Hartford, CT, US
Hartford Civic Centerwith R.E.M.
The Police & REM in Connecticut...

Do not go gentle into that good night... isn't that how it goes? The Police have refused to allow their own basic mediocrity to rob them of success, y'see, and in the face of such Hitler-style triumph of the will what can a band like REM do? No flash, no lights, no ice, dry, wet or otherwise, just a bunch of guys and a bit of integrity.

Chiming guitars clash amid a slightly surrealistic lyrical bent on 'Talk About The Passion' and the minor hit 'Radio Free Europe', the singer's voice exuding an educated nostalgia, an informed ache that could only come from the deep, deep South. You could see why the crowd wasn't very interested in them; they don't look like a headline stadium group.

But to make them into one of those beasts, you'd have to destroy all that's unique and useful about REM. The group did what they could - it was the crowd that failed...

The Police are an entirely different kettle of pish. With nothing going for them in the beginning, it was essential that they get cracking with the tool kit. And the hit machine they came on with - souped-up reggae mixed with flanged-out rock - provides cool empty, lovable singles... which leaves the problem of what to do the rest of the rime. So they make awful albums, but at least they don't seem to cost too much to make. In concert, this means that for every 'Roxanne' or 'Message In A Bottle', there's five gaping big chunks of nothingness. So...

Other stimuli must be provided! Opening with a howling 'Synchronicity', we see before us the rock equivalent of Reagan's Star Wars Programme: Three girls in long, black yashmak-chic outfits wave their arms, bump, grind and shriek, a roadie directs a cheap-looking fan onto a froth of dry ice smoke, and apparently computerised lights pirouette, swivel and blink all by themselves. Sting smiles, shakes and sings, all by himself.

Which does sort of bring me to own-up time, fans. The Police themselves are often heard to ask out loud why other bands don't use the same simple formula they adopt to get hits, but I think they're being sarcastic in this (deliberate) dumbness.

The others don't have the one ingredient necessary... no, it's not Andy's guitar foolery, and it's not Stewart's underrated drum thumping. It isn't the trendy black string-vest Sting wears over his chest on the cover of the new Rolling Stone, and it isn't even the celebrated chest itself. It's that voice. Hinting at regret and resignation in every quiver, it's the perfect product for well into the Eighties. Encore, encore, encore, said the t-shirt buyers at Hartford, Connecticut, USA, and it wasn't just the lights they wanted.

Lightweight? Sure, but da do do do is all they want to hear...

(c) Sounds by Sandy Robertson