07.28.2007 - 2007-07-28 BOSTON, MA: Fenway Park / The Police aren't stuck in same old groove...
The Police aren't stuck in same old groove...
Twenty-three years after separating amid acrimony and the ever-popular artistic differences, members of The Police are back together for a reunion tour that finds Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland enjoying an exultant return.
The Police tour is hitting all of the summer's headline-grabbing events, with the band adding two sold-out shows at Fenway Park to a list that already included high-profile gigs at Live Earth and the Bonnaroo Festival.
Watching the reunited Police perform Saturday at the first of the Fenway gigs, it was clear Sting (Gordon Sumner), Summers and Copeland were not content to simply cash in on the legacy that secured such a rabid response to the band's return. Rather, The Police messed around with songs, and even though some of the experiments backfired, the effort was always commendable and never entirely disastrous.
The Police unfurled a two-hour set on a large, uncluttered stage. The band looked and sounded consummately together, each member bringing a little something of his post-Police career back into the band. Sting's pop-romanticism seeped into the reunion sound, as did Summer's ever-more-modulated guitar dynamics and Copeland's wildly imaginative percussion romps.
Though historically linked to the punk-rock movement, The Police never ascribed to punk's theory of passion-over-chops, and this reunion tour revised the history to highlight the fact the essence of The Police lies more in progressive pop, music that can be rhythmically exotic, melodically complex, and lyrically intelligent.
What The Police still shares somewhat with the punk camp is a willingness to be unpredictable. And that playfulness emerged from the outset of the first Fenway show as 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Synchronicity II' featured some reckless abandon that sometimes found Sting and Copeland playing to separate beats.
The spacey groove of 'Walking on the Moon' and frenetic, jazzy rendering given a pairing of 'Voices in My Head' and 'When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', though, delivered a rich payoff for those who wanted to see The Police play not just memorable songs but also turn in a vital performance.
The vitality came in some unexpected vehicles. For slow-burn intensity, 'Wrapped around Your Finger' scored as it clicked into a seamless, hypnotic groove, while the similarly structured 'The Bed's Too Big without You' simply plodded to a listless conclusion.
And who would have bet that 'So Lonely' would best 'Roxanne' as the song to bring down the house toward the end of the show? But that's what happened as The Police treated the simply beguiling reggae-tinged 'Roxanne' as if it was the Allman Brothers Band playing 'Whipping Post'. On 'So Lonely', the band found the fuse, lit it and simply waited for the crowd and song to explode alike.
Though on the road since May, members of The Police still seem to be feeling the way through some of the songs in the repertoire, which has been fairly constant since the start of the tour. On 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', for instance, the theatrical Sting was still singing the flirtation tale instead of inhabiting it the way he is capable of. Odds are that when The Police returns to the area in November for a show at the TD Banknorth Garden the band will be that much deeper into the material and overall more consistently better sounding.
But in exchange for watching the band work up to perfection, The Police treated its fans to an inspired set list, pulling out such gems as 'Invisible Sun' and 'Truth Hits Everybody' to play alongside the radio hits 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'.
The band encores split the difference between the cerebral Police and the celebratory Police, as 'King of Pain' and 'Every Breath You Take' brought the drama and sophistication while 'So Lonely' and 'Next To You' lurched back to the rumble-and-roll that launched the band in the first place.
Fiction Plane, a band led by Sting's son Joe Sumner, opened the show. Sumner, who is as much a musical clone of his father as he is his genetic offspring, aptly noted his band did not deserve to be playing Fenway Park but loved the opportunity nonetheless. The Police-esque trio Fiction Plane proved pleasant enough and in a more natural setting (a club date, for instance) would be better able to prove its own worth.