is of Stones-ian proportions. At other times the most subtle, simple, beautiful flashes of purity shine through - Sting almost whispering over a faded echo of 'The Bed's Too Big' or a rousing 'Invisible Sun' that showed that all the light had come from the stage not the sky.
Before we left tired and blinded (by the spot lights) we were treated to a couple of encores and a couple of those rants. 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' was preceded by some angst ridden sloganeering: "Body Mist Stinks!", "The legal process stinks!"
The crowd loved it. The press loved it. Sting's bank manager loved it. The rain had held out. The audience had held out. Sting had held out. The Police has weathered operation Country man.
© New Musical Express by David Dorrell (with thanks to Dietmar)
Ticket from Dave & Wendy