08.01.2008 - 2008-08-01 SARATOGA: Saratoga Performing Arts Center / Thousands captured by Police at SPAC...
Thousands captured by Police at SPAC...
It was played up as one of the biggest shows to hit the area this year. The announcement came months ahead of time, and people eagerly shelled out hundreds to get a ticket.
Those same people endured horrendous traffic jams around Saratoga Performing Arts Center, jockeyed for position on the lawn or fought their way through the crowd to make it into the amphitheater and sat through a sultry, but dry, Friday night.
So the question remains - was The Police worth the hype?
In a word - absolutely.
Opener Elvis Costello and The Imposters warmed up the excited crowd (at least those who weren't still stuck in traffic) with a 45-minute set. He was well-received as he performed 'Pump It Up', 'Radio Radio', 'Every day I Write the Book' and '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding', among others.
But it was obvious the fans wanted The Police as they erupted in cheers when Sting joined Costello on stage for 'Alison'.
This was the first (and will most likely be the last) time local fans had a chance to see Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland together on SPAC's stage.
The band pulled an 18-song, 90-minute set together, performing hits from every album, including 'Message in a Bottle', 'Walking on the Moon', 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da'.
It was impossible to not sing along. And Sting encouraged it, often prompting the crowd to clap along as well, at one point saying, "With 20,000 New Yorkers out there, I want to see 40,000 hands up there."
They even dug a little deeper into their immensely popular catalog with such songs as 'Voices in My Head', 'Demolition Man' and 'Hole in My Life'.
Copeland and Summers did get an opportunity to showcase their talents at various points, but it was Sting who stole the show. The scruffy, yet svelte frontman often engaged the crowd, making SPAC feel much more intimate. It was a real treat for the fans, since a band of this stature would normally be reserved for a much larger venue.
The stage set was nothing spectacular, but the fans didn't need visual aids. They just wanted the band to play. The diverse crowd ranged from children to senior citizens (yes, seniors!) and they stood throughout the night, absorbing every bit of musical history in the making.
The only lull of the evening came with 'Invisible Sun', which featured images of children whose haunting eyes stared at the camera in the most heart-wrenching fashion.
It was perhaps the band's way of bringing the charity Unitus to light during the show. Proceeds from the tour benefit the organization, which is working to stamp out worldwide poverty. There were no pleas from Sting, but the eyes of the children said a mouthful.
Things did pick up again as The Police launched into a five-song double encore, beginning with 'Roxanne'. Lights from the stage bathed the crowd in the infamous "red light" as they sang along.
The encore continued with 'King of Pain', 'So Lonely' and 'Every Breath You Take'. As they exited the stage, fans stayed put, hoping for just one more. And perhaps most apropos, the band's last song of what is one of the last shows they are ever expected to play together was the first track from the first album.
"Next to You" came with a montage of images from the band's career, blazing across the screen. It was a fitting end to a trip back in time.
The band wraps up its 14-month reunion tour in a few days with a special show at Madison Square Garden. As the tour goes into the musical history books, the 20,000-plus fans in Saratoga can say, "I was there."
© The Saratogian by Deanna Amore