01.22.1982 - NEW YORK CITY, NY: Madison Square Garden
Princes Of The City - they came, they played and they conquered...
The streets of the city were littered with banks of dirty yellow snow and the people shuffling about visibly winced and moaned in the battering icy wind.
Inside Madison Square Garden, the spiritual and traditional home and the burial ground of the brave, the successful, the valiant losers, the pop group Police gathered together to snatch the keys of yet another kingdom.
Police, for ever in the charts, the successors to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, those other idols of the emerging generations in search of living gods, were about to go on before 18,000 people at the Garden.
The Garden, the scene of some of the greatest and bloodiest prize fights in history. A place which seeps fame and abject defeat from every plastic pore.
Sting, tall, ashen-faced, with that constant blue shadow on his chin, was dressed in black leather trousers, a polka-dotted black shirt and his old tatty scout's neckerchief draped round his shoulders.
He lay on his dressing-room floor and rested his silver-blond head on a black, square block of wood like a Samurai meditating before a battle. People stepped over him while his misty blue eyes, a world away, concentrated on a spot on the yellow ceiling above. He exuded the air of a guy who knew that in a couple of hours' time he would step down from the glittering stage at the Garden and fame could get no bigger and riches would swamp the group for the rest of their days.
"What this one gig means here in Madison Square Garden to a sell-out audience is that we will be taking on America as a whole. Nervous? Of course I'm nervous. It's a bit like a boxer getting ready for his one big fight. That aggressive element is there, like a guy wanting to go out and win. This date is the most important point in our career. You can't crack America bit by bit because it is so vast, so this night is the end of a hard, slogging, gruelling assault on America.
"We are about to push this great big country right over the edge. You know like the Beatles were? That's the sort of thing we hope to match. That's the Valhalla of all the groups and this tonight is our battle ground. The symbolic main event in our lives."
Sting got up and rifled through a pack of tarot cards. He turned up a card of a gang of naked men fleeing from a blazing tower.
"Now what do you reckon that means?" he said, the soft voice fading to a questioning whisper. He looked like a bloke staring at the end of his life in the bottom of a tea cup.
I said he couldn't take the tarot seriously. But he does. Sting, the hard man, the man said to have a tongue like a tortured viper when the mood takes him said: "I think they have a genuine reference to the way we all are towards each other."
He carried on in that off confidential whisper: "I still remember when we first toured America doing gigs for forty dollars a night when nobody has heard of us and here we are now going on for the big one. I'm rich now sure. And I'm getting richer all the time. But that means nothing to me any more. The money doesn't make me any happier, does money make anyone happier?"
Police - the other two group members being the scratchy Andy Summers and the cool, lanky sarcastic Stewart Copeland, son of a former high-ranking CIA man - are known to have their disagreements. Both are jealous of Sting's prominence and squirm with anguish when fans refer to the group as Sting.
Sting said: "Sure we have our fights, but we care about each other so we fight. That's what makes us so strong and durable."
Andy Summers is taking pictures of the scene with a special camera that rolled an all-seeing eye round the room. A minder removes the cork from a bottle of chateau produced red wine and begins to pour out a glass for Andy. But Andy grabs the bottle and gulps it down straight from the neck, his scrawny Adam's apple bouncing up and down and a thin red stream like blood rolling down to stain his blue stage suit.
"Tonight I can feel the pressure. That feeling of all the people here trying to get close to you. It's a bit frightening sometimes."
Stewart Copeland, his face as white as driven slush outside, said: "This night is incredible. Everyone has been on to me for tickets, including Brooke Shields."
In the auditorium a warm-up pop group is jiggling around stage ignored by the restless multitude and the scent of marijuana hangs in the air like a morning mist. The walls drip with the fever of anticipation and dozens of arc lights tinge the scene with violent crimson and lilac hues.
As the minutes rush by, the faces of the group grow visibly paler. Their eyes go deeper into their sockets and Andy Summers is almost on the last of the wine. The group's manager, the belligerent Miles Copeland, raises his head towards heaven and proclaims in a mock holy roller voice: "Lord we are about to deliver your sons unto you, may you shower us with deserved riches. Amen."
Then the group are on prancing into the arena while the crowd moans like delighted animals. The rough 'Roxanne', 'Message In A Bottle', 'Walking On The Moon', the group builds up an iron-and-velvet grip on the grated nerve ends of the worshipping fans.
The walls of sound lap and surges round the amphitheatre and one guy with a mighty leap and obviously in the giddy grip of temporary lunacy clears the barrier round the stage. He is bundled back by a couple of bouncers who could have arm wrestled Big Daddy.
And the beat goes on... Sting in his skimpy black stage suit and no shirt screams: "You want some more? You want some more?"
He sounds in a delirium of sexual ecstasy and the crowd roars back Now, Now, Now, in a climactic answering shriek. It's the nearest I've been to witnessing the world's biggest love-in. Standing next to me and suddenly picked out in a blast of lemon-yellow arc light, a good looking girl, all in black, has dug her taloned fingers into the neck of her boyfriend and blood is rolling down to stain his shirt collar. He is staring at Sting feeling no pain like someone entranced and oblivious to all else.
Sting riding the emotions of the crowd like a surfer, bellows into the mike: 2Help us raise the ******* roof of Madison Square Garden in New York, New York..." The mob literally slavering at the mouth dutifully chant back, Yes, Yes, Yes.
If the ancient Romans had discovered this sort of music they would have lost interest in that boring old game of feeding Christians to the lions. The group go off with towels draped round their heads like winners of the main event. They are drawn back twice by the invisible umbilical cord they have created between themselves and the mass. Even when The Police are back for good in their dressing room, the 18,000 are still there in the darkened auditorium emitting a high-pitched plea or more.
Sting, his eyes bloodshot, moves through the backstage party sipping a beer while some of the most beautiful girls in the world rape him with their eyes. He pours me a glass of white wine and says to me in a whisper, "I think that after tonight America is ours..."
The fleet of big black limousines pull up at a side entrance and the new princes of this treacherous golden realm vanish into the innards of the richest city in the world.
The main event is over.
© The Daily Mirror by William Marshall