05.17.2008 - 2008-05-17 WEST PALM BEACH: Cruzan Amphitheatre / The Police showcase chemistry in relaxed set...
The Police showcase chemistry in relaxed set...
The Police did a fine job of saying hello and goodbye on Saturday night at sold-out Cruzan Amphitheatre.
The reunion tour - which the band now says will end later this year, never to be repeated - made its second stop in South Florida following last year's Dolphin Stadium extravaganza. With Elvis Costello & the Impostors as a highly motivating first act, the reggae-rock titans played at least as well this time out, and probably a little better, given all the road dates in between for Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland.
This go-round, attended by 19,000 people, had the potential to be more freighted with fare-thee-wells and the heavy air of finality. But it was just heat and humidity clinging to the occasion, not timing. The conditions prompted Sting to remark, "Everybody looks like they've just had sex."
The Police turned in a genial, often easygoing set of hits and deep tracks, many tweaked or rearranged to work well without the layering and decoration of the recorded versions - and to take some of the load off Sting's high, keening voice. The first of 18 songs was a relaxed version of 'Bring on the Night', for which Sting played fingerpicked, flamenco-style guitar instead of his trademark bass, while guitarist Summers and drummer Copeland provided texture and low end.
The band took 'Message in the Bottle' and 'Walking on the Moon' for walks in the park, stretching them out in leisurely, jam-band fashion, but maintaining their rhythmic punch. One of the greatest pleasures of this tour is seeing what an astonishingly good rhythm section The Police have in Sting and Copeland.
As a bassist, Sting's touch recalls the late jazz-fusion bassist Jaco Pastorious. He is inventive, fluid and punctual. Copeland likewise plays with intricacy and detail, but never so much that he hamstrings a tune.
'Voices Inside My Head', meshed with 'When The World Is Running Down', got its body-moving rumble from the twosome playing hand-in-glove, but also diverging to take small, timely liberties with their notes and accents. 'Demolition Man' and 'Driven to Tears' seemed to somersault through their paces, nudged over and around by the nimble interplay of Sting and Copeland.
Summers' job was - and has always been - to work in and around his busy bandmates, provide sonic coloring. On Saturday he played crisp, treble-range chords and lines, and perhaps a few more extended solos than he should have, although his improvisations on 'So Lonely' were sharp and sparked some competitive, jousting accompaniment by Sting and Copeland.
All told, the chemistry and camraderie on display here - after 23 years marked by just a handful of one-off reunions - is comfortably intact. 'Roxanne' took a questionable detour into a slowed-down middle section, but rebounded nicely. 'Can't Stand Losing You', merged with the rousing instrumental, 'Regatta de Blanc', became a cheery sing-along, with the crowd pitching in the "a-yos" on cue.
'Invisible Sun' was accompanied by pictures of children from the world's conflict zones, but even without these affecting images, the song radiated a heavy-hearted grace, deepened by Sting's understated singing.
The Police have brought enough energy and invention to this reunion to suggest they could attempt another album. But they've insisted all along they're not at that place, creatively speaking. And the reunion has an end date now. So if the band is to be taken at its word, Saturday's show was an ideal comeback - one that doesn't overstay its welcome and leaves people open to the idea of more.
© South Florida Sun-Sentinel by Sean Piccoli