The Police: secure in a good reputation...
Take a rock-steady reggae beat and pump it up with power chords and searing guitar licks and you have the recipe that has helped the fame and fortune of the Police rise with each visit to Philadelphia.
The band's sold-out concert Monday night at the Spectrum - the group's first time in that huge arena - marked a peak in a progression that began on the small stage at Grendel's Lair in 1979, where the Police developed a reputation as being one of the best concert bands around.
The reputation of this British band is still secure. With each leap, strut or dance he does with his bass, lead vocalist Gordon Sumner (who calls himself "Sting") can pack a song with unbelievable energy and excitement. When he combines the voice with Andy Summers' understated guitar work and Stewart Copeland's powerful drumming, that excitement can lift you off your feet - or bring an audience to its feet, as it did Monday night.
But reggae is by nature a slow, steady musical idiom and injecting it with the manic, power pop energy of 'Message in the Bottle' or 'Roxanne' the group's first hit, demands an extraordinarily high level of intensity. What helped the Police achieve this intensity in the past was the absence of tricks, gimmicks or fancy arrangements in their music. In three years they have grown self-indulgent in a small but noticeable way.
For this concert they had with them a three-piece horn section and a show that featured, of all things, a mirrored ball - the cliche lighting effect of arena concerts - that scattered droplets of light over the crowd during Shadows in the Rain.
And so we had a concert of peaks and valleys, of songs with blinding energy, such as 'De Do Do Do', and 'Can't Stand Losing You', and low moments as in 'Invisible Sun' and 'Spirits in the Material World', in which the Spectrum seemed too big for the band.
The Go-Go's, an all-female dance band from Los Angeles, were much more consistent. Lead singer Belinda Carlisle danced about the stage like a prom queen at a sock hop, putting a fun, frivolous edge on such excellent dance numbers as 'We Got the Beat' and 'Our Lips Are Sealed'. The energy was pure, clean and never varied.
© The Philadelphia Inquirer by Bill Kent
Ticket image courtesy of Dietmar