Police Unforgettably Fine in Met Concert...
When a lot of rock performers reach the top, they simply rest on their laurels and coast through concerts, re-creating their hit records note for note.
Not the Police.
The hugely popular British trio's concert Thursday at Met Center was startlingly musical and improvisational. Never before has arena-rock - or the Police - been so jazzy and free-form. And the 14,709 concertgoers - most of whom were teenage or college age - simply loved it. Almost all of them stood and danced for the entire concert; from the loge seats, the main floor looked like a restless sea before a storm.
Like the Talking Heads and the Grateful Dead, the Police emphasize a spontaneous chemistry among musicians on stage. Anyway, with only three players supplemented by two backup singers, it would be difficult to imitate the Police's records which have featured elaborate overdubs of extra instruments.
It wasn't difficult to recognise any of the songs - the words and melodic hooks remain the same. Yet, in concert, it was easier to see how the Police interact as a creative ensemble. Stewart Copeland's drums sort of become the lead instrument, finding the groove that propelled the songs. Guitarist Andy Summers functioned as a texturiser, injecting washes of sound, cross-rhythmic chords and brief, jazzy runs. Sting contributed soft-spoken bass lines, and his voice carried the melodies, although his phrasing was often free-wheeling. Final choruses of songs became elongated improvisations or call-and-response chants of "ee-ay-oo", his battle cry that has helped win audiences in dozens of non-English-speaking cities in which the band has played.
With this kind of performing style the Police-men were too busy concentrating on their playing to be physically animated. Summers infrequently jumped up and down, and Sting danced a bit during the economical instrumental breaks.
Stage fog was employed during a couple of numbers, and the creative light show complemented the music nicely. A live video hook-up (with a big screen mounted over the front of the stage) provided close-ups of Copeland's stickwork. However, the video director had a tendency to change the shots too quickly, making the video jumpy and rhythmically out of sync with the music.
The pacing of the 95-minute performance was excellent until the trio took a break for a cup of tea about 70 minutes into the program. The video cameras followed the Police backstage for the tea and towelling off. Within two minutes, the musicians were back in the arena playing; however, they lasted only another 20 minutes. One ensuing encore did not seem to be enough; fans were hoping for another encore of 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', the trio's big hit of last year.
Nevertheless, it was an unforgettable show. The urgency of the loneliness in 'Message in the Bottle' became even more acute than the record as the band changed tempo dramatically and often. 'One World (Not Three)' rang like a polyrhythmic anthem, bridging Jamaica, Africa, Europe, the Orient and the United States in about five minutes.
Although the show focused on material from the current No. 1 album, 'Synchronicity', the loudest response was to two songs from the Police's 1977 debut album; a steamy truncated treatment of the hit 'Roxanne', an ode to a French prostitute and the harsh 'There's A Hole In My Life' that evolved into 'Hit The Road, Jack', a favourite Police jam at its concerts in the late '70's
Opening the evening was Ministry, a funky, techno-pop band from Chicago that is worth watching.
(c) Minneapolis Star & Tribune by Jon Bream