09.04.2007 - 2007-09-04 BIRMINGHAM: National Indoor Arena / The Police at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham...
The Police at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham...
Most 15-year-olds only know The Police's 1978 hit Roxanne second hand, as a reference in the Arctic Monkeys' song When the Sun Goes Down. Jasmine Ogden is the exception. The teenager from Milton Keynes has been a Police fan since babyhood: "My mum was obsessed with them." And her favourite song? "Debatable, but probably Genie in a Bottle." She may be confusing Christina Aguilera with the Police, but her mother, Kat, 36, confirms that the Police are a family favourite. "I first heard them when I was nine and I've been betrothed to Sting ever since," she says, just as a flurry of activity on the stage signals that the band are about to make their first appearance in Birmingham since 1983.
It hasn't generated as many headlines as the Spice Girls' reunion but the decision to reform The Police has induced many people to dig out old albums and reacquaint themselves with what a good band they were.
Their split in 1984 saw them go out at the top of their game, meaning that there are no inferior records or misguided "new directions" and nothing to prove. Well, apart from whether Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland can spend nine months together without succumbing to the mutual antipathy (generated by Sting's personal popularity) that did for them last time.
It seems they can: four months into their comeback tour the trio really are letting bygones be bygones. Operating as a purposeful unit, they've been serenely vacuuming up the dollars and euros while leaving fans feeling they've got their money's worth. If they stick to their promise to make it a one-off, this tour could become the gold standard of reunions: they go in, they play every last hit with gusto, they leave. And in their wake, thousands of people dreamily hum 'Roxanne' and 'Message in a Bottle'.
Sting, of course, still doubles as frontman and looker (a walking advert for yoga's beneficial effects on the biceps), neither of which will endear him to the grizzled old punks who still see him as a jazz-loving muso who sneaked into a career by posing as a punk. (In an early example of advertising endorsement the trio dyed their hair blond for a chewing gum add, infuriating real punks even further.)
But the three are in much better shape, physically and musically, than most of their cooler contemporaries. When you consider that one of sixty-something Summers' contemporaries is Keith Richards, their rude health is even more remarkable. Summers is far more lifelike than Richards has been at recent Stones gigs, he tears up one ripping solo after another even when, strictly speaking, it's not required. Summers, a 1960s British Invasion figure before successfully becoming Sting's backing musician, is determined to have his musical say, and there is no stopping him.
This makes every song twice as long as it need be and forces the now bespectacled Copeland to work like a maniac. Other than that there's little to fault about the show. Because The Police were always as much about musicianship as turning out sharp, cod-reggae tunes, every aspect of the music is top notch. Just as well because there are no visuals to speak of other than those Stallonean biceps.
'Message in a Bottle', 'Walking on the Moon' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' are banged out with the clout of an old Smash Hits yearbook being bashed over our heads - they've aged not a whit and are brilliant. 'Roxanne' and 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' maintain their magic despite being dragged out several minutes too long.
It's hard to criticise any bit of the two-hour show. All right, they could have dumped 'Synchronicity' because it was hardly a hit anyway, but what is not to love about a gig that offers up such great songs for one (final?) time.
© The Guardian by Caroline Sullivan