For get everything else. Sting is the next Nicholas Roeg film, must be.
Anyway before I forget everything else: Newcastle. Newcastle was memorable for the most insipid glass of orange juice I've ever tasted; the boomerang twang of local accents - why aye man!; conversations about the current Nicholas Roeg film (Art Garfunkel); the next Police chorus, should be ('Driven To Tears').
Nicholas Roeg makes good films. I imagined him being on hand for this. To cut up everything up, forget it all, and dub it all back together again - something like, somehow, the way Sting's songs are produced; or seem to be produced; illusions (the original title of Nicholas Roeg's current film).
I first saw Police coming out of a taxi in my hotel room, from TV at the end of my bed (one of the beds, there were two). The Police weren't in the bar downstairs. The bar was decorated as a ship's cabin and was full of loud business-like laughs; draught laughter you might say, medallions around necks, seats fashioned from barrels. Get the picture. Not the sort of place to meet Nicholas Roeg's next film.
At the post-gig reception (which wasn't in the mock cabin) Sting did turn up, so did his two friends from that group they're all in. All the music papers were there. (I could be wrong - I don't think New Music News sent anyone, although a rumour got around that they had, and he was selling copies of the publication outside the City Hall, all night).
The Police at Newcastle City Hall was a very informal arrangements. It was more of a 'do' than anything else. The individual songs, even words, simply chains of decorative lights, signifiers strung between The Hometown Gig and Star(dom). In my guise as The Ghost of Roland Barthes, I clung onto the latter; the lure of the lonesome ladder to fame (inevitably, the Nicholas Roeg film): 'Is It A Snakepit?' An empirical study in three rooms, with chorus lines. Keep it up; keep it up...
The Police played their instruments and they played them 'well'. Copeland, drums: the cool, correct side of the adjectives 'slick' and 'professional'. Summers, guitar, grimaces: sporadically struck hold of the adjective 'sharp', alternatively , soloing, gritting his teeth, grinding his axe, 'stupid'. Sting, voice rather rusty skank, rather inaudible bass: should have stayed in bed for his voice's sake but soldiered - the show must go - on.
This was the last date on the Worldwide Tour, and a Hometown Gig for Sting. A two-in-one night charity benefit for, I think Newcastle Boys Club. Aisles of smiles. 'Are-you-alrights?' On the night. Bring and buy. Or cry.
Everything is, naturally, geared to the home crowd. It's like the winners parading the cup through their borough, rather than working hard for a place in the final. Lindisfarne used to do this, these. You could hear the ghosts. A cut-and-dry appraisal of The Gig As Representative Of pre-third album Police would (have) be(en) inappropriate, not to say pointless, not to say pompous, nit to say that I wouldn't still go ahead with it but anyway...
It was simply and mostly successfully a celebration of what The Police have been and done and seen and been and seen as and sung, as far as their audience are concerned, so far along the tightrope. Throw another six. And... (waiting for Stingo?)... the beat goes on.
Tonight, for me a member of the audience in enough senses of the word, it was the predictably few songs: the tremendously sexy 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', which Sting had the good taste (not) to dedicate to the Ghost of Roland Barthes; the tremulously abandoned 'Walking On The Moon'; the high-pitched symbolism of 'Message In A Bottle'. Substitute your own beloved ones: they were all there, four-square.
Sting played at being the Ghost of Tim Buckley, on and off. Maybe they should have played in Durham's fine castle. That would make a good dub album: 'Durham in Dub. Y-I-Man!' The review would have to be lost in the post, though, or d(r)ead on arrival.
The Ghost of Roland Barthes missed the press coach. He spent too much time trying to decide whether to appear with his heart or his head in his hands. Or maybe it was his tale between his legs. Anyway you look at it, it was: bad timing. The same old story. All characters, incidents, coincidences entirely fictitious.
(Now why don't I tell more people than I have already that I met Sting? I didn't.)
© New Musical Express by Ian Penman
Ticket image courtesy of Dietmar & Raphael