07.22.2007 - 2007-07-22 TORONTO: Air Canada Centre / When familiarity breeds content...
When familiarity breeds content...
|01||Message In A Bottle |
|01||Walking On The Moon |
|02||Demolition Man |
|03||Voices Inside My Head |
|04||When The World Is Running Down |
|05||Don't Stand So Close To Me |
|06||Driven To Tears |
|07||Hole In My Life |
|08||Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic |
|09||Wrapped Around Your Finger |
|10||De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da |
|11||Invisible Sun |
|12||Can't Stand Losing You |
|14||King Of Pain |
|15||So Lonely |
|16||Every Breath You Take |
|17||Next To You |
To borrow a title: "When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around."
So, yeah, this Police reunion likely never should have happened. Even Sting's own son, Joe Sumner - whose band, Fiction Plane, has been opening what will likely turn out to be the summer's biggest concert tour and is witnessing firsthand the deteriorating game of "nice" waged between Dad (a.k.a. Gordon Sumner), guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland - has publicly given the reactivated trio only as long as it takes not to "beat each other to death" before the whole thing collapses amidst a violent reprisal of the conflicts that first killed the band at the peak of its global popularity 23 years ago.
It's a good thing, though, that these cats probably really can't stand to be on the same stage together. Last night's performance by the beloved British trio at the Air Canada Centre - its first of three sold-out reunion gigs at the venue, with a second tonight and another at tour's end on Nov. 8 - exhibited none of the play-it-safe musical complacency that typically afflicts such grudging, exorbitantly priced "over my dead body" endeavours.
No, The Police appear committed to making this more than a total murder-by-the-numbers sleepwalk to their substantial paycheques.
The two-hour program was indeed composed of "greatest hits" culled from their redoubtable, five-album, '77-'84 playbook, but the song arrangements were frequently and diligently distended and twisted into curious new shapes, or occasionally lent contemporary vocal melodies more in tune with the 50-ish Sting's "mature" vocal register.
The changes might have frustrated and occasionally outright bored a 20,000-ish mob that mostly stayed on its feet from Summers' signature liquid guitar intro to 'Message in a Bottle' until this writer fled during an anticlimactic encore reprisal of 'Every Breath You Take' 120 minutes later - seriously, last night's masterful, arena-tweaking extended version of 'So Lonely' was an entire curtain call in itself, the preceding, jubilant kick at 'King of Pain' notwithstanding - but they contributed to the most consistently interesting and least tawdry or phoned-in-feeling reunion gig to pass through Toronto at this level in years.
There's something to be said for a willingness to potentially fail, particularly when you're failing at nearly $300 a head. And The Police did fail mightily from time to time last night, turning the once-urgent 'Don't Stand so Close to Me' into a flaccidly groovy argument for erectile-dysfunction medication, missing the glide on the chorus to 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and the apocalyptic bite of 'Invisible Sun', and then totally degrading the more-valid-than-ever "end of the world" portent of 'Walking in Your Footsteps' with a couple of dropped-in Summers blues riffs that provoked one of the few "holy cheeseball!" responses of an otherwise totally respectable night.
Though sluggish enough to seem much longer than its actual running time, the mighty 'Synchronicity II' retained its sleek, evil character. An explosive slow burn to the jubilant final chorus of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' taught the value of patience to a room rendered slightly wary and weary by deliberate, elongated arrangements of "Walking on the Moon" and the aforementioned 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around'.
Properly harnessed, in fact, the "wow" moments on the night - scattered though they might have been - probably coursed with enough of their own energy to generate light. I see a lot of crappy, walk-through-it reunion shows in this job, and this wasn't one of them. Probably because Sting and Copeland, he of the raised and ludicrously overexpanded drum kit, are so hell-bent on outshining one another's brilliance that Summers has the space to stitch the great songs they wrote together back into something egoless and essential.
© The Toronto Star by Ben Rayner