07.28.2008 - 2008-07-28 PITTSBURGH: Post Gazette Pavilion / Sting, Police make a strong return...
Sting, Police make a strong return...
It took 25 years for The Police to return to the scene of the crime - that crime being a breakup that came far too soon.
Finally, Monday night, the band turned up at the Post-Gazette Pavilion on an endurance run of tour in the same stripped-down form that's been its signature - a trio with a sound big enough for a stadium.
Kicking it off with 'Message in a Bottle', the band delivered a set of perky pop songs that clearly aged well over the years. With a bit more maturity, better chops and perhaps a little tour fatigue, Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland slowed the songs down and added textures that surely weren't there when they played the Phase III and the Decade in the late '70s.
As a result, a song like 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' didn't come with the same sexual urgency it once did. But fans could have expected that, knowing the smooth adult-pop direction Sting has taken during his solo career.
As usual, he showed up in a great shape, still looking like the dashing heartthrob, despite sporting a thick gray beard. You can be sure the ladies in the crowd were feeling a flutter looking at those steely blue eyes. His one-of-a-kind voice hasn't changed much at all, and even hitting the notes of "Roxanne" didn't seem to be a strain.
The Police have climbed the Billboard chart enough times to churn out with a hit-filled set of songs like 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', 'King of Pain' and 'When the World is Running Down'. 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' was a lively call and response with Sting taking the first part and the crowd finishing the thought.
The centerpiece of the set was 'Can't Stand Losing You' with Sting's call of '"e-yay-o" spiked by a cool distorted guitar solo from Summers, who had room to jam throughout the night.
Was it the cosmic experience everyone was waiting for? Maybe not. But it was good enough and a lot more people now can say they saw the Police.
While there's little to no punk left in Sting, the same can't be said of opener Elvis Costello - despite looking these days more like the big bandleader his father was.
The person who decided the set times obviously wasn't an Elvis fan because he got a less than an hour to play. He made the most of it, slamming one song into the next. The 13-song set was daringly heavy on the new album, 'Momofuko', ranging from the torchy ballad "Flutter and Wow" to the breathless 'No Hiding Place'.
His four member Imposters, complete with keyboard wizard Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas from the Attractions, rocked harder than the Police ever could on classics 'Pump it Up', '(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea' and 'Watching the Detectives', Elvis' own wicked slice of reggae-rock.
Sting popped up for a duet on 'Alison' that was more a great photo op than anything brilliant musically. Then Elvis and the Imposters closed it out with a mad, frantic dash through '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding' and 'You Belong to Me' that made it all the harder to watch him leave.
It was a pleasure to have Costello on the bill - it would have been even better if he had been the headliner.
© Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Scott Mervis