Friday, November 16, 2007

The Police, Charlotte Bobcats Arena, Nov. 15, 2007

Back in the day, I saw The Police on the Regatta De Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, and Ghost In The Machine tours. When they came around on the Synchronicity tour, I said, ah, no biggie, I'll catch 'em next time and didn't go. Little did I know that I would have to wait 23 years for that opportunity, and little did I know during those years that I would even get the opportunity. But I did, and 25 years after the Ghost In The Machine show, I saw The Police live for the 4th time.

As I was pondering all this earlier in the week, it struck me that I had never heard any of the songs from the Synchronicity album live. I got that and a whole lot more, on to the review.

First of all, we weren't sure the concert would even be held, as the previous night's show in Philadelphia had been canceled due to Sting having the flu. The only evidence of the flu was the little table he had next to him, which held a big box of Kleenex, some various sprays, and a mug of (presumably) hot tea. He had fun with the sprays, at one point spraying Andy Summers, as well as his own armpits, with one of the spray bottles. His singing was spot-on, and playing as usual was beastly.

But let me start from the beginning, with the opening act, which was Fiction Plane, consisting of Joe Sumner (son of Sting, on bass and lead vocals, imagine that) and a guitarist and drummer (imagine that). Previous reviews from this tour had led me to believe these guys sucked big-time, they were not all that bad. Joe's singing sounded just like his dad at times, and his bass playing was pretty darn impressive, dad must have showed him a thing or two. (Trivia - Fiction Plane is an anagram of Infant Police, Joe Sumner denies there is any significance to this). Their music was pretty standard modern rock, some songs sounded like U2, with maybe a little Wolfmother thrown in. They played 7 or so songs, then it was on to The Police.

As they opened with Message In A Bottle, I thought, "wow, these guys have got the ultimate arena-rock opening song" but then I realized when they wrote it, they were playing college auditoriums at best, definitely not arenas. Guess they were prescient, because if that one doesn't get you rocking, nothing will. The sound was great, the fascinating thing was it was just the three of them, no pre-recorded tracks, no extra instrumentalists, no background singers. They filled all the sonic spaces and then some, they have the power trio thing down.

Here's the setlist as best I could reconstruct it, with comments on highlights following it.

Message in a Bottle
Walking On The Moon
Synchronicity II
Voices Inside My Head
When The World Is Running Down
Don't Stand So Close To Me
Driven To Tears
Truth Hits Everybody
Hole In My Life
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
Invisible Sun
Walking In Your Footsteps
Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta De Blanc

1st Encore -

King Of Pain
So Lonely
Every Breath You Take

2nd Encore-

Next To You

The first major highlight, other than just the thrill of it all, and amazement at how great these guys still are, was Voices Inside My Head leading into a very up-tempo, rockin' version of When The World Is Running Down, which featured about a 4 minute guitar solo from Andy Summers that blew everybody away. The guy is 65 years old, and still has massive chops.

Driven To Tears was incredible as well, all of the songs, even the pop hits, were played in a much more rocking fashion than on the albums. Andy rocked the house on this one as well. Then they launched into one of my personal faves, Truth Hits Everybody, the people who were there for the hits didn't quite know what to make of it, very punk, very rockin', of course I was singing at the top of my lungs - "Take a look at my new toy, it'll blow your head into a void!" Great stuff.

Hole In My Life featured Sting riffing on Hit The Road Jack in the middle, that was kinda cool. Wrapped Around Your Finger featured Stuart stepping up to his secondary drum riser, filled with all sorts of spinning cymbals, xylophones, marimbas, gongs, bells, tympani, etc. Very cool.

Walking In Your Footsteps - what can I say, head music to beat all head music. Sting didn't sing the part about Mr. Brontosaurus an octave up like he did 25 years ago, but they adjusted the instumental dynamics to make up for it. Stuart obviously played the exotic percussion on this one as well.

Can't Stand Losing You - This was great, then in the middle of it, they played Regatta De Blanc, very cool with 15,000 people singing "De-yo, de-yo, de-yay-yo" while the boys rocked out. Then back into some more of Can't Stand Losing.

The boys left the stage at this point, then came back for a 4-song encore, followed by a second encore of Next To You. The highlight here was So Lonely, if I have my songs straight, Andy played an amazing "chord solo", of course he was playing incredible jazz chords all night, when the big screens showed his hands, you could see that he has some amazing "guitar hands" and can play some seriously wild chords.

This one definitely goes down in my top-10 all-time concerts, I must confess I had listened to very little Police music in the past 20 years, I will definitely not make that mistake over the next 20, seeing these guys still at the top of their game reminded me of just how good they were and are. Cream is probably the only other band I can think of where you get to see 3 virtuoso players (ok, maybe Rush) filling an arena with amazing music.

Sting said "we'll see you again", hopefully that will be sooner than 20+ years.