Zenyatta Mondatta

Tucson, AZ, US
University of Arizonawith XTC
The Police are, well, arresting...

Pound for pound, it was the most propulsive show to play the University of Arizona in years. The Police were billed as headliners, with New Wave band XTC in a supporting role.

But as it turned out, XTC was just as strong in its speciality as The Police were at giving the reggae beat some rock excitement. XTC also got to play an hour, including two encores. The Police weren't there much longer. They played an hour and 20 minutes.

It was, from start to finish, a singularly energetic evening. XTC used its relentless punk style drive to get a modest number of fans into the aisles before 9.30pm.

When The Police came out, they not only filled the aisles with dancers but had everyone else in the packed Main Auditorium on their feet. Many were standing on their seats.

The quality of the sound for both sets was also superb. While the bass notes were literally vibrating every rib cage in the audience, the tenor notes remained clear and crisp.

The Police, a force of three, used this juxtaposition of spatial effects to work a supple beat underneath bassist-lead vocalist Sting's high-pitched singing. He never seemed anything less than extremely urgent.

On stage, this trio sounds much more aggressive than it does on record. ''Killer reggae'' would be an appropriate label.

A negative surprise was the stage presence of Sting, who looks so dramatic on film. In person he is not at all appealing, but is insufferably arrogant. At his worst, he kept motioning for the audience to cheer him more, cheer him louder - even though all 2,600 people in the place were already screaming like rock'n'roll banshees.

Fortunately, the important parts of the music are a group effort. Sting's bass notes and Stewart Copeland's drumming fit tighter than Spandex pants. Andy Summers' guitar provided the flesh.

The song list included the currently breaking hit, 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da', about halfway through the set. Early on were 'Walking On The Moon' and 'Main In A Suitcase'. The show-closers were the group's biggest hits to date, 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Roxanne'.

XTC is as remarkable for its song lyrics as for its obsessive beat, which commands ''Dance! Or Else!'' The quartet combines primitive song arrangements and sophisticated thoughts compressed into short stanzas.

From 'No Language In Our Lungs' comes the perfect summation of a politician's mind in this election year, ''I thought I had the whole world in my mouth.''

On stage the band is equally abrupt. Hardcore playing with melodies that don't have many long notes, chord changes or delicate phrases. No one was doing any intricate instrumental solos either.

With XTC you either dance mindlessly or listen to the words thoughtfully. Not bad for options.

(c) The Tucson Citizen by Chuck Graham