05.26.2007 - Andy Summers interview in The Vancouver Sun...
The Police Interview: Summers promises just the hits on tour
As they get ready for their world tour debut in Vancouver Monday, guitarist Andy Summers admits he's nervous.
It's been three months since the Police - perhaps the biggest band of the 1980s - announced they'd be embarking on a 30th anniversary reunion tour.
Tickets for the more than 100 tour dates sold out in minutes. The band spent the past two months in rigorous rehearsals. And guitarist Andy Summers is getting anxious waiting for the tour to finally kick off here in Vancouver on Monday.
"What makes me nervous is sitting around, waiting too long. I want to get on with it, you know?" Summers said Friday in a phone interview as he was heading out to one of his last Vancouver rehearsals with Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland.
The Police reunion tour, likely to be one of the highest grossing of the summer, is also one of the most highly anticipated as well.
The Police disbanded in 1986 and each continued on with a solo career, but legions of fans and critics are now waiting to see if the magic the band created back in the early '80s is still there.
Summers is confident they still have it, even if they're all well into middle age and aware of certain physical limitations.
"We have to watch it. It's just being smart - diet and keeping fit and all the rest of it just so we can deliver the intensity," said the 64-year-old. "It's either that or get coked out of your head every night. So what are you going to do?"
There's an expectation the band will deliver the same intensity - night after night - that they did during their soldout tours almost 30 years ago. But Summers knows that cocaine binges aren't the way to get him through the next four months.
He says the band has been retooling some of their megahits, but not to the point of being unrecognizable. They've been reworking songs to breathe new life into them and to maintain their own enthusiasm about the material.
"We've got all these famous songs, but we look at them like new pieces of material and so to a point, we've reworked them, but obviously all the famous riffs are still there - you can't play 'Every Breath You Take' without me playing that guitar, obviously," he says in a quick paced British clip.
"We constantly fiddle with them, but because they're alive, they're living, they're not dead. We spent the last two months rearranging and fiddling around until we felt it was good. We're looking for some intensity in the songs that may transcend the original recorded versions."
That may sound ambitious, but Summers is so confident the trio has achieved a new level of energy that he hints at the possibility of a live recording some time in the near future.
"It's got to the point now, where I think we've got to record this all live because it's so killer at this point. They all sound like new material," he says.
But while the old material may sound new-ish, don't anticipate any completely original songs. Summers says the band was advised not to write any new material for the tour, simply because that's not what fans have paid up to 225 dollars a ticket to hear.
"A band like ours, with so many hits, that's what people want to hear and that's what they're paying rather high ticket prices for - not as high as some, but it's a lot of money," he says.
"You do all the hits and then, if that whole thing goes well then there's always the option afterwards of continuing, maybe recording a new album or something. But at this point, there's not actually any new songs because I don't think people want to hear them."
He makes a valid point. With hits like 'Roxanne', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' and 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' - all songs that continue to be played on radio, at weddings and school dances - there would hardly be any room on the set list for new material.
As for why the Police's repertoire of reggae-inspired '80s hits have had a staying power other bands have not enjoyed, Summers has a few theories, but no concrete answer.
"I hope it's not just nostalgia," he says. "I think we were a great band live. We could really put these shows over very well - coupled with the fact that the songs were also good, most of them are hits. How many bands can do, like, 21 hits?
"And also I think the [main] thing is we got off right at the top of the curve. We didn't continue on and on and on like U2 or the Stones. We left this sort of incredible nucleus of energy and the mythology of the band, which I think has stayed all the way through. And of course the music itself has never been off the airwaves."
Despite all that, though - despite the pep talks the trio must have given one another after they agreed to the tour, and despite the warm reception they received after playing Roxanne at the Grammy Awards in February, Summers says there were still moments of hesitation and doubt before the tickets went on sale.
"Your expectations start to build up and then I really had a moment of paranoia where it was like, Well, wait a minute. Maybe we're just completely kidding ourselves that people really want to see us. Who's going to remember us? I know we were huge in the mid-'80s and all that, but what if in fact, they don't remember us?" he says.
"Happily that's not the case. There was just this sharp intake of breath as the tickets went on sale as we all waited to see how it would fare by the end of the first day and you know, it all sold out within minutes. I think we sold out Madison Square Garden in four minutes, which is some sort of a record."
Summers - who's spent the past 30 years working on film scores, playing small jazz venues, and writing an autobiography as well as book on his impressions of the guitar - is humbled by the enthusiasm surrounding the reunion tour and says it's a bit like turning back the clock.
"I still find it somewhat shocking that we could sell out these stadiums so fast. I mean it's like, it's not 2007. It feels like a few months later in 1984. That's what it feels like," he says.
"But it's a loaded situation because there's so much expectation. We haven't played for a long time, and we've got to go out there and just deliver a killing show that's got all the vitality, like we're 18-years-old, which is what I certainly intend to do."
© The Vancouver Sun by Amy O'Brian