07.28.2007 - 2007-07-28 BOSTON, MA: Fenway Park / The Police bring more than memories to Fenway Park...
The Police bring more than memories to Fenway Park...
When The Police were dominating the pop-music world in the early '80s, there was popular speculation as to whether the British-American trio were more accurately described as singer and chief songwriter Sting and his backup band.
Well, the fact that Sting has had a successful solo career for more than 20 years makes one argument for that case, but last night's Police reunion at Fenway Park (the first of two shows; the second is tonight) made the other. While Sting's durable pop gems were the backbone, the highlight of the two-hour show was hearing guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland back in action.
Sting played the suave, concerned rock god, as always, with his keening voice and fleet-fingered reggae-influenced bass playing in fine shape. (OK, so he took it down an octave for 'So Lonely,' but give him a break.) Summers, who kicked the concert into gear from the intro to the opener 'Message in a Bottle', tore through straightforward rock solos in 'Synchronicity II' and 'Can't Stand Losing You', just to name a few, providing his distinctive dirty-yet-synthesized tone and all the time alternating between trying on the rock-god pose and thinking better of it.
And Copeland, who has kept an even lower profile than Summers (as a performer, anyway) since The Police's "hiatus" began in 1984, was once again one of the legendary drummers of late-period rock: volcanic and loose-limbed, throwing in just enough accents to propel rather than clutter the groove and to keep listeners guessing.
While The Police have been away long enough that a greatest-hits set was just fine - songs came from all of the group's five (geez, was it really only five?) albums - the extensions and improvisations that the group was always famous for kept the material fresh.
Their jams were always hit-or-miss affairs, but last night they mostly hit. Performing strictly as a trio, eschewing the horn sections and backup singers of the last concert tours of their first go-round was a smart move - the better for the kind of tight communication that powers successful jams.
'Driven to Tears' went for the throat from the get-go with a precursor of the full-speed guitar-solo ending. And while 'Walking on the Moon' and the relative rarity 'Truth Hits Everybody' dragged somewhat, every time it seemed the group was succumbing to age, something such as a full-tilt (and even faster) 'So Lonely' came along to reassure everyone. 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' was highlighted by a Summers guitar solo that verged into Middle Eastern melody; the double-tempo jam that ended 'Walking In Your Footsteps' was a visceral shocker and the extended 'Can't Stand Losing You' was particularly clangorous.
'Wrapped Around Your Finger' saw Copeland man a sprawling percussion kit, with rolling malleted drums on the choruses, but even on relatively straightforward renditions of songs such as 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', the addition of unusual double choruses showed that the rehearsal process consisted of more than remembering the record.
There wasn't enough evidence to judge either way as to whether The Police's supposedly chilly interpersonal relations had improved any. It was hardly a love fest; there were very few words spoken on stage (and all by Sting), but his bet-I-can-make-you-look stares at Summers during several guitar solos were endearing.
'Every Breath You Take' ended the regular set, simply as a nod to its hit status, but it was straightforward and a relative letdown; it was more fitting that a noisy, full-tilt 'All I Want is to be Next to You' closed out the night.
Fiction Plane, led by Sting's son Joe Sumner, opened the show with chilly '80s-style rock reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen. Their songs were catchy enough, but their attempts at improvisations were more mannered, not as far afield from the songs, and less skilled.
Sting played the suave, concerned rock god, as always, with his keening voice and fleet-fingered reggae-influenced bass playing in fine shape.
© The Providence Journal by Rick Massimo