The Police | 07.02.07

police003During each lengthy instrumental break, Summers and Sting would approach center stage, exchanging goofy looks or parodying typical rock band behavior by rocking in time with each other, the pair behaving as if they were goofing around in front of a handful of fans instead of a near-capacity hockey arena.

 

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PHOTO: Todd Owyoung  SEE MORE SHOTS FROM THIS CONCERT IN THE PHOTO GALLERY

 

w/Fiction Plane
Scottrade Center, St. Louis

"It's been a while since we've been here," Sting joked nonchalantly two songs into the Police's triumphant return to St. Louis. "What, 25 years or something?" It may have been a quarter century, but the rock solid musical connection between singer/bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers, and drummer Stewart Copeland was unquestionable. Any flubs were not only minor but also few and far between, and the interplay between the erstwhile bandmates was so genuine and friendly that one couldn't help but wonder why they split up in the first place.

As the venue lights dropped, the band's arrival was announced by Bob Marley's classic "Get Up, Stand Up," boosting the entire crowd to their feet (where about 95 percent of them would remain for every minute of the show). The applause as each band member took to the stage was uproarious, but was nothing compared to the deafening response as Summers conjured up the inimitable opening lick to "Message In a Bottle." The band pushed even harder into the furious rocker "Synchronicity II," already firing on all cylinders. It was impossible to not marvel at how impeccably clear Sting's voice remains, his wailed "Whoa-oh"s during the song's intro even more powerful than the original 1983 recorded version.

From there, the Police slowed things down, letting Copeland's intricate, almost jazzy drumming and Summers' ringing guitar take center stage on the heavily reggae-fied "Walking On the Moon." Sting's bass took back over for a brief run through the world beat-ish slow-burner "Voices Inside My Head" that bled into a completely reinvented version of "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around." The newly slowed-down, funked-up verses launched back to full speed with the first chorus, finally clarifying the band's attack plan: juxtaposing the slowest, most intimate moments with the most amped-up, rock n' roll moments, whether in song-to-song transitions (the slow, echo-laden "The Bed's Too Big Without You" shifted into the almost punk "Truth Hits Everybody") or within the same song ("De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" shifted gears so many times, it felt like being on a rollercoaster).

The band wasn't all business, however, as the trio seemed intent on having as much fun as possible onstage. During each lengthy instrumental break, Summers and Sting would approach center stage, exchanging goofy looks or parodying typical rock band behavior by rocking in time with each other, the pair behaving as if they were goofing around in front of a handful of fans instead of a near-capacity hockey arena. Summers was granted carte blanche to take over the stage every few songs to tear into visceral, arena rock-worthy guitar solos, particularly in "Synchronicity II" and "When the World Is Running Down…" He reached his peak in the main set-closing "Can't Stand Losing You," where the 64-year-old guitarist accented a blistering, feedback-drenched solo with scissor kicks.

One of the set's funnier moments—Sting trying to recall where the Police made their St. Louis debut "in 1875"—led to the show's undisputed highlight. A yell from the crowd reminded the singer that it had been at the recently lost downtown venue Mississippi Nights, which led to him serenading the dearly departed concert hall during the intro for "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." The band sounded impeccable as they rocketed through one of their most infectious singles, causing an epidemic of joyous dancing to spread throughout the already energized crowd.

Earlier this year, Sting told Rolling Stone's David Fricke, "One of the great things about the Police is the limitations," an observation the band seemed to have taken to heart when preparing their comeback tour. This concert was not the overblown spectacle that so often occurs in a reunion tour: no extra musicians, no superfluous back-up singers, no fancy light show, just three great musicians displaying their talents on one of the greatest catalogs in the history of rock and, by the looks of it, having a great time doing it. The only concession outside of guitar-bass-drums was an expansive percussion kit that Copeland used sparingly but to great effect, particularly on the gorgeous ballad "Wrapped Around Your Finger."

Throughout the show, the Police stretched their songs past the five-minute mark, incorporating lengthy instrumental breaks and crowd singalongs. They took this notion to the extreme with the lone song in their first encore, an eight-minute run through "Roxanne." Sting's voice hung at the top of his vocal range with no audible signs of wear as he made his way through the early single. Once reaching the song's bridge, he shifted into a seemingly infinite call-and-response with the crowd (bathed, like the band, in Roxanne's "red light," natch).

The second encore opened with an oddly upbeat performance of  "King of Pain," accented by a compelling solo by Summers that offered up a goosed version of Sting's vocal melody. The band's reggae influence came to the fore on the sunny "So Lonely," but it was "Every Breath You Take" that everyone was waiting for and the crowd was not disappointed. Far less brooding than the original single, this new, delicate take turned the stalker anthem into the romantic wedding song it was never meant to be.

The crowd-pleasing set list very democratically split its 20 songs into quarters, choosing five songs each from 1978's Outlandos d'Amour, 1980's Zenyatta Mondatta, and 1983's Synchronicity, and splitting the remaining five songs between 1979's Regatta de Blanc and 1981's Ghost in the Machine. Needing one more song to achieve that balance, the band took the stage for a third encore to thunderous applause from the packed-in crowd, all still on their feet 110 minutes after the band first took the stage. The final song was a lightning fast, almost metal take on "Next To You," the opening track from their 1978 debut. Following the song, the band took a curtain call at center stage, exchanging smiles and hearty backslaps and content in the knowledge that 30 years into their career and 23 years after parting ways, the Police are still one of the most thrilling bands in rock 'n' roll history. | Jason Green

 

 

Complete Setlist:
Message In a Bottle
Synchronicity II
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
The Bed's Too Big Without You
Truth Hits Everybody
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Walking In Your Footsteps
Can't Stand Losing You

First encore:
Roxanne

Second encore:
King of Pain
So Lonely
Every Breath You Take

Third encore:
Next To You

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