06.29.2008 - 2008-06-29 LONDON: Hyde Park / Sting and co finally go out with a bang at the Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park...
Sting and co finally go out with a bang at the Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park...
The first time around, in the Eighties, they fizzled out with a whimper, leaving behind them a cloud of acrimony and a sense of unfinished business. This time, the Police went out with a bang.
Last night, on the second night of the Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park, the globe-conquering trio made what they say will be their last ever British appearance. The show, in front of 35,000 fans, reiterated their enormous strengths - musical cohesion and muscularity, the stage presence of Sting (his face now bearded), and a big bunch of top tunes.
In the year or so since they re-formed, Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland have played to more than three million people in a tour that has grossed over $340 million. In August they play a charity show in New York that they vow will be their last ever.
I saw them last year in Birmingham and was impressed, but not blown away; this time, they were much more fun to watch (although Summers still delivered some epically dull guitar solos). Their performance had a party atmosphere: the crowd were in the mood for a good singalong, while the band's playing had an exuberance that was previously lacking.
Perhaps they sensed that the end of their momentous undertaking was in sight. All the hits were there, including a sensational 'I Can't Stand Losing You', 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take'.
The weekend-long festival itself was blessed by good weather and featured a strong line-up of acts on two stages. Sheryl Crow, who survived breast cancer a couple of years ago, showed that her music has acquired new depth and substance, The Bangles delivered a crowd-pleasing set that was perfect for a balmy Sunday afternoon, while K T Tunstall was a breezy, gutsy blast of energy.
All this was watched by a thoroughly heterogeneous crowd, among them a small boy in a pushchair who was woken, frowning, from his slumbers on Saturday evening by a father who wanted him to witness "the world's greatest guitarist'' - Eric Clapton - who duly delivered one of the best shows I've seen from him in years.
Sometimes Clapton can be a diffident performer, but here he looked assured, confident and happy, and played some blistering solos. He was backed by a terrific band that included the increasingly authoritative guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, who took part in some fierce duels with Clapton. In an enthralling set that majored more on Derek and the Dominos than the Cream years, the highlights were 'Keys to the Highway', 'Motherless Children', 'Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad', 'Layl', and a gorgeous 'Running on Faith'. Fantastic.
But the weekend belonged, in the end, to The Police, who said farewell without regrets, without sadness, but with a spring in their stride and smiles on their faces.
And while Sting may wish to go down in popular memory as a man who raised awareness of the plight of the rainforests, I suspect that he will be remembered by most people for the gloriously meaningless mantra that rang out from his mouth and from thousands more in the crowd last night: "Eee-yoh-ohhh!''
© Daily Telegraph by David Cheal