06.13.2007 - 2007-06-13 OAKLAND, CA: McAfee Coliseum / A kinder, gentler Police...
A kinder, gentler Police...
Stewart Copeland smacked his snare drum with a giant "thwack," and Sting led the sold-out crowd in a chant of "Eee-yo-yo-yo." The Police were rocking through 'Can't Stand Losing You' on Wednesday night, and McAfee Coliseum was relishing in the band's reunion, just like it was the Reagan years all over again.
But then, a reality check. The Police then went into 'Roxanne' and sullied one of its biggest hits with a noodly jam that seemed to be missing a smooth-jazz saxophone solo.
Beware of the potholes on the Police's reunion trail. The idea of Sting, Copeland and Andy Summers making nice after all these years - and playing a two-hour show of greatest hits - makes for one irresistible concert ticket. But many of those songs featured snoozy new arrangements that turned the band into Police-lite.
Did you really pay $300 a ticket to hear 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' practically reduced to a lounge tune?
Guess there's no time like the past when it comes to the Police. But it's certainly a history worth celebrating, a band that took reggae, pop and post-punk, blended it all together, and made the music bounce up and down like it was riding a pogo stick.
So many of the Police's songs sound fresh after all these years, like the shimmering sentiments in 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', or the elegant angst of 'King of Pain'.
The Police's run was fast, just six years, and included a whole lot of infighting, including a broken rib for Sting (courtesy of Copeland). It seemed like the last band to reunite would be the Police.
But there they were, grinning on stage and enjoying the good vibes. If there was any bad blood between the three, they sure put on a good game face.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Sting!" said Copeland, in a very sincere and cheery voice, when introducing his bandmates.
Their musicianship remains solid, some 23 years after the Police's break-up. Sting - he of the ripped biceps and beat-up Fender bass - unleashed some especially wicked runs during 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'. Sting took a more comfortable vocal route and copped out on some high notes, but he can still unleash a "Hey-yo-yo-yo" chorus like it's 1983 all over again.
Many of Summers' guitar solos bordered on the atonal, like he was ready to drop by Yoshi's nightclub after the Police's set for a free-jazz throwdown. Rock guitarists don't get much more imaginative than him.
And Copeland remains a king of drum kits, laying down a variety of tricky beats and grooves designed for dancing feet.
Put all of this musicianship together, and you get a powder keg of a power trio. Or at least the potential for one.
The problem with the Police circa 2007 is dull arrangements. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', one of the band's most joyous tunes, was reimagined as reggae-lite. Summers also tweaked the original guitar line into something so choppy that it sullied the song's romantic heart.
'Wrapped Around Your Finger' bordered on snooze-jazz, like it was just waiting for a saxophone cameo from Najee. 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' was delivered without any angst, and with Sting opting for a vocal in the lower range, it all sounded flat. 'Spirits In The Material World' also lacked punch and propulsion, like something you'd hear at soundcheck. 'De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da' was so mellow that it was a "de doo doo" dud.
That's not to say the Police robbed the crowd - some 45,000 strong - of memorable music. 'Can't Stand Losing You' featured one fat guitar riff, and "Message in a Bottle" sounded spunky as ever. A faithful version of 'So Lonely' also had people bouncing around their seats.
The Police were simply best when they weren't trying to be so tricky. And if you're going to bring back the band, ressurect the spunky spirit of 1979. A "quiet storm" version of the Police is just a crime.
© The Sacramento Bee by Chris Macias