June 7th, 2007


Seems I wasn't alone in being alone...

I just got back from seeing The Police in concert.

It was a really good show - They played all the big hits, and a goodly amount of the less popular stuff. I'm not a super diligent fan, so a few of the songs they played sounded familiar, but I couldn't sing along (I probably wouldn't have, anyway).

Sting looks - well, pretty much the same as ever. He's been in the media recently enough (including Studio 60, if that counts) that I pretty much know how he's aging. Andy Summers looks like a guy down the street. Not necessarily my street, but just a guy I'd pass on the sidewalk without noticing. Stewart Copeland, however, looks like the drummer of Dorian Gray.

Nevertheless, they rocked. Sting belted out the songs, Andy shredded the guitar, and Stewart wailed on the drums/cymbals/chimes/metallophone?

One thing I knew, and part of the reason I was so excited... or perhaps rather, insistent, on going was that I knew that the three individuals had a hard time getting along, which is why they're so stable in the "broken up band" configuration. If they can't stay together, see them now, before they upset eachother further. I think back to the cover of "Synchronicity", with the red, yellow, and blue stripes, each a contribution, but without any blending of the colors together into a whole. I can't be sure, but every now and then, there were things that felt like I was watching three individuals, rather than a band. The balance seemed off, so that there were times when I wanted to hear the vocals, but the guitar was swamping it out. And there were times when the drums obscured lyrics, too.

But, even if they didn't feel like they were playing together all the time, they definitely put on a very good show - lots of energy on stage, and lots of cool light displays. Seems like that shouldn't be a big part of my enjoyment of the show, but man, there were a bunch of fun light tricks. Every now and then, there'd be a super bright bank of lights backlighting the band, which was fun, and there were six banks of three lights each that could raise or lower behind the stage, and each of the three lights in the bank seemed like it had between 90 and 180 degrees of movement in horizontal and vertical directions - so they got a lot of motion out of the lights at times, and at other times, just pointed them down at the stage to get a more subdued effect (great for slower songs). Also, they seemed to have a large number of red lights, you know, for that song where they scream at the prostitute NOT to turn on the red light. Ah, well.

I'm not a person well-versed in the whole concert protocol, so I got to the Key Arena (the local basketball venue, I'm given to understand) about an hour before the time listed on my ticket - which got me a place at the end (er, of course at the end, at least when I got there) of a short line. Not long after, they started letting people in, glancing inside bags, but mostly just sending people through the doors. I found my seat in nosebleed central (5 rows behind me was the roof, but I was pretty close to the centerline, so I had a good view), and there was just about nobody in the place. I look back at the ticket - it says 7:30. By 7:20, it seemed like maybe one seat in ten was filled. Oh, right, people have opening bands sometimes. And, sure enough, some guitar band came on and did their thing for an hour. When they were done (and I was sure they were done about 3 times, but they just kept on playing), the place was closer to 60% full. Hm, I really hope that the place gets more full.

The lights go down, the music starts, a funky reggae version of "Message in a Bottle":

Walked out this morning, dont believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home

At some point, the lights snapped from focusing on the stage to focusing on the audience, and the place was packed. Ah, good.

One thing I guess I knew, but I must have not recalled clearly, is that a lot of Police songs have a bit of non-verbal vocals, somewhere between a yodel, a scat, and a mantra. Eeyoh-ow. Eeyoh-ow-whoa. There was a lot of that, including a long call and response bit in the middle of "Can't Stand Losing You".

There was a little bit of chat, including Sting complaining that Jimmy Swaggart claimed that "Murder by Numbers" was written by the devil himself - which, when I google it, seems to be what he says to all the audiences.

It seemed like, across the board, the songs were all a little more reggae/ska than on the recordings I've burned into my brain, which isn't all bad. It's a live show, it's going to feel a little different. There were times when the melody of the chorus was almost unrecognizable (including "Don't Stand so Close to Me", which was one of the first Police songs I really knew, and that was the '86 recording of it, which is a pretty substantial reworking of it from the original version - so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they'd rework it some more). I'm not sure if this was part of the style, but there were times when I expected a line, and there was no vocals to be heard. Maybe it was just the rearrangement of the song to get a more laid-back (at times leading me to think of Bob Marley) feel. Maybe Sting was forgetting the lyrics. The man's a lute player, one can't really expect him to remember words, too.

To end on an up note (heh) though - I really enjoyed Stuart Copeland getting up from his drum kit and playing a variety of other percussive instruments. I don't know the difference between a glockenspiel and a metallophone or any of the other related xylophone-like metal instruments, but he had something along those lines set up behind the drum kit, so he'd be up there playing for a while, then he'd hop down to the drum kit, then he'd be back - it was cool to see him moving back and forth. Cooler still, I was pleased to see a drummer actually do something with a melody (including carrying the tune through "King of Pain"). I apologize for my low standards.

Oh, and another positive thing - though I did have uncomfortable vibes (vibrophone? but that's not what I'm talking about now) about the three of them getting along during the show, there were times when it was clear that they were really having a good time, and that was great to see. And at the end, they took their bows hand in hand in hand, like an ensemble. Good show, guys.