Chicago, IL, US
Rosemont Horizonwith Re-Flex
Intensity makes up for lost subtleties at Police concert...

There comes a point where a band's popularity becomes so widespread that its concerts take the form of mass singalongs. The Police have clearly reached that point, as their sold-out Sunday night concert at the Rosemont Horizon easily proved.

In one hit after another, one could hear less of the band and more of the fans, who sang along in a variety of keys and intonations. The effect was something like a massive tryout for an opening in the group, as if this inventive and persuasive rock trio needed one.

With the searing vocals of songwriter-bassist Sting, the guitar work of Andy Summers and the exotic percussion by Stewart Copeland, the Police created a sound and a style that, if not quite its own, at least borrows elegantly from all the right places.

Tints of reggae, hints of pop, undercurrents of New Wave, a driving rock pulse and other diverse musical influences make up one of the most widely accessible international bands playing today. The art, in this case, is in the way the Police put it all together.

This is a band that reaches an audience essentially through the craft of its music. And though the band may pale in the stage-charisma department, it at least offers something to think about at every moment of virtually any tune. Take 'Synchronicity I' which opened the concert and served as its emblem (this is, after all, the Police's 'Synchronicity' tour, a title taken from the band's current multimillion selling album). The driving rhythms, spindly textures, piquant harmonies and symbol-laden lyrics epitomise what the Police do best. There may be only three men in the band, but together they create an aura that is intense and a musical language that is almost always compelling, pleasing and dare we say it - tuneful.

Given the world-wide marketing success of the band's 'Synchronicity' theme, it was no surprise that the second tune of the evening was 'Synchronicity II'. Here again one can only tip the hat to a band that expresses heavy social commentary (''Another suburban morning / Grandmother screaming at the wall...'') in a song that is as musically simple and digestible as, say, a Broadway tune. And so it went in this Police hit parade, which was thoroughly dominated by the oft-played music from the 'Synchronicity' album. Technically.

But if the subtleties were lost, at least the musical intensity was not. Time after time, the group took the slow tunes slower than we're used to hearing them, the fast ones faster. 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' was slow and sultry as could be, with Sting bathed in a flood of light as he sang it 'Every Breath You Take', which has a cat-like deliberation on the record, moved along at an aggressive clip in performance. For contrast to the 'Synchronicity' style, there were the band's oldies, which sounded a tad less slick.

As stage performers, the Police probably won't put Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones out of business. Still, there seems to be something decidedly lacking in Sting's running laps around the stage. Great entertainment this is not.

But for those who are fans of the music, and practically everyone in the house seemed to be, the Police did the job with savvy and enthusiasm.

(c) The Chicago Tribune by Howard Reich