|Venue||Rang Bhawan Stadium|
|Tour||The 'Reggatta' years 1979/80|
BOMBAY: Rang Bhawan StadiumSuddenly India loves The Police...
Chaos hit the streets, sultry girls in saris pogo danced on concert seats and riot police cracked dozens of heads early today as India was treated to its first heady taste of London rock and roll music. The ear-splitting culture shock was dished out by the band Police, who raised £5,000 for sick children with the concert, the first ever played ln India by a major Western rock band.
The three-man group who have two albums in today's British top 20, agreed to play the show partly to help the poor of India and partly to see if they could work their way into the country's huge record market. Until now only the Beatles and Abba have managed to break the Indian people's for Western pop. But, as buzzards swirled malevolently over the huge, open-air Rang Bhavan Stadium in Bombay, Police screamed and roared to convert the astounded audience to the music that has made the band Britain's first pop superstars of the 80s.
Shortly after nightfall the band - Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers and Sting - danced on stage and many of the people in the audience clasped their ears in horror as the opening chords of 'Next To You' blasted out through the 5,000-watt public address system. But the hundreds of British and American hippies in the audience all dressed like refugees from the 1960s in satins, beads and glitter powder, immediately leapt to their feet to dance and singaIong. As Police slipped straight into their current hit single, 'So Lonely', a few of the Indian teenagers climbed awkwardly to their feet to imitate the dancing of the westerners.
Despite temperatures of 100 degrees F in the shade, excitement over the concert was bubbling long before a single guitar was twanged. Huge linen signs around the city proclaimed "Police - Not Cops but Pops." All tickets for the show sold out within a day. And, as the curious packed into Bombay from dusty villages miles away, a thriving black market developed with tickets selling for up to £25 each. That in a land where the average wage is just £10 a week.
By the time the band played their hits 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Message In A Bottle', many of the young Indians were dancing on their seats and singing along. But the hottest reception, inevitably, went to 'Roxanne' - the record which first made people sit up and listen to the young men with the blond hair, blue eyes and haughty arrogance of Aryan gods. When it was over, the band were garlanded with flowers and mauled by hundreds of newly converted fans, many of whom were still screaming for more long after two encores.
"We were just amazed at the reaction," said lead singer Sting who was so soaked with perspiration after the show that he looked like he had just come out of a swimming pool. "Since no big rock band has played here before no one had any idea what to expect, but once the kids were on their feet they were just as wild as any audience anywhere."
The initiation of India to rock music is merely the latest adventure of one of the most extraordinary success stories the entertainment industry has ever seen. Just two years ago Police were so desperate for money to pay the rent on their bed sitters that they agreed to dye their hair blond and appear in a TV advertisement for chewing gum. The three so liked their new look that they decided to keep it and from there on they have never looked back. Now they have just been informed by their gleeful accountant that each of them is already worth substantially over a million dollars.
Lead guitarist Andy Summers said: "In a way playing shows like this one is a very small way of sharing our success. We are going on this weekend to play a charity gig for people in Cairo and later in the year we are going to play a whole series of British dates to raise money for causes we believe in."
Despite his deceptively simple guitar work, Summer's history is as extraordinary as that of both the other members of the band. As well as being a university-educated classical musician, he has played with numerous bands like The Animals and Soft Machine as well as in backing groups for stars like David Essex and Neil Sedaka. Sting, the band's lead singer and bass player, was working as a school teacher by day and playing in a modern jazz band by night before he joined Police. As well as his success with the group he was also one of the co-stars of last year's successful film, 'Quadrophenia'. Drummer Stewart Copeland, who used to play with Curved Air, was brought up in Beirut where his father, Miles Copeland, was operating as a secret agent for the CIA.
"Everything has happened so fast and we have played so many countries so quickly that it is a little difficult to take it all in," said Sting as he relaxed at a lavish party thrown by the proud last remnant of the British Raj after the concert. "But we aim to carry on taking rock to places where people have no idea who we are or what our kind of music is all about. Our manager, Miles Copeland is already working on dates in China, Zimbabwe and South America. After all, what is the point in all this success if you can't use it to make all your dreams come true?
© The London Evening News by Jon Blake