It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that Sting...
No gumshoe alive could ever have suspected that The Police were going to turn out this good.
Towards the climax of their set, when a posse of punters rushed the stage in tribute to Sting's remarkable likeability, it certainly seemed like one more name had to be added to the shortlist of meaningful new bands thrown up over the last couple of years. The neo-Brinsley Schwarzian element in The Police was inevitably to the liking of those responsible for promoting the gig.
From the Poly's point of view, the deal had indeed been a fair cop.
The Resistance were hardly any less likeable, though not very liked. Exponents of melodious, capricious tunes, sung with feeling by mohaired Mark Darmon, and consolidated by bassist John O'Leary and drummer (is he still only 15?) Martin Saunders, they were up against it here.
Another band with a new wave Doors orientated sound, they knew what they were doing (even if the punters didn't) and their time will surely come. Ironic jeers greeted their last number, and understandably, they weren't in any hurry to encore for the handful of vigilantes who recognised them as more than lost sheep.
The Police were in a different league if only because two-thirds of them know the rock'n'roll game inside out. They're an ambitious band with an ideal line-up of three complementary tunesters, the two old hands Andy Summers (ex-Coyne appendage) and the fully air-conditioned Stu Copeland backing with great verve the unhinged psyche of Sting, who would otherwise probably be in for one laugh too many.
Of course, Sting is the star. He fancies his cool, he calls the shots, plays fretless bass, panders to the pogoers, pertinently ad libs (it takes homework to know about the pea factory in Hunslet), camps around, busts strings (and plays without them) and strikes up chats with punters down from Middlesbrough.
Supreme showmanship aside, Sting is also in possession of a very useful voice (often reminiscent) of Andy Fairweather Low's) well-employed on the BeBop'n'Holla-ish 'Hole In My Life', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and the highlight, the definitive 'Roxanne' ("number 84 in the American charts - with a bullet").
The band justify their frugal line-up, echoes and other heterogeneous electronic effects filling out the gaps not filled by extra humans. Summers occasionally gets his rocks off extolling the merit of meaty lead on the border of heavy metal.
Successful experimenters with rhythm, and in essence an intelligent force. The Police are at their best when they gamble, as with the dub of 'Roxanne' and 'So Lonely'. They are very definitely one band which deserves to have got thus far alive and well, and they'll survive because they have what appears to be the beginnings of an ongoing attitude, and because - superficial new wave trappings apart - they're essentially mainstream rockers looking outward, rather than phoney extremists looking in.
Their current image is the sole peccadillo: maybe Sting could score a wig. Otherwise they have what it takes, they know it, and so will you.
© New Musical Express by Emma Ruth (with thanks to Dietmar)