06.13.2007 - 2007-06-13 OAKLAND, CA: McAfee Coliseum / Police show pleases fans but doesn't set off sirens...
Police show pleases fans but doesn't set off sirens...
After all the hoopla, with ticket prices soaring up to $225 each, could the first Police show in the Bay Area since 1983 possibly live up to expectations?
Short answer: not quite.
Sting was in fine voice Wednesday night at a sold-out McAfee Coliseum, and the sound of his bass guitar, Stewart Copeland's drums and Andy Summers' guitar remains utterly distinctive. Even after all this time, no one sounds like the Police.
But if any parents who were there wanted to prove to their kids that adult-contemporary star Sting once was in a fun, feisty reggae-pop-punk trio, they probably still have some convincing to do.
The energy that marked such early Police classics as 'Roxanne' and 'So Lonely' was frittered away in aimless noodling that stretched the songs to twice their optimal length.
And much of the more complex material from the band's later albums, particularly the tunes from 'Ghost in the Machine', sounded awfully thin. Built around a repeated skeletal guitar figure from Summers, "Spirits in the Material World" hardly sounded like a completed song, let alone a big hit from the 1980s.
The show had some pacing problems, too, after a strong start. The band emerged from beneath the stage at 9 p.m. sharp and delivered a sure-footed 'Message in a Bottle', followed by 'Synchronicity II' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', in an arrangement that was more mellow '86 than rockin' '80.
But a medley of 'Voices in My Head' - understandably taken down an octave by the now-55-year-old Sting - and 'When the World Is Running Down' brought the energy level down, and the crowd had to wait an awfully long time before it came up again. 'Walking in Your Footsteps' with Sting on pan flute probably was the low point. (Note: Bands this old might want to avoid using dinosaur imagery on the video screens.)
Copeland remains one of the most imaginative, unpredictable drummers rock has known, and on many numbers he wandered away from his drum kit to beat on an impressive array of metal doodads.
Summers - wearing a "South Park" guitar strap, incidentally - stretched out a little more than in the past, but his solos remain an acquired taste. In a way, he's the anti-Neil Young: a technically accomplished player who manages to bring the crowd down every time he takes an extended solo.
To their credit, after touring arenas with a horn section or backup singers in the early '80s, the three musicians in the Police are bravely going out there on their own this time around. And rather than duplicating the recorded arrangements, the three musicians are truly in the moment, playing and experimenting. But on this night, it was only intermittently successful.
Ultimately, though, the sound was clear, Sting looked handsome and buff on the big screen, and the band played all the hits people craved. Most who waited a quarter-century to see the Police seemed to leave satisfied, if not ecstatic.
© San Jose Mercury News by Shay Quillen