05.28.2007 - 2007-05-28 VANCOUVER: GM Place / The day had finally arrived...
The day had finally arrived I was about to see the Police at their opening concerts of the 2007 world tour.
(A tour many thought would never happen, saying it was historic event was probably stating the obvious, a musical epoch maybe a better description of events.)
Friends and colleagues' at work had noticed I wasn't myself the week before the concert. In fact I thought there was a conspiracy against me, no sooner than I had cleared my in-tray than it filled up again, I was getting uptight and it felt like the world was against me.
The paranoia paradigm I was experiencing was about to shift and I was about to have the happiest week of my life.
When a gorgeous 27 year old woman sitting next to you, turns to you and asks "Do you know Hugh Padgham", how do you reply?
Little did I know at the time how important my answer was going to be?
From the moment I left London, Heathrow I felt I was on a journey of monumental proportions. I'm a strong believer in fate and seem to pick up on things that other people don't, the fact that "Outlandos d' Amour" was a selection on the BA radio channel was no fluke. Looking out of the aircraft window listening to "Next to you" whilst flying over the Rockies was quite magical. (And at this point I didn't even know it would be in the set list.)
I wasn't alone in my quest to visit Vancouver, my sister also managed to get the time off work to make this once in a lifetime trip, although she had more questions to answer going through passport control?
What is your purpose of visit to Canada, "to see the Police?" was the quick reply, which was greeted by a puzzled look from the official concerned (was it the mountain Police, downtown officers or the world famous group she was visiting?)
Well everybody in Vancouver knew that the Police were in town, it was the must see show of 2007.
I felt totally honoured not only to be at the fan club concert but the other two shows and managed to get the time off work to get there. (I have to thank my long suffering boss for signing my leave form, getting time off for other concerts may not be that straight forward?) I am not alone with this problem.
History will mark this occasion as a monumental step in live performance. It was reported in the local press that 90 or so of the press (from around the world) had turned up to review the opening night. From the reviews I've seen they had has much fun as me! (Maybe they were close to the row I was in?)
The thing about the press is that they aren't me! I'm well known for my dancing at concerts, nothing had quite prepared me for the evening I was about to enjoy!
The crowd were already on their feet before even the first note had been played, and that was the last time I was seated for the entire concert.
Once the opening riff of "Message in a Bottle" was heard pounding out of the speakers I was already jumping about, my excitement clearly evident for all the 21,000 other people to see.
The woman next to me, turned and said "The Police are my favourite band in the world", mine too I replied. I have had dreams about meeting people like this, was there somebody as passionate as me about the group and their music standing right next to me?
If I had used all my energy up in the first song it didn't show, as the band launched into Synchronicity 2 with a confidence and authority that was mind blowing. The Police were back even making the rock nature of the Broken Music tour look tame in comparison, they meant business.
Again, the woman next to me started talking to me, "You know how to party!" Wow I thought, (compliments or was this flirtation of another kind?) not only was I having the time of my life, I was next to a kindred spirit who was a match to my crazy dancing style. Boy, I felt I had the energy and spirit I had in 1983 and felt like a young person again.
Time to introduce the band and for the audience to show their appreciation again before Stewart launches into "Spirits in the Material World" with a passion, joined with Sting's characteristic bassline that effortlessly flowed along with Andy's guitar section keeping up in total synch. This wasn't the case on the Wednesday night concert, where Andy fluffed his guitar part, the nerves were kicking in but he quickly recovered in the following song.
When Sting started to sing "Don't Stand So close To Me" it felt like the whole of GM place was singing in unison. Both I and the woman next to me were in full voice and lapping up every second of the song. Ironically we were singing the main chorus and unintentionally getting closer to each other? I can't really describe my emotions at this point, but I was starting to wonder whether this girl was half my age!
By the time of "Voices / When The World Is Running Down" we were both really singing our hearts out, it was obvious for all to see including my sister, who couldn't stop laughing at me. She knew what planet I was on, as only a sister can recognise. Either that or she was thinking we've got a right pair of fans over there.
I probably haven't danced so much in any concert I've ever been to. If there was an award for services to air guitar I would have a medal by now.
We were really rocking, the question was how long could I keep going at this pace? Andy's guitar solos were truly inspirational, for me Monday night showcased the whole range of Andy's guitar playing for me. The Broken Music tour was the precursor for some of the arrangements in this tour and it was fascinating to hear the changes in tempo in the songs especially evident in this song. Some parts were stripped down and slowed right down, only to be speeded up over the course of the songs. They made it look easy but it is incredibly difficult to get the timing right, it worked a treat.
Some of these songs felt different, there appeared to be different layers in the music, but the best was still to come. 'Driven To Tears' felt very much like it did in the 80's, the message still as poignant as ever.
Many mouths were open wide and amazed by a new version of 'Walking On The Moon' it has never sounded so good. It was if it had a new spring in its tail, it could quite literally go one for ever. "We could be together walking on the Moon". I was singing at the top of my voice and in time with the woman next to me, we were both singing from the heart, happy bunnies. It was like the whole audience were singing along in one voice.
E-oohs worked a treat, with Sting singing half the lyrics (as usual), although our row made up for the people who had forgotten the words. I also think Sting has added a new middle section to the song. It allowed all the band members to improvise a little, it really paid off big time. If I had to just limit my top 3 songs of the concert, this would be in the list.
Top of most people's list would probably be 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' for a live re-working this tops the bill. The percussion section was incredible, Stewart confirming his legendary drumming skills. The song has never sounded this good before, the mix was spot on and Sting's voice was in fine form. Singing John Dowland songs earlier in the year has not affected Sting's vocal technique. I personally think his voice has improved and sounds better than before, his voice also sounded a fraction deeper overall.
Next up was the 'The Bed's Too Big without You', which sounded fresh and vibrant with a totally up to date sound that I can't quite describe. The song's framework was also loose enough to provide a jamming style that felt relaxed, no tension was in evidence here. It is one of my sister's favourite Police tracks, and she kept looking over to me. She also noticed that I was singing along with added vigour during the song. 'I wonder why?' she was probably thinking. (I know what Andy and Paul's houghts are. Behave!)
'Murder by Numbers' provided me with a slight breather from my dance workout and Sting to say a few words to the audience.
Again, a good rendition of the song, but it was probably in the wrong part of the set list. It felt too slow, especially when compared to the speed of the songs experienced beforehand. I jokingly said it will be the first song to exit the set-list. It apparently has apparently disappeared after the Vancouver shows? A real shame, I had created a new style of dancing to the song, which included waving my hands about and my fingers moving in a one, two, three configuration. It has to be seen to fully experience it!
In many ways the real beauty of this tour is that the sound and structure of the songs are constantly changing. We are not living in a static environment here. The songs are evolving, ebbing and flowing so to speak. Each member of the band is up for new ideas, and there doesn't seem to be the rivalry of the earlier days. Is there a new voting structure in operation, a group consensus, certainly a more relaxed vibe?
This will invariably change through the course of the tour. Songs will come and go and change around in the set list the further into the tour we get.
We may well see 'King of Pain' change position; it could appear after 'Walking in your Footsteps'. A song that now takes on the status of super song, never released as a single, but now as big as the mighty Brontosaurus (well certainly on the huge video screen as it appears.)
The original Police shows didn't really use video screens, or though I seem to remember they showed the then banned 'Invisible Sun' video at some concerts on the 'Ghost in the Machine' tour. Some images were on show when they performed the song this very night. Great to hear it again after all this time, it has not lost any of its lyrical impact and Andy's guitar solo was particularly impressive.
Back in those days you didn't have the size or complexity of setup you have today. The animation was absolutely stunning, what was also pleasing to see was they did not overuse the video visuals. The emphasis was firmly on the music and the interaction between the audience and the band. Less is most definitely more in this respect, it also created a real "wow" factor that people were not expecting.
One of the many highlights in the concert which firmly cements that the group as being even better than at the pinnacle of their powers in 1983.
The bar has been raised to a new level; I can't see any group challenging their status on the live circuit anytime soon. With firm favourites like 'De Do Do Do De Da Da Da' resounding around all parts of GM Place to an enthusiastic audience, it was like the good old days again.
We are into the home straight with two absolute sing-your-heart-out songs to finish on. 'Can't Stand Losing You' and the (is it really 30 years since) 'Roxanne'?
If I'd been singing my heart out up until this point, my singing went up to the next level, the whole row was jumping around and I was covered in sweat with my pheromones pumping out at an exhaustive rate.
My lovely new tee-shirt now resembled something that had been under the shower, it is a big enough umbrella but it's always me that ends up getting wet!
The surrounding floor space looked in quite a state as well, spilt drinks everywhere around me. Was I the cause of this whirlwind of activity? No, surprisingly the drinks had been knocked over from the row in front of me.
But it was no place for any designer handbags or fashion accessories. The whole row was in full party mode during 'Roxanne' the girl is pretty damn amazing for 30! I'm talking about the song by the way? (Just in case people are thinking other ideas, I'll leave that to all your imaginations.)
'Roxanne' has many different forms in the live version; this was definitely a Police version, Sting felt very comfortable in singing it and more than happy with the audience feedback and sing along parts which proved so effective. It came as a total shock that the band finished at this point - the crowd clearly wanted more, and it didn't feel like this was going to be the end of the evening just yet? Anyway the crowd made sure this wasn't the case.
Back for some more, Sting, Andy and Stewart returned to the stage, Stewart who was kitted out like he was about to run a marathon, decided to do a circuit of the stage mentioning the audience behind him, who had the best view of his impressive drum kit. It was straight into 'King of Pain', as Stewart kindly reminded Sting he was once this figure. One of my personal favourite Police songs, you could hear the crowd show their appreciation, but I believe when the band play it at Madison Square Garden the roof will be shaken by an even greater volume of noise from the crowd.
I was more than happy that I was still standing and still doing my dance routine culminating in a full air guitar moment during Andy's classic guitar riff in the middle of the song. If I was going to pass out it was going to be this moment, not that I had drunk anything, I was completely sober, but was in complete Police heaven and the woman next to me was on the same journey!
'So Lonely' a staple crowd pleaser, another crowd pleasing sing along moment which I sung with such heartfelt feelings, I felt I had several people staring at me. This really didn't bother me, we were all having such fun time, I can't remember a time I have been this happy. Although my passion was clear to see I wasn't actually lonely at this particular time, but felt part of a 21,000 crowd capacity crowd.
If there were any people who hadn't sung anything during the entire concert, they would have sung something during 'Every Breath You Take'. A rousing version which almost marked the point at which my voice was about to give out. My voice did last out to the end, the smile on my face as wide as Stewart's at the end of the concert, knowing full well that it was a job well done. The Police then disappeared off stage again.
I turned around to speak to my sister about the final song to come and to brace myself for the next song when I turned around to talk to the woman beside me, to praise her on her dancing and singing only to see her in the far distance leaving the venue, I didn't have chance to say goodbye.
She had gone before 'Next To You' the irony of it; the one person I wanted to be next to had gone... I was heartbroken, I am used to these things happening to me and anyway I'm convinced she has a far more attractive boyfriend than my boyish good looks? (Somehow I feel my friends laughing at me, I'm probably dreaming.)
She missed my finale of crazy dancing, which synched in with Stewart's intense drumming at the end of the song. Whether I reached the dizzy heights of 6 feet ten or above I don't know but I was totally exhausted by the end of the concert. How cool was that, how many drummers can drum that fast, and at the end of an exhausting set list, was this the Stewart Copeland show? Sting had already proclaimed this earlier during a rousing rendition of 'So Lonely'. Although I have to admit when he sang "welcome to the Andy Summers show", I thought Sting had sung "welcome to the Ann Summers show!" But I wouldn't be surprised if Sting put a few jokes in the mix, he has a great sense of humour.
I wouldn't have been in this seat if it wasn't for the fan club. Tina, Wendy and Dave I salute you and am totally in debt to you all again. I thoroughly enjoyed the Fan club party on the Sunday evening and enjoyed meeting all the other fans I hadn't met before.
It was such an amazing trip, I feel like I went on a secret journey of pure discovery and enlightenment and returned to my youth.
Talking of journeys my mind drifts to thoughts about the late Roger Scott (a Capital Radio DJ in the 80's) who played 'Secret Journey' more times than any other DJ in the UK at the time and who has always remained a huge influence on me, until he sadly passed away. He would have loved this concert. "Magic magic magic...." is the refrain from 'Every Little Thing' which still resounds inside my head today; it will take me along time to come down after the experience of three amazing Police shows in one of the most amazing cities in the world.
The Police confirm that they are the best band in the world and that they are even bigger and better than ever before.
So what was my reply to the question I was asked at the start of the concert?
"I know of Hugh Padgham, but I don't know him personally", I replied to the gorgeous looking woman beside me. "He's producing my latest album." She replied, stunned was my reaction, even more so when I bought her album when I got back to the UK.
It will not be long before "Wendy Starland" (Singer/Song writer and producer) receives some Grammy nominations, I feel like this week has been one of the best in my life, bettering it will be difficult, but I have several more trips planned over the course of this year, I'm still living the dream but being in Vancouver was an event I will never forget.
© Roger Puplett for ThePolice.com