Shea, yeah, yeah...
The Police crowned their domination of American pop at Shea Stadium early yesterday, with an emotional performance that owed as much to precision planning as passion.
It is nearly 20 years since the Beatles became the first British band to ignite this huge open-air amphitheatre. Now the Police, Number One in America's album and single charts, and recently Number One in Britain too, were playing the world's most famous rock venue before a daunting, screaming audience of 71,000.
"First of all," Sting told them, "I would like to thank the Beatles for lending us their stadium." Wearing a flowing white shirt and tight red trousers, he launched into the title song of their album 'Synchronicity', as three 20ft video screens fringing the stage captured each theatrical movement.As the hits came tumbling out like 'Walking On The Moon', 'Message In A Bottle', and 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', it was a reminder of how carefully Police's popularity has been created over six years by Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland.
Now it seems everyone wants to watch. From high in this giant stadium, the stage looked little more than a bright electric bulb burning on a street corner, its dancing figures ridiculously minuscule. But it was the sharing of the sound and the atmosphere that mattered; the glamour and the heady scent of excitement.
Red warning lights for planes taking off from nearby La Guardia Airport seemed to pulse in unison with the music through 'Invisible Sun', 'Every Breath You Take' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me'. I cannot recall any concert of recent years more charged with emotion. And in Sting we have another showman, part rock star, part actor; a great performer with sexuality and charisma who can mesmerise an audience with frightening ease.
All tickets - they average £15 each - had been sold out within hours of going on sale in June. Even so, queues began forming at Main Gates by mid-afternoon, despite heavy rain. The ground was churned into mud an inch deep as huge sections of the audience danced barefoot in unison with hands high above their heads. But it was clear to me that the atmosphere remained happy and arrests for drug offences were few. They even cheerfully accepted the band's three-minute intervals, which Sting described as being "English tea breaks."
Afterwards, at a celebration party which ran until 4am yesterday, Sting needed no reassurance of the band's success. " I have a best friend who I've known since schooldays in Newcastle-upon-Tyne who has always said I've been waiting for this moment," he told me. "The Beatles have been the blueprint for my life. They're the reason I started singing and the reason I'm a musician."
But behind the euphoria, it was one simple and lavish piece of inspiration that ensured the band will not tire easily on their 30-date tour of America. At a cost of £15,000 a week rent, they moved to a carefully guarded mansion in the exclusive Hamptons, 70 miles east of New York, three weeks ago. There, with its mock Adam fireplace, marble pillars and cut glass chandeliers they have lived in the splendid isolation of rock kings, travelling every night by private plane to various concerts and returning in the early hours. Everything is laid on: professional chefs, gymnasium, Jacuzzi and swimming pool, the latest films on video, even croquet.
Manager Miles Copeland says: "Every top group gets exhausted and run down by all the travelling, change of hotels and airports. Hiring the house is very expensive but if I get one more concert a week from the band because they feel happy and comfortable, then it's good business."Sting is with his son Joe, six, 15-month old daughter Kate and lover Trudie Styler, for whom he left his wife Frances last year. Stewart is with former rock star wife Sonja, their three-month-old son Daniel and Sven, aged 10, who Sonja had from a previous relationship. Andy and wife Kate are already officially separated, but she is there too with their three-year-old daughter Layla. As with families who holiday together the snappy tension and troubles bubble constantly under the surface and occasionally burst out completely.
Manager Copeland, whose own marriage has long since collapsed, says: "You can hardly imagine the things that are sometimes said in anger." Admits Sting: "We do not have an easy relationship. It is an artificial alliance. But I can't think of two musicians I'd rather play with."And Andy, now 40 with years as a professional behind him says pragmatically: "When you're onto something like we can achieve on stage you hold on to it."
© The Daily Express by Garth Pearce
Ticket image courtesy of Dietmar