Stinging in the Rain...
By midday the sky was a pretty shade of ash-can grey and I stood at the apex of a the football stadium cursing God and the music business and even the hangover I usually affect as a reminder that grace is achieved only through suffering.
Misery and squalor!. Looking down, you could watch the wind whipping ripples through the ankle deep dirty water and bedraggled festival-goers struggling to erect rude shelters of polythene against the spitting heavens.
A mere 7,000 had fallen for the promoter's promise of a 'Golden Summer Night Concert' and come across with the ten quid demanded for this meteorological miracle. Since the line-up comprised the Police, KajaGooGoo, UB40, A Flock Of Seagulls, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Gianni Nannni and the Lords of The New Church, that promoter must now be seriously shirtless.
The Police bassist asked the crowd if they were cold, and not wanting to convey that he was not, declared "Ich bin warm," to blank looks all round. Sting had just told 7,000 people "I am gay."
A faux pas reminiscent of President Carter's declaration that he wanted to go to bed with the entire population of Poland. Lovely.
As for the music, what is there left to say about the Police? They are the most musicianly best-selling pop group ever. Their live sound in Augsberg was also the best I've ever heard in the open air.
Their performance was faultless, precise, thoroughly professional. They played every hit from 'Roxanne' to 'Every Breath You Take', fleshed out the set with Sting's songs from 'Synchronicity', and the vast majority of the audience were delighted.
Somehow, I felt short changed. I think what frustrates me most about the band is that Andy Summers always seems to be in handcuffs. The spare, spacey style that he has evolved with the Police is tasteful and enjoyable, but I miss the renegade flamboyance that he used to bring to the groups of Kevin Ayers and Kevin Coyne.
There was a moment in 'King Of Pain' when it seemed that he might be briefly unchained but an all-too-short solo was abruptly cut off as Sting leapt back into the verse. A bit more democracy in the Police would be a great step, I think.
Copeland, too, often seems to be straining at the bit, squeezing his creativity into the tunes by detailing the beat when it might be better to just open the songs up, unfold them, and let each member do his stuff.
And if long solos are no longer fashionable then bugger fashion. Call me cloth-eared, but I feel their show needs variety.
When the hits are played back-to-back, and played straight, I wonder why I did not stay at home with the records. And worse, the intervallic leaps that Sting makes with his voice and which seemed so refreshing on Roxanne really begin to pall as one song follows another in rapid succession.
The similarities in the melody lines become stressed rather than the differences. Of course, the Police can follow their current course for years yet and be assured of adoring support but Copeland and Summers, at least, are musicians first and pop stars second and require, I would guess, some measure of satisfaction from their work.
I don't see that they're likely to get it going out on the road playing Sting's Greatest Hits, as mere extras in his show. If the boss refuses to relax his grip on the reins, it may just be time for a power coup.
Meanwhile, Sting was basking in his Messiah's role. "You are the salt of the earth," he told us, beaming down from on high. And, with a scene-stealing hound launching a one dog invasion of the stage, the show went out with 'So Lonely' and the inevitable choruses of Eeyo Eeeyo Eeyayo's, the animal scampering around the bassist's feet and adding his own comments.
It was a nice goofy conclusion, and raised a few smiles, even in the sloping rain.
But I smiled most at the realisation that there would not be any more open air pop festivals this year. No more Gordon Sumner Nights of sub-zero temperatures.
Goodbye to all that.
© Melody Maker by Steve Lake