Sumner's Tales: Sting talks...
"We were a tough little unit. We carried the gear, we drove hundreds and hundreds of miles, we slept in the same bed. It was like being at war. We were out there fighting a war - and we won! I'd never been to America - America was a dream for me. The first night I arrived from London, they drove us to the Bowery. The streets were steaming and full of bums - you know where CBGBs is, it isn't one of the best streets. I thought, 'Man, this is incredible, it's like Hades!' And the club is even worse. And we go onstage and we tear the place up. We really thought, 'Fuck it, we've got to survive here.' Stewart and I had a fight in the dressing room after the show - I thought he was speeding up, he said I was slowing down. We were strangling each other, and then we heard the calls for an encore. We stopped strangling each other, did an encore and then came back, had another fight and then back for another encore. That was our first night in America."
Rolling Stone, 2/91
"There's still a lot of tradition in the Police; we're still on the boards and we go through a lot of showbizzy things. I like to get the audience singing. It appeals to the night-club entertainer in me, it's definitely part of me. It's not a rock star stereotype. I feel that the old god who stood there and went through his act totally aloof of whether the audience was there or not is something that I'm against. I am a musical entertainer. I don't demean people. I don't demean myself. Like we played at Leeds and you could hear the audience singing the songs louder than the group, and we play fucking loud. That got the old ticker going. I just enjoy it. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If that's a stereotype, it's a good one. I want to get rid of negative stereotypes. The ones that almost destroyed rock music."
New Musical Express, 4/80
"There are standard ways of conquering the world. The standard route is to play America and Europe, with an occasional sortie into Japan; then you're considered a major world-wide group. We tend to think of it in another sense: there are places that aren't necessarily rock markets, places I've always wanted to visit anyway. Why not go and play rock music"
Rolling Stone, 2/81
"One of the best moments of my life was in Bombay, playing for an audience that had never seen rock, that had no idea how to behave toward it. There was an incredible range of social strata there - the intelligentsia, the media, the sophisticates, kids with no arms, beggars, hippies. Throughout the show I explained that this is dance music, please don't sit down - stand up in the seat or just dance. And by the end of the set, they did! They clapped in all the right places. It was quite emotional."
Rolling Stone, 2/81
"My favourite moments of the set are when we stop playing and singing, and I allow the audience to tumble in. They just get sucked in, WHOOOOOSH! I love that! I love to stop and say, "Okay, come on do it!" It both confirms you as someone who has given them something, and at the same time it makes them work, like real art should. An audience has its role too. They have to work and give something to complete the event."
"I remember those small gigs so much better than the stadium shows. I can remember pretty well every night of the first tour: which gigs had tricky stairs to negotiate with the gear; what was said in the dressing room; which encores we did. But a stadium just looks like a stadium. When we first came back from our first tour of America and we played the Nashville and they were queuing around the block to get in whereas there'd been four people. That's so exciting."
It took until 1985 for a live Police album to be released, but when it came it proved to have been worth the wait. This double live CD captured two shows in the States, some four years apart. Catch the band in their early days at a show at the Boston Orpheum in 1979 and then compare and contrast to a Synchronicity-era performance at Atlanta's Omni Auditorium.
Arguably, the first disc is the most interesting as it captures the band in their first flushes of success. The band had been Stateside regulars building up a loyal following as they gigged doggedly around the clubs. The set features all of their classic early songs from the first album, plus several from 'Reggatta de Blanc' as well as the first single 'Fall Out' and the b-side 'Landlord'. The second disc features the band in the pomp of their 'Synchronicity' tour. Several of the old songs survive but with new touches and it is fascinating to see how they have developed, but effectively the second CD is a live greatest hits compilation. This is a fitting epitaph to one of the best and most fondly remembered bands ever.
Review from Unknown magazine by Andrew Abrahams
The erstwhile trio never released a live record during their heyday, partly because their melodic maestro, Sting, was so prolific that there was always plenty of new material at hand. Now, 11 years after Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers officially disbanded, they're at last offering up a double-CD package of two separate concerts that could serve as bookends to the band's wildly successful career.
The first, a torrid set from a November 1979 show at Boston's Orpheum Theatre, captures a hungry rock band on its ascent. From the punk maelstrom of 'Next To You' to the Rasta-tinged power pop of 'Can't Stand Losing You' that typified their early sound, this concert will have old-time Police fans dancing around the room to Summer's slashing, idiosyncratic playing, Copeland's driving beat and Sting's pure pop vocals.
The second concert, recorded in November 1983 at the Omni in Atlanta, is more predictable, revealing a super-group that has settled into fame and commercial acceptability. All the Police's biggest FM radio hits, including 'King of Pain', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Every Breath You Take', are dutifully presented. Nonetheless, the band's delivery lacks the urgency and controlled chaos of its earlier years. While there's no denying that the first disc is definitely the meatier offering, for real Police fans the whole package is still worth the price of admission.
Review from Encore magazine by Paul Colbert
With four years between the two shows captured on these two CD's (1979 and 1983) the comparisons to be made are endless - and fascinating: between a band still accelerating on punk speed and one that's learned to cruise, twixt a Sting who can hit ludicrous falsettos and Sting who'd rather not, and, most revealing of all, the change in mood needed for small concert halls and vast stadia.
The 1979 Boston gig came in the midst of their labours on 'Reggatta de Blanc' - represented here by 'Walking On The Moon', 'Bring On The Night', and 'The Bed's Too Big Without You', still loyal to their album arrangements. But elsewhere The Police speed wildly through their songs.
Across the CDs Sting's vocals become more relaxed and more seasoned, Copeland's drumming finer detailed, yet it's guitarist Summers who undergoes the most marked mutation - his playing is rangier, moodier, hovering round the songs and harmony rather than being locked inside them.
Fresh light is cast on 'Walking In Your Footsteps', intriguingly more open and rhythmic, and a ghostly 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'. Less successfully, 'De Do Do Do... 'struggles with added girlie harmonies which overegg what was always a sweet pudding.
It may have taken 10 years for a live album to materialise, but these two CDs were worth the wait, capturing two essential periods, two indispensable sets of material.
Review from The Toronto Sun by John Sakamoto
B-sides are a magical experience: At first glance, the new two-disc Live! set, which pairs one complete concert from November 1979 and another from November 1983, looks like just another barrel-scraping, record-company cash-in. However, it turns out to be a surprisingly powerful live document of a band much better remembered for its studio legacy.
Each disc runs over 70 minutes and features 15 songs. The first concert is a well-known radio broadcast from The Orpheum in Boston, one of the band's perennial strongholds. The set captures the trio at its peak, as they tear through most of the first two albums. The clear-cut highlight is a seven-minute romp through So Lonely that far out-strips the original.
Disc two, recorded at an arena in Atlanta, is a much more elaborate affair, drawing largely from the last three albums, especially 'Synchronicity'. The core of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland is padded with outside musicians and background singers, none of whom help them come close to matching the intensity of the earlier show.
Other than a noticeable volume adjustment about a minute into disc one, the '79 show sounds remarkably modern; disc two has been remixed to good effect. The 12-panel fold-out booklet houses a series of black-and-white photos and some bare-bones liner notes.
Not essential, but definitely a worthwhile purchase for serious fans.
Review from Q magazine by David Sinclair
It's easy to forget what an outstanding live act The Police were. Combining musicianly flair (guitarist Andy Summers) with furious bursts of energy (drummer Stewart Copeland) and an unfailingly populist touch (Sting), they won over audiences from The Nashville in London's Cromwell Road to Shea Stadium.
Yet, incredibly for a group of their stature, they never released a live album. A few live tracks surfaced on b-side and compilations, and they were duly collected up on 1993's all-inclusive boxed set, 'Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings', but this double-live CD is a first, and if not quite the momentous release heralded by their record company, it does add an important dimension to the Police's recorded legacy.
The album features two complete shows. The first, recorded in November 1979 for broadcast by Boston radio station WBCN, captures the band at an early peak. Their second album, 'Reggatta de Blanc', had just reached Number 1 in Britain, but their American set was still dominated by numbers from the debut, 'Outlandos d'Amour'. So, along with obvious classics such as 'Message In A Bottle', 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Bring On The Night', there are some extraordinarily vigorous readings of earlier, less celebrated gems, including 'Next To You', 'Truth Hits Everybody', 'Landlord' and 'Born In The '50s'.
The second show, recorded in Atlanta, Georgia, in November 1983, mainly showcases material from their fifth and final album, 'Synchronicity'. The sound (like the audience) is substantially bigger and bolder on numbers like 'Walking In Your Footsteps', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', 'King Of Pain' and 'Every Breath You Take'. But there is still an excitement and a wiry vitality to the performance which reflects the trio's punk roots, however bogus they may have been (Andy Summers was, and indeed still is, older than Mick Jagger).
Two full shows is too much for any sane individual to take in a single sitting, even without the predictable duplications - 'Roxanne', 'Can't Stand Losing You', 'So Lonely', 'Message In A Bottle' - and a release now has no particular significance. But as a memento and a reminder of why The Police were one of the great performing acts of their day, Live is better late than never.