07.20.2007 - 2007-07-20 HERSHEY, PA: Hersheypark Stadium / At concert, Police in synchronicity...
At concert, Police in synchronicity...
Surely there were some kinks to work out. Before the Police decided to hit the road this year, the '80s super-trio of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland hadn't toured together in more than 20 years.
Early reviews of the much-ballyhooed reunion tour, which stops at Pimlico Race Track on Aug. 4 as part of the Virgin Festival, weren't so kind. The consensus seemed to be that the show was listless and self-indulgent.
But when the Police hit Hersheypark Stadium on Friday night, the 29th stop on its national tour, the band had definitely found its synchronicity. The guys mostly delivered the hits and fan favorites with few embellishments, and the chemistry among the three seemed genuine and relaxed.
Never known to be a theatrical, electrifying stage act, the Police pulled off a fine two-hour performance without the usual trappings of high-profile shows. No dancers, no shooting sparks, no elaborate, moving sets. What you got were three middle-age guys on stage with their instruments, performing songs that ascended the charts more than two decades ago.
The only nod to razzle-dazzle staging was a giant backdrop of tiny lights that flashed shades of white, green and red. There were also three huge screens, which served more a functional purpose, broadcasting live images of the band to the attendees packing the huge stadium.
It was all about the music, that memorable, pop-glossed blend of ska, punk and reggae that made the Police one of the most revered bands of the 1980s.
Time has been kind to the music; the hits are as fun and ingratiating as they were back in the days of Pac-Man and the Smurfs.
Time also has been very good to Sting, the band's focal point. Lean and toned with virtually ageless skin, the singer-bassist, 55, casually strolled the stage strumming his instrument and wearing skin-tight black pants, a painted-on white T-shirt and black boots.
More conservatively dressed, guitarist Summers and drummer Copeland looked their ages - 64 and 55, respectively. But age certainly didn't affect their intense, vibrant playing. If anything, all three musicians have become better, more refined instrumentalists over the years.
This was evident during the extended jam of 'Walking on the Moon', as Copeland's propulsive drumming shifted and shimmered with jazzy improvisations. Although the guys were faithful to the original arrangements of the hits, they took a few liberties here and there that frankly made the songs better.
'Voices Inside My Head', for instance, took on a heavier, funkier rhythm thanks to Sting's elastic bass lines. And 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was given a seductive, Middle Eastern feel with Copeland keeping time on timpani and assorted chimes. He opened and ended the lilting, midtempo tune with a strike of a giant gong that stood behind the drum set. It all may sound a bit incongruous, yes, but it worked.
The only self-indulgent moment of Friday's show was 'This Bed's Too Big Without You', which was overextended into a jazzy, faux-psychedelic jam with Sting repeating the title as if it were a mantra. Afterward, though, the band returned to jaunty Police sing-alongs such as 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'.
After an impassioned rendition of 'Roxanne', the band's first hit from its 1978 debut 'Outlandos D' Amour', the Police returned with a three-song encore that included 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely' and one of the band's biggest hits, the stalker anthem 'Every Breath You Take'. Sting smiled as he crooned the line, "I'll be watching you," something he rarely did when he performed the song years ago.
He and his old bandmates seemed to have a great time up there. You could feel it.
© The Baltimore Sun by Rashod Ollison