The Police sting the Big Apple...
This was a night of surprises, not the least of which was the smoke bomb some mental midget in the upper tiers lobbed in my lap when the house lights went down for the Police.
There was also ex-Squeeze keysman Jools Holland making an unannounced appearance as MC ("I'd like to thank Mr Madison for lending me his square garden") and half time entertainment pounding out a few of his "decompositions" on piano.
And there was Sector 27 delivering probably the sorriest performance by an opening act to echo from the Garden rafters in many moons.
Robinson wasn't in particularly good voice, but the band was sorely lacking in stage presence. The interplay between Stevie B's crackling guitar and the Joe Burt/Derek Quinton rhythm section was lost in the acoustic expanse of the hall, and the crowd couldn't have cared less. The Kinks got a better reception when 'Lola' came blaring over the PA.
The biggest surprise of the evening was not that the Police (or "those tall blond gods" as Holland put it) sold out the Garden the first time in, or that they sold it out in three days, but that they pulled it off like pros. Even when they had to stop the show because Stewart Copeland's bass drum broke, Sting confidently broke into a little light banter and an impromptu version of 'The Yellow Rose Of Texas'.
"A real super-group would go off at this point," he cracked. "We three arseholes just stand here."
In America, the Police are
a supergroup. There was a flash of green hair here, a pocket of black leather jacket there, but for the most part this was the same working/middle class rock crowd that came to see Kansas two years ago.
But while punk hard-liners and critics here now dismissed the Police as the latest crest of the homogenised new wave, the band simply put on an invigorating show of danceable rock'n'roll fun, nothing more and nothing less.
Sting has obviously been taking front man lessons from Bruce Springsteen and from a distance he did look something like a god, all golden blond hair, white shirt and pants, dark sun tan and grey robe - Sting of Arabia.
Copeland's hyperactive drumming had most of the crowd doing a kind of suburban skank by the show's end and Andy Summers' rippling guitar harmonics filled the arena with exotic overtones, keeping the band's bared three-piece sound from degenerating into a punk Grand Funk Railroad.
And it's hard to argue with songs like 'Message In A Bottle', 'Roxanne', and threadbare but catchy dub mantras like 'Driven To Tears' and 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'.
Chances are that the fans who first saw the Police at CBGB's two years ago didn't bother to make this show. Too bad. They missed out on a good one.
© Melody Maker by David Fricke (with thanks to Dietmar)