Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Still rockin' after 30 years

The Monk and Monkette attended last night's concert by The Police at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. A fine show, but there's more.

The Monk was a HUGE fan of The Police in high school. I had all five albums (then on cassette for my walkman) and usually had one playing during every car/train/plane ride when I traveled. So their breakup was a real disappointment and their failed reunion in 1986 was worse -- just when I thought they'd regroup and go on tour and I would have a chance to see them. So last night provided a bit of a surprising tidal wave of excitement when they took the stage -- I realized I'd wanted to see this for 21 years.

I've been to four Sting concerts -- Nothing Like the Sun, The Soul Cages, Ten Summoner's Tales and Mercury Falling tours. And he played plenty of The Police's hits at each and always had excellent musicians in his band (Dominic Miller and Omar Hakim as guitarist and drummer most notably). But there's no substitute for the real thing.

For good reason. Not only did The Police create great music, but they did it with great musical ability. Sting is one of the better rock bassists, Copeland has few peers as a drummer, and Summers is one of the most underrated guitarists in rock. Summers especially never gets his due from non-musicians because he doesn't rip off speed metal solos or blues riffs on steroids like an Eddie Van Halen (metal-influenced) or Clapton. But Summers can play multi-layered melodies on the guitar that render a sound impression of multiple guitarists playing at once -- something few rock guitarists even try.

Unlike other rock groups that had outstanding musicians but never achieved their popularity or influence (Emerson Lake & Palmer, Asia), or who lost their musical integrity (Van Halen), The Police stopped at the height of their popularity just as they began to lose the sharp punk/reggae-influenced edge that characterized their best work. The Synchronicity tour was a bloated over-produced affair that included backup soul singers and extra musicians that made a three-man band into an entourage. Not so last night -- just the trio.

The Police put out five albums, some B-sides and contributed to some movie soundtracks. The breakdown last night was: (1) Outlandos du Amour -- 5; (2) Reggatta de Blanc -- 4 (see below); (3) Zenyatta Mondatta -- 5; (4) Ghost in the Machine -- 2; (5) Synchronicity -- 5.

Here's the playlist from last night's show, which is basically identical to what they've done on their other shows, and observations:

Message In A Bottle -- The Police took the stage in three steps: (1) Drummer Stewart Copeland came onstage and rang a big Oriental gong; (2) Guitarist Andy Summers walked out and began ripping into the opening bars of Message in a Bottle; (3) Bassist Sting ran out on stage and hit his bass cue on time, then they all started rocking.
Synchronicity II
Walking On The Moon -- Before this song, Sting told the audience he would introduce the band, then he turned to the other members and said "Andy this is Stewart, Stewart this is Andy." Rock icon humor -- HA.
Voices Inside My Head/When The World Is Running Down -- I put these together because the boys played this as a medley. And folks who wandered off for a drink during these album cuts (neither was a single) missed a fantastic solo by Andy during the latter part of the double. At the end, however, Sting bonked -- he doubled up the coda, and waved to Stewart to say "my bad."
Don't Stand So Close To Me -- This was THE iconic Police song before the Synchronicity album, but the boys tore it apart in 1986 by re-recording it as a mellower and slower tune with more layers and texture to the music. At its raw best, it is intense and powerful. Yesterday, the version was a semi-successful meld of the two for the first two stanzas, then Sting farked up the lyrics and unsuccessfully tried to cover.
Driven To Tears -- One of their first notable jazz-influenced tunes combined with the reggae-standard jangly guitar by Andy. Sting bonked some lyrics here too -- must've been a carryover.
The Bed's Too Big Without You
Truth Hits Everybody
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic -- Still the best song they ever wrote.
Wrapped Around Your Finger -- This was the Stewart Copeland show. With a massive set of chimes, cymbals, tympanies, gongs and xylophonic-looking percussion pieces set up behind his regular drum set, he tapped the band through the first two stanzas before jumping back to his seat and banging away during the rock-out ending.
De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Walking In Your Footsteps -- Again, the Stewart Copeland extravaganza. In this song, he continually jumped to and from his regular drum kit to the supercussion set-up.
Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta De Blanc -- the title track of album #2 was embedded within the song that was really The Police's first hit
Roxanne -- To their credit, the boys spent about 30 seconds backstage getting water or popping the kinks out of their joints and came right back out to play their most known classic, a song that didn't even chart in the UK when first released.
King of Pain -- Monkette's favorite song by The Police. Strange little woman.
So Lonely
Every Breath You Take -- The second-biggest song of the 1980s (after Billie Jean), it spent 8 weeks as #1 and helped establish The Police as the world's biggest rock band. On the heels of this song's release, Synchronicity sold 12,000,000 copies in the US. Sting's solo song "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" is a direct counter to this plaintive lament of an obsessed lover because he wanted to negate the "poisoning" affect of The Police's biggest hit.
Next To You

All told, a good show, but a bit short (1 hr, 50 min). Honestly, my deisre to hear lesser-known songs like Synchronicity I, Murder by Numbers, Man in a Suitcase and Bring on the Night
would have added more to the show's length than its quality. That said, even with the high quality of this show, I have even more appreciation for groups like Phish, The Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam who drastically vary their set lists from night to night.

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