|Tour||The 'Synchronicity' years 1983/84|
NOTTINGHAM: Royal CentreThe Police in Nottingham...
Once in the lobby, I'm faced with a most cloying mixture of bitter and sweet odours; it's as if all those TV adverts for Denim aftershave and Rive Gauche perfumes, mixed with a wave of Havana cigar smoke, have come to life in the shape of the well-heeled set of glamorous-looking people who make up most of tonight's audience. They prefer measures of Bacardi & Coke to a can of cut-price Guinness (said firm are partly sponsoring the tour).
A warning voice reminds us that "the concert will continue in five minutes time" and no sooner are the already-merry patrons in their seats than a nasal voice booms from somewhere near the rear of the stage. Amid some mad scrambling to see the stage, I can just about view (everyone's so tall!) bands of gold, red and blue light flanking the band, adding fire to the atmosphere of giddy excitement. And when a powdery-white spotlight fixes on the centre of attention, Sting, this extracts some thunderous applause and more hushed squeals of delight. It's obvious who they've come here to see tonight.
As the set gains momentum, Sting's call of "eee-ooh-ho", "eee-ayyyy", "eee-ahhh-yow", "lo-lo-lo" (and other variations thereof) become more intertwined with each song, and these interludes are worth hearing. Very much so. But at most other times, the band appear to be altogether bored by the whole thing and, somewhat ironically, respond least to the older hits most loved by the audience ('Don't Stand So Close To Me' nearly raises the roof). This isn't helped by their tendency to ignore each other on stage; apart from the odd "Andy Summers!" or "Stewart Copeland!", Sting really only acknowledges his cohorts on 'So Lonely' when, after a patchy beginning, he grimaces and mutters into the mike "Oh, nice
I've seen them powerful, majestic, even positively sweeping. But they weren't any of that tonight.
© Smash Hits by Linda Duff (with thanks to Dietmar)
Ticket from Tina
NOTTINGHAM: Royal CentreBreathing method...
It seemed at first to be just an overactive imagination playing tricks on one's lightshow-dazzled hearing skills, and surely, nothing more; but later, fears were confirmed by other disbelieving ears.
STING PLAYED A BUM NOTE.
Must be true, it's here in print.
Thing is, being an international mega-star, Sting took that painfully duff half-second (or thereabouts) of clumsy musicianship and transformed it into a thing of beauty; 'Tea In The Sahara' smouldered onwards, and no one seemed to have noticed anyway.
The Police began their effortlessly brilliant set with a startling lack of warning - as 'Synchronicity' drifted into the foyer, Police Warriors were still lounging around with their ice creams - and there seemed almost to be an air of wanting to get things over and done with as quickly as possible about their lightning pace, their barely stopping for breath between songs; or maybe it was purely a genuine hunger for new peaks which drove them on. Whatever, it's of little consequence. Nothing can touch The Police these days, why, they're even bigger than Paul Young around these parts.
And isn't it great, at last, to have a mega-group that makes music of a calibre deserving of such fame and fortune (and loneliness). It's wonderful knowing that when, say, 'Message In A Bottle' reaches it's climax, there are countless further treasures to come - for a fun party game, try naming them all - and less pleasantly, plenty further Sting-led crowd singalong yawnalongs: but that's showbiz for ya.
Andy, (fancy white shirt) Stuart (white'n'blue baseball top, numbered '99') and the Other One (frilly leather Pop Star type outfit) are so popular that even the local cap-sleeved yobs join hands and sing along, practically dribbling over the carpet in their eagerness to obey the Other One's every command.
The Police are so talented now as performers, musicians and songwriters, (90 per cent of the time) that when they hit that halfway point in 'Every Breath You Take', where heaven's gates open and the meaning of life generally unfolds, nothing less than a communal wave of ecstasy rushes through the audience, hinting loudly at the involuntary opening of several thousand bowels. The moment is magic. Dead straight.
They play 'So Lonely' and it suddenly clicks how similar Sting's voice (when pushed to its limit) is to that of Mickey Dolenz. Nothing important. The Police show is absolute technical perfection; beautifully presented, beautifully performed.
They encore with 'Roxanne' and one wonders if it takes them back to the boiling intimacy of the Marquee, and if they miss the old days, the nights when they could down a swift pint at the bar and have a bash on the old Space Invaders pre-gig, if they'd like the chance to be able to snap their fingers and be mere mortals all over again. So many questions...
When he's out there in front of all those worshippers, being so famous, playing that historical music, does Sting secretly sometimes wish he were at home with a nice cup of tea watching 'Sportsnight', or having a bath, or wrapping up the Christmas presents?
It's not important, but one gets the distinct impression (or is it merely good showmanship?) that he loves and thrives on that, perhaps everlasting, mega-popular Police Sound, which might just add up to the acceptable face of 80s Pop Capitalism. Not that it matters.
© Sounds by Winston Smith (with thanks To Dietmar)
Ticket from Tina
NOTTINGHAM: Royal CentreThe Police in Nottingham...
The Police have managed to reconcile all the apparent contradictions raised by their enormous success: how to be successful and still likeable; make populist music that is also intelligent; temper ambition with integrity; be rich and, in some respects at least, stay hungry.
For the moment at least the Police are probably the most bankable pop group in the world. In America they have been playing regularly in 70,000-seater venues, and it is commendable to see them undertaking a British tour which takes in small provincial theatres where the subtleties, not just the grandeur, of their performance can be better appreciated.
At times during their performance in Nottingham the group showed signs of fatigue - it was been a hectic year - but for the most part they looked the most complete of pop groups - a seductive mixture of glamour, charm and keen musical skill.
Musically, they have advanced under cover. Building on their foundation of scrambled reggae rhythms, they have integrated synthesiser electronics and, more recently, ethnic trappings - clattering percussion, pipes and Sting's jungle cries - in an effortless and uncontrived way.
The occasional inconsistencies in their writing - and there were moments in this performance when interest flagged - are always swiftly redeemed by those marvellous, deceptively simple and naggingly addictive melodies, 'Message In A Bottle'. 'Every Breath You Take', and so on.
The balance within the group is perfect: the propulsion of Stewart Copeland's crisp and uncluttered drumming; the ready melodic phrases and embellishments of Andy Summers' guitar; and Sting's forceful but always warm singing.
They are many reasons to dislike Sting. His cheekbones are perfect. For a moment, as he bounced high in the air on his heels, it seemed as if he might even possess superhuman powers, until one realised he was actually on a small trampoline. And is a millionaire without the consoling decency of looking desperately unhappy.
His songs may dwell on loneliness and alienation, but his trick is not to wallow in it. He is not so much tortured as bearing up philosophically under the strain, and ultimately turning it into a rite of exhilarating rapport with the audience.
As he becomes more sure of his position, and his constituency, he also appears to introduce more political elements in his performance. Chastising Thatcher and Reagan or the deviousness and hypocrisy of politicians may not be exactly revolutionary, but it is heartening to hear - especially in as finely-crafted a metaphor as 'Murder By Numbers' - when most pop music is looking fixedly in the opposite direction.
It always seems as if there should be a glaring paradox in singing about alienation, moral bankruptcy and the spiritual solution from such a secure position - and being sponsored by Guinness, too, as this tour is - but the crowning achievement of the Police is to suggest there need not be.
© The Guardian by Mick Brown
NOTTINGHAM: Royal CentreWhat is there left to say about The Police?
As for the music, what is there left to say about The Police? They are the most musicianly best selling pop group ever. This is a fact. Their live sound in Augsberg was also the best I've ever heard in the open air.
Their performance was faultless, precise, thoroughly professional. They played every hit single from 'Roxanne' to 'Every Breath You Take', fleshed out the set with Sting's songs from 'Synchronicity', and the vast majority of the audience were delighted.
Somehow, I felt short changed. I think what frustrates me the most about the band is that Andy Summers always seems to be in handcuffs. The spare, spacey style that he has evolved with The Police is tasteful and enjoyable, but I miss the renegade flamboyance that he used bring to the groups of Kevin Ayers and Kevin Coyne.
There was a moment in 'King of Pain' when it seemed that he might be briefly unchained but an all-too-short solo was abruptly cut off as Sting leapt back into the verse.
A bit more democracy in The Police would be a great step, I think.
Copeland, too, often seems to be straining at the bit, squeezing his creativity into the tunes by detailing the beat when it might be better to just open the songs up, unfold them, and let each member do his stuff. And if long solos are no longer fashionable then bugger fashion. Call me cloth-eared, but I feel that their show needs variety.
When the hits are played back-to-back, and played straight, I wonder why I did not stay at home with the records. And worse, the intervallic leaps that Sting makes with his voice and which seemed so unique and refreshing on 'Roxanne' really begin to pall as one song follows another in rapid succession. The similarities in the melody lines become stressed rather than the differences.
Of course, The Police can follow their current course for years yet and be assured of adoring support but Copeland and Summers, at least, are musicians first and pop stars second and would require, I guess, some measure of artistic satisfaction from their work.
I don't see that they're likely to get it going on the road playing Sting's Greatest Hits, as mere extras in his show. If the boss refuses to relax his grip on the reins, it may just be time for a power coup.
Meanwhile, Sting was basking in his Messiah's role. "You are the salt of the earth," he told us beaming down from on high. And, with the scene stealing coonhound launching a one dog invasion of the stage, the show went out with 'So Lonely' and the inevitabl choruses of Eeyo Eeeyo Eeyayo's, the animal scampering around the bassist's feet and adding his own comments.
It was a nice goofy conclusion, and raised a few smiles, even in the sloping rain.
But I smiled most at the realisation that there would be no more open air pop festivals this year. No more Golden Summer nights of sub-zero temperatures. Goodbye to all that.
© Melody Maker by Steve Lake
Image courtesy of Dietmar & Raphael