|Location||New York City NY|
|Venue||Madison Square Garden|
|Tour||The Police Reunion Tour 2007/08|
2007-08-03 NEW YORK, NY: Madison Square Garden / Arrested Development: The Police Return To Madison Square Garden...Setlist
Arrested Development: The Police Return To Madison Square Garden...
|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 |
Reunion tours are bittersweet affairs. On one hand, there's the thrill of reliving a part of your youth by seeing a band you thought would never play together again; on the other, there's the disquieting feeling that occurs when you reflect on how much you've aged between the two shows. Twenty-one years ago, in the summer before my senior year of high school, I saw The Police close the Amnesty International benefit from the prime vantage spot of two rows from the top of Giants Stadium. Other than being two decades older, not much has changed for Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland: they can still sell out arenas and stadiums at a breakneck pace. As for me, but for the intervention of a couple friendly corporate real estate lawyers, my seats for The Police's return to Madison Square Garden would have been in the same row as they were in high school. I guess the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.
I've always been struck by the depths of the infatuation The Police - well, mostly Sting - inspired from women. Even as far back as elementary school, I can remember one girl being so obsessive in her Sting worship that to disparage him in her presence brought a response as furious as that normally reserved for collection agents and angry girlfriends. Usually bands that receive that type of reaction from women lose all of their male fans but The Police were that rare breed that could attract rabid fans of both sexes. Regardless of whether the music struck your fancy, women lusted after Sting and men were willing to overlook the drooling in order to rock out to songs about blow-up dolls and the identifiable emotional angst of losing one girl and not being able to get next to another.
In addressing the sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, Sting noted that it had been nearly thirty years since The Police first came to New York City to play the now-defunct CBGB. Back then, the bohemian surroundings of Hilly Kristal's club provided the perfect venue for the London trio's heady mix of ska rhythms, punk beats and surly attitude. As he's now a staple on soft-rock radio, it's almost comical to recall an era when Sting was considered edgy. In The Police's waning days, they had ballooned into a bloated arena rock spectacle. It's a dichotomy they're cognizant of: premising 1995's double CD release The Police Live! on the differences between the band in their infancy and the bombast of their final days. In picking up where they left off, the Garden provided the perfect environs to house their matured sound.
It's manifestly unfair to expect The Police to sound like they did in their youth, even if they are making a game effort at it. The songs from their Synchronicity period, by which point they had grown into one of the more popular bands on the planet, come across much the same as they did in the Eighties. It's the songs, like 'Driven To Tears', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Roxanne' that seem overshadowed by their own weighty significance. The Police delivered them with zeal but lacked the reckless abandon that accompanies the exuberance of youth. Ultimately, on much of the older material, they sounded a half a beat to slow.
Sting has taken liberties with much of their back catalog over the years, rendering 'Roxanne' as an acoustic ballad or 'Bring On The Night/When The World Is Running Down' as a jazzy finger-snapping medley. For the Garden show, there is no Sting-ification of the back catalog or senseless Kanye West cameos. Sting, Summers and Copeland simply did their estimable best to play every song in the style that Police fans would want. In trying to include every song that should rightfully be played on their reunion tour, a task they pretty much accomplished, the set list lacked any rarities or true surprises.
One of the more enjoyable elements of The Police's old albums is Sting's penchant for catchy chants and the occasional wailing howl. Sting didn't torture his voice to reach the same screams of yesteryear, but it had little effect on the show. Even if he tried, the fans would have drowned him out, preferring to cathartically yowl on their own. For some reason, Sting's sing-along choruses have received much attention and critical analysis as to their cultural relevance or representations of his significance as a songwriter. Whatever the historical value, there's no denying that it's flat out fun to belt out an off-key 'eeee o, eeee yay, eeee yay yo,' at the top of your lungs.
If the clash of personalities that ultimately led to the break up the band still exists, the three aren't bringing them onto the stage. Far from Sting and his two old friends, The Police played as a cohesive unit, bringing back songs that have long worked their way into the collective unconscious of classic rock. Sting's bass lines, so integral to the band's visceral impact, ran the gamut from transcendent ('Message In A Bottle' and 'Walking On The Moon') to disappointing ('De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' and the saccharine yet still powerful 'Every Breath You Take'). Playing a beat-up bass that looked like it had seen better days, Sting moved lithely around the stage. Whenever Andy Summers would take center stage for a guitar solo, Sting would take the opportunity to roam to the wings and acknowledge the masses. Wearing a headband that made him look like he was ready to pick up a Donnay racket and challenge John McEnroe at Wimbledon, Copeland wailed away on his kit, moving to an impressive array of xylophones, bongos and a giant gong to give 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Walking In Your Footsteps' their off-kilter percussion.
Overblown reunion tours at Madison Square Garden tend to be a corporate boondoggle and The Police's stop was no exception with ticket brokers reselling seats for as much as 00. Unlike many shows where the band's fans get first crack at the prime seats, members of the Best Buy Rewards Program, the tour's sponsor, received preferential treatment. Best Buy's entry into this already dubious market wouldn't be so egregious if the prime incentive to join The Police's fan club (for 0) wasn't the opportunity to get advance seats. It begs the question: What can a fan do if all they want is to get next to The Police? The answer seems simple: open up your wallet. Sting always said it was his destiny to be the King of Pain.
© Earvolution by David Schultz
2007-08-03 NEW YORK, NY: Madison Square Garden / Triumphant reunion hits the Big Apple...Triumphant reunion hits the Big Apple. Sting brings along his butler...
New York holds special significance in Police lore. It was here, in October of 1978, that the band played their first show in the US at the now defunct CBGB down on the Bowery. It was here, too, a mere five years later, following a triumphal show at Shea Stadium, that Sting informed Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland that he rather fancied pursuing a solo career.
Fast forward a further 24 years and The Police are together once more for show number 38 of 40 on the North American leg of their reunion tour at Madison Square Garden. A couple of days later, and a hop across the Hudson River, they will entertain a crowd of 55,000 at Giants Stadium.
The second of two nights at the self-billed "World's Most Famous Arena", the Madison Square Garden show, like each of those on The Police's itinerary thus far, is a sell out. Not that this cuts any ice with New York's Time Out magazine, whose succinct preview of the band's New York stand amounts to this: "Six eyes trained on the enormous bags of cash that await backstage with the conclusion of every show. They're dull live."
It has always been thus. With their combination of "white reggae", being one of the biggest bands of the '80s and Sting, critical hosannas would always elude The Police. The first night of their comeback parade, in Vancouver, saw a new name added to their legion of detractors: that of Stewart Copeland. Writing in his online blog, The Police's drummer described their opening night as "unbelievably lame". Of Sting, with whom his relationship has been famously fractious, Copeland wrote: "The mighty Sting momentarily looks like a petulant pansy instead of the God of Rock."
Small wonder, then, that by the time Q touches down in New York the rumours circulating around The Police suggest that long-held grievances are once more bubbling to the surface, that this gravy train is in danger of coming off the rails.
Once within the concrete bowels of Madison Square Garden, matters are no less rum. Riding the elevator up to the venue's fifth floor backstage area - a warren of grey corridors and rooms populated by a small army of (the tour is keeping 77 people directly employed) - Q falls into conversation with a well-dressed Englishman with a cut-glass accent. And he might be? "Sting's butler," he offers, without suggesting that he is joking.
The subsequent steady procession of publicists (at least three), and the separate dressing rooms, gives creedence to the notion that the three Police men are by no means operating in perfect harmony. But appearances can be deceiving.
The Police, it transpires, are perfectly happy to travel to and from each show together in a single, relatively compact people carrier. Relations are cordial enough that there is now talk of extending the tour, with Asian and South American dates penciled in to follow up their upcoming swing around Europe. And here they are, huddled together in a corridor to meet the nightly procession of competition winners, radio promotions people and the like. There are smiles, there is laughter and, if not a joyous love-in, then at least the sense of three men being comfortable in one another's presence.
Andy Summers, the eldest, is also the shortest and the one for whom time has been least kind. He looks like someone's kindly, well-fed uncle, which, indeed, he may be. The tour programme talks of the reunited Police taking a break from rehearsals at Sting's Tuscan pile to enjoy the group Pilate sessions. Summers, one suspects, would have been the least committed to the cause.
Save for his hair colour and a need for spectacles, Stewart Copeland has changed little. Tall, wiry, a bundle of energy he has the air of a man forever in thrall to his inner child. Tonight, he is attired entirely in white, matching his hair. "Sting's already asked me to bring him a vermouth," he informs Q with a mighty cackle.
Oh yes. Sting. In the flesh he looks exactly like the Sting of photographs and bad films, only more so. The features are more pronounced, the presence palpable, the fruits of all that yoga immediately apparent in a physique best described as taut. In the instant you shake his hand you think of tantric sex, Amazonian rainforests, "that book by Nabokov", and much more that has had him held up to derision. And you sense that he knows you're thinking this, too.
"Ah, Q," says Sting, many time Q cover star and attendee of the Q Awards. "Is that a magazine about pool?" Clearly, he is a one.
Twenty minutes later - at 9pm precisely - Madison Square Garden's houselights dim and there, again, they are: The Police. Stewart Copeland counts them in, Andy Summers plays the immediately familiar opening chords to 'Message in a Bottle', and 18,000 voices lift as one.
By the time their 19-song set 9virtually the same one every night) concludes two hours on, little details have become apparent, like the fact that Summers is sporting an incongruous South Park guitar strap; like Sting still doing that funny marching-on-the-spot dance.
The bigger picture is this: they can play. Summers's dexterous chords, spidery patterns and extended solos frequently dazzle. Copeland, arms flying around his head like a mad scientist, switches between his kit and a bank of percussive instruments atop a platform that looks like the Starship Enterprise flight deck. He is introduced by Sting as "the best drummer in the world", and for once you're inclined to agree with him.
For his part, Sting's bass playing is more solid than spectacular. That distinctive voice, however, remains in fine fettle. How wise they were to eschew fleets of backing singers and extra musicians; the simplicity of the set-up gives them room to move and to stretch.
It takes them four or five songs to hit their stride, but once they do their modus operandi establishes itself. Each song starts the way it did on record, then either takes an unexpected turn as it progresses or goes off becomes somewhere else altogether. 'Driven To Tears' becomes a jazz-rock-wig-out, 'So Lonely' a rising and falling series of climaxes. Only 'Roxanne' (too drawn out), Every Breath You Take (too over exposed) and 'Next To You' (a mess) seem unwilling to bend.
Giants Stadium proves to be even better, more of an event. On a starry, balmy summer Sunday night, beneath the flight path of many planes from Newark airport, The Police put on a consummate stadium-rock show.
The staging is a little different from the indoor version, effective, but basic, and entirely free of grand gestures, save for the heroic tightness of Sting's trousers. 'Walking In Your Footsteps' is the sole nod to a production number, wherein the animated skeleton of a brontosaurus - knowingly? - walks across the video screens as Sting sings one of history's most lamentable lyrics ("Hey there, mighty brontosaurus / Have you got a message for us?" for those lucky enough until now to be initiated). Sting may yet have a sense of humour after all.
The setting magnifies the set's high spots, Copeland more ready to venture off the beat, Summers more likely to pull the song out of shape. Fittingly, the sound is as good as you'll hear for an outdoor gig. Because, unusually for a show of this scale, it's one driven entirely by what and how the band plays, not by any extraneous factors.
"We will see you again," promises Sting at the end. Against all prior expectations, not only might he keep his word, but he'd be welcome to.
© Q Magazine