O come all ye faithful...
As the rest of the world ran down, thousands of devout followers flocked to a collapsible pop Mecca somewhere in the holy lands of Tooting. Touts, the law, and hordes of souvenir toting wide boys lined the way for the faithful to stomp through mud and straw like so many sheep into an Italian supertent.
Oh mama can this really be the end - to be stuck inside a bigtop with the de do blues again?
Guided by the gospel according to Wolfie Smith the Congregation became increasingly restless, pushing to the front crushing young bodies against the stage which were then passed back overhead on a human escalator returning teenage debris to the back and oblivion.
In keeping with the pagan festivities, a sacrifice was obviously demanded before the gods of blue eyed reggae could take to the stage. It came in the form of Tommy Cooper who was cruelly but perhaps justly booed off the stage to be replaced by the first terrace chorus of the evening: "We want the Police, we want the Police," they screamed.
Naturally that's exactly what they got - 75 minutes worth of polished pop, steeped in ersatz Jamaican culture and Sting's safely packaged sex appeal.
The sound system was magnificent and the performance faultless. Opening with 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' (ironical in those conditions) the band reeled off their long list of hits and all for a suitable (tax deductible?) charity organisation.
'Walking On The Moon', 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da', 'Shadows In The Rain', 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', 'Message In A Bottle', 'Roxanne', 'Driven To Tears'; they couldn't and didn't fail.
Andy Summer's guitar shimmered in all the right places, Stewart Copeland justified his mega-kit and Sting, alternating between a stand-up and guitar bass, drove the band along with his professional energy.
If they were tired of playing the same old numbers they didn't show it. Encore number one: 'I Can't Stand Losing You'. Encore number two: 'Next To You' and 'So Lonely'. Like any Western service the inspiration was by proxy and the enlightenment confirmed in the programme: You will see the light, my friend.
Criticising The Police is like attacking the Pope; you offend the laity and risk eternal damnation. Like new Aryans, they offer the perfect solution: uniform, assured. The ideal musical opiate for the masses, in fact. The trouble is I've got a nagging feeling that all Police and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
God bless you and may your Sting go with you.
© Melody Maker by Ian Pye
Ticket image courtesy of Dietmar & Raphael