Atlantic City, N.J. (Boardwalk Hall)
Reunions have become increasingly commonplace, and it's easy to dismiss the musicians involved as money-hungry shells of their former selves. So many of our aging idols seem to be shuffling onto stageReunions have become increasingly commonplace, and it's easy to dismiss the musicians involved as money-hungry shells of their former selves. So many of our aging idols seem to be shuffling onto stage just to reconfirm their legacies. But not the Police.
For them, this reunion has been unapologetically self-indulgent, but fans should find no reason to feel slighted. It's the band's very selfishness that makes them so thrilling to watch. There is nothing left to prove at this aged point in their career, and it has made their beloved classics sound outright carefree. The Police bring to life all the spontaneity and improvisational prowess we remember about this power trio. Little is manufactured, tired or routine.
Sure, Andy Summer's fretting hand is a bit clumsy (but it always was), Stewart Copeland might look alarmingly out of breath at moments and Sting might skimp on a few high notes during "Roxanne," but the three of them still perform with a feverish and spirited virtuosity.
Upon entering Atlantic City's surprisingly intimate Boardwalk Hall, it was hard to sense a great anticipation from the subdued Police crowd of elders. The band has enjoyed remarkable crossover to a wide array of younger fans, but contributing factors like the $225 face value of my ticket might be what frightens them away.
It's a shame too, because ultimately the show suffers without a youthful and participatory crowd. During an inspiring rendition of "Driven To Tears," a friend quipped that the disinterested rotund gentleman across the aisle inhaling popcorn and soft pretzels "may have died" midsong, after suddenly he was nowhere to be found. Let's hope not.
Despite these environmental factors, the band played a smart and diverse set highlighted by a blistering version of "Can't Stand Losing You." Also offered up was the Copeland-penned "Hole In My Life," a rarity for this tour.
It's impressive that the Police find ways to adapt the most complex of studio arrangements into their current trio format. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" sounded strikingly authentic, despite the fact that all the piano hooks had to be mimicked by guitar.
Rest assured, there are still a few moments of backing loops and triggered supporting vocals. This is especially evident on "Walking In Your Footsteps" (which Sting comically opens sporting a pan flute, a somewhat "Spinal Tap"-esque moment). The song, routinely mocked by die-hards, serves as mostly a vehicle to showcase Copeland's absurdly elaborate percussion apparatus.
But perhaps what's most refreshing about this latest display by the '80s superstars is the suddenly jovial Summers. He confidently carried the show despite all of Sting's charisma and star power.
This writer remembers being quite disappointed with The Police's "Live," a double-disc of vintage concert recordings released in 1995, due to Summers' sloppy performances (in fairness, he did have to compete with Copeland's accelerated tempo changes). Yet somehow, at 64, he is rejuvenated and his fretwork sounds more innovative than ever before.
His fingers may appear brittle and vein-y up on the Jumbotron, but his solos are fluid and melodically adventurous. "So Lonely" was a dazzling display of such, despite a noticeably atonal re-entry to the song's final chorus.
Hiccups aside, one should see this tour before it comes to a close. We should be grateful the band has managed to stay this musically sharp after all these years. After all, their first album, "Outlandos D'Amour" was "recorded in 1872," Sting joked from the stage.
Fiction Plane, who opened the show, offered a surprisingly confident display of arena-ready rock. Singer Joe Sumner's melodically rich soprano filled the venue in a manner that nearly rivaled his famous father.
Here is the Police's set list:
"Message in a Bottle"
"Walking on the Moon"
"Voices Inside My Head"/"When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around"
"Don't Stand So Close To Me"
"Driven To Tears"
"Truth Hits Everybody"
"Hole in My Life"
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"
"Wrapped Around Your Finger"
"De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"
"Walking in Your Footsteps"
"Can't Stand Losing You"
"King of Pain"
"Every Breath You Take"
"Next to You"