09.08.2007 - 2007-09-08 LONDON: Twickenham Stadium / The past masters...
The past masters...
Tinkering with the past is a business laden with peril, not least if you're The Police, playing your first dates within the M25 since 1983, so long ago there was no M25 to play within.
Last night's show was part of a tour that began in Canada in May and finishes in February in Australia. The band who disintegrated in acrimony in 1986 at the very moment they became the most popular act on the planet, have kept the rules of their reengagement simple: keep a low profile, sell out stadia, play the hits, take the money.
Yet, The Police never were quite so simple, despite Sting asking "are there any Police fans here?", as if he thought 55,000 people had turned up to hear selections from drummer Stewart Copeland's solo canon. Hence, I suspect, the tinkering.
Dismissed as a vehicle for Sting's songwriting, especially since the other two Policeman couldn't get themselves arrested afterwards, the trio were a band in the traditional-sense and so musical that no other musician appeared on their albums. Last night, from the moment Copeland began proceedings with an almighty thwack of a gong which heralded guitarist Andy Summers unleashing the spine-tingling solo that introduces 'Message In A Bottle', the hits were rejigged and the subtly altered vocal timings fazed Sting more than once.
Naturally, they lost their way when they strayed into album tracks, but after they exited with 'Next To You', the opening track of their debut album and played every hit bar 'Spirits In The Material World', nobody could claim the catalogue was unransacked. Better still, the tinkering enhanced everything.
'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da's' verses used to tumble, now they glide; 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' (surely popular music's first and last rhyming of "master" and "alabaster") showcased Copeland's remarkable percussive skills, while the already peculiar 'Walking On The Moon' was revamped with an extra layer of weirdness courtesy of Summers's avant-garde guitaring.
This fiercely intelligent sense-tickling should be the way of all reformations: the old material, but with new life.
© Evening Standard by By John Aizlewood