The awful truth? I was kind of hoping I'd end up hating last night's Police show at the Bell Centre, thereby getting a chance to pontificate about diminishing-return reunion tours, rip-off ticket prices and past-their-prime rockers. Not to mention any excuse to take a shot at Sting is generally a happy occasion.
But while no show in an arena with bad acoustics can justify a top ticket price of 5, the British power trio's third Montreal concert this year - after their two July shows - proved to be a triumph. Damn them!
As drummer Stewart Copeland hit the ground running with the galloping backbeat of 'Message In a Bottle', guitarist Andy Summers began tossing out those trademark washes of colourful guitar chords that largely define the Police sound and a jubilant-looking Sting led 13,000 people in the first of many rounds of call-and-response Eeee-yoh's.
Only minutes into the concert, as they followed up with the spacy reggae of 'Walking On the Moon', it became apparent what has always impressed most about the Police is the way each member of the group carries a huge musical load - none more than Sting, who has to provide much of the melodic content on bass while singing. These guys are the whole show: no sneaky extra guitarists or defect-masking backup singers for them.
The no-space-unfilled interplay between the musicians was best exemplified by the snaky, jazzy figure Sting wove with his instrument on 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', a phrase that was beautifully underpinned by Summers's choppy rhythm playing and Stewart offering both precious percussion and a rock-solid foundation.
Summers was in particularly good form last night, laying out the vaguely mechanical funk phrase that anchors 'Voices Inside My head', soloing madly while Sting percolated during an extended jam in 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around', getting punky on 'Truth Hits Everybody' and bringing a trace of '50s-style minimalism to 'Hole In My Life', during which Sting playfully quoted 'Hit the Road, Jack'.
The good-natured onstage interplay between Sting and Summers seemed genuine, making one wonder about early-tour reports of hostility between band members. As they stood close by each other, arena-rock style, during a furious 'Driven To Tears', even Copeland - who played at the top of his game, but appeared mostly serious and tired - had to crack a smile.
While most songs were done faithfully, a few liberty-taking solos breathed extra life into the material. And while this always seems to offend those who should stay at home and just listen to their CDs, it's what makes a live show worth seeing. And this one most definitely was.
© The Montreal Gazette by Bernard Perusse