Sunday, July 13, 2008

Concert Review - The Police (again)

My wife and I drove to Seattle to see The Police at the very beginning of the band's reunion tour last year. We thought they were fantastic, but a bit rusty.

It was only the fourth or fifth show on the tour and they were still working out many of the drastic changes they made to their repertoire. I noticed a lot of hesitancy, eye contact and tentative "are we there yet" kinds of stuff.

Some of the new versions of the old songs - in different keys and at different tempos - worked well and others just didn't seem to be quite there yet. I posted a full review here at the time.

Well, I caught the band again on Saturday, now at the tail end of the tour. And after playing pretty much non-stop all around the world since the Seattle show, this was very different band.

They were tight, confident and pretty frickin awesome. They dropped a few of the songs that were not really working early in the tour, such as Spirits in the Material World and Synchronicity II (bummer to miss that song, actually).

They changed the set list quite a bit as a matter of fact. And sadly it was much shorter. In addition to Spirits and Synch II, they dropped The Bed's to Big Without You, Truth Hits Everybody, Murder by Numbers and Walking in Your Footsteps. They added only two - Demolition Man and Hole in My Life.

I really missed Bed's Too Big and Walking in Your Footsteps and I think they should have left those in the set. Those songs went over really well in Seattle and by reducing the set list by a total of four songs, the show felt way too short.

Otherwise, what they DID play was overall pretty awesome. Like with Seattle there was a lot of jamming. But this time, it was tight - sounded like a band that's been playing on the road for a long time.

Andy Summers took some extended solos and used way more distortion and punch than I remember from The Police's 80s heyday. Stewart Copeland was completely insane. I have never seen a drummer quite like him. He hits those drums so hard it's ridiculous. He is by far the most captivating performer in that band.

Sting's voice was awesome and almost made you forget that they lowered the keys on most of the songs. But his bass playing was where I noticed the most difference from the start of the tour. Just like with Paul McCartney, Sting's unique voice and stellar songwriting make it easy to overlook the fantastic bass playing.

Oh, and he had a stellar beard. Not a nice, trimmed, dyed beard. Rather, it looked like he hadn't touched a razor in a couple of months and was going for the 'lunatic Hemingway' look. It worked. He looks pretty cool with a beard.

There were some pre-recorded vocal backup parts, a-la Rush, but we also noticed Sting using Taurus pedals (again, a-la Rush) to play some keyboard sounds with his feet to back up the trio's sound.

Harmolodic will kill me for this, but we missed Elvis Costello due to schedule mix ups and crappy traffic. Very bummed about that but it is what it is.

Anyway, it's rare that I am able to catch a band when it is loose and unsure at the start of a tour and then see 'em again near the end when they are tight.

It was cool to be able to do that on this tour, and the evolution of The Police from the start to the end of the tour is just another testament to the importance of bands playing night after night on the road if they want to get any good. Too bad gas prices are so high that young, unestablished bands are starting to lose this option.

Set List:

-Message In A Bottle
-Walking On The Moon
-Demolition Man
-Voices Inside My Head
-When The World Is Running Down
-Don't Stand So Close To Me
-Driven To Tears
-Hole In My Life
-Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
-Wrapped Around Your Finger
-De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
-Invisible Sun
-Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta de Blanc

encore one:
-King Of Pain
-So Lonely
-Every Breath You Take

encore two:
-Next To You

There are some YouTubes from just a couple of weeks before my show. Here are a few of great ones that will give you an idea of where the band's at right now (plus Sting's wicked beard).

Oh yeah, and you Rush fans out there - check out Andy Summers' solo and tone in Demolition Man below, and you will see where Alex Lifeson got his guitar tone and approach right around Grace Under Pressure!

Walking on the Moon - 2:30 to 4:40 is goosebump time here. Stewart Copeland goes OFF.

Demolition Man

Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta de Blanc

Wrapped Around Your Finger - Another very cool version of a classic song.


Chris said...

I would have liked to see that. Both Rush and The Police were big parts of my formative years as a musician (a term I am really stretching here) and I have never seen either. They are both probably upper tier 2 bands for me; not in the upper echelons of my favorites, but just below. The closest I've come was I saw Sting play the Gorge in WA way back on about his 3rd solo album or so, and it was great; he played a lot of Police songs. I've kinda waned in my interest with these guys because he seems to have become such a pretentious ass, but oh well. If opportunity arose, I'd see them. Still hope to see Rush one of these years as well. Problem is, my kid doesn't like them and my wife loathes them!

Anonymous said...

Now... if they would just take the camera off of Sting and put it back on Stewart, everything would be great.

They are MUCH better than they were at the start of the tour. I completely agree.

Nice blog;)

judakris said...

I saw them in St. Louis last year and basically couldn't take my eyes off Stewart Copeland. If you haven't seen his documentary "Everyone Stares", run don't walk! --J

Kathy from said...

Really enjoyed your review from a musician's perspective and am glad you got to see them at the top of their game recently. I've seen The Police four times since the reunion tour started (including their very first performance to announce the tour at the Whisky a Go Go press conference last February 2007), and each time they have been better than the last. You didn't get to hear "Bring On The Night" when you saw them last? That is truly too bad, it was added for some of this last leg of the tour and I was so happy to hear it when they performed it in Chicago on May 10. It's one of my favorites, you can see some of it here:

the weirdgirl said...

This is great, hearing a seasoned perspective like yourself. And what an opportunity to see them at both ends of their tour! I definitely noticed that they lowered the key on some songs. Copeland just blows me away.

Elvis Costello was good but it was a bit rough. I'm a huge fan of his but the sound just wasn't as good (?) and then he apologized for being "hoarse". (Poor guy.)

Great blog!