07.28.2007 - 2007-07-28 BOSTON, MA: Fenway Park / Police were on, but something seemed missing...
Police were on, but something seemed missing...
In May drummer Stewart Copeland notoriously dubbed the Police's first reunion tour performance a "disaster." Thus ended his career as the band's official blogger and began the whisperings of concern among the faithful about this long-awaited return to active duty.
Sunday night at Fenway Park, the justifiably Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-enshrined trio didn't even flirt with disaster. They were efficient, expansive, and dutiful. But, with a handful of exceptions, Copeland, guitarist Andy Summers, and bassist-singer Sting were rarely much more than that.
In the second of two shows at the venerable ballyard, the Police played well but never threatened to blow off the metaphorical roof, or even appeared to be enjoying themselves all that much. The lack of superficial cheerfulness could be forgiven by the concentration required to navigate the intricacies of some of the most sophisticated songs ever to be worn out by classic rock radio. But the consistent spirit of excitement, of "event"-ness, of affection for the audience achieved by past Fenway denizens like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen never materialized.
Musically when the three planets aligned, the results were magnificent. The opening salvo of 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Synchronicity II' announced that Sting was in mighty voice. To his great credit he continued to hit most of the money notes the same way he wore his tight black trousers, with Sting-ian self-assurance.
Early rockers 'So Lonely' and 'Driven to Tears' were at once familiarly jittery and a platform for Summers to remind the assembled - including his bandmates - of the fire in his fretwork. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' neatly demonstrated the trio's ability to compensate for missing instrumental elements, as the signature keyboards were not required to revive the song's tropical froth. The crowd's unprompted supply of the refrain "that's my soul up there" during a sinuous 'King of Pain' lent the song a communal poignance. And Copeland's tasteful, exotic percussion on 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was a shivery delight.
But just when it seemed the band was hitting its stride, a song like 'Truth Hits Everybody' would come in at a maddeningly slow tempo or the rickety-to-begin-with 'De Do Do Do, De Da, Da, Da' would sputter out with a non-ending. And it would take a miracle to revive interest in 'Roxanne' and her red light.
The minimal staging also didn't offer much in the way of entertainment or distraction. Yes, there were state-of-the-art lights and video screens. But the images were pretty much limited to band close-ups and album cover re-creations. Lovingly shot images of random children of the world appeared during 'Invisible Sun'. And the dinosaur skeletons that ambled to the cool groove of 'Walking in Your Footsteps' were impressive in CG detail but not particularly thrilling. Certainly pyrotechnics isn't the point when you see a band of true musicians like the Police. But for a top ticket price of $250, anticipating a little extra tinsel doesn't seem unreasonable or a compromise of their integrity.
Twenty years of expectations are near impossible to meet, but Sunday night it felt the crowd was twice as excited as the band they had come to see. Had it been the other way around, the Police reunion show would have been fantastic, not merely fine.
© The Boston Globe by Sarah Rodman