June 13, 2007
Better than: Sting’s solo material; most new rock bands.
It was totally worth the wait. Twenty-four years since the Police last played the Bay Area (that would be 1983’s Synchronicity tour), the onetime kings of post-new wave, sorta punky-with-reggae-influences pop returned to the Oakland Coliseum, to the delight of 46,500 folks, many of them between 40-45, or old enough to have caught them the first time.
Of course, the difference between a Police reunion show, and any other over-the-hill geezer revue is that this is the first time the UK trio have toured since breaking up, which makes their comeback more of a unique happening than, say, the Eagles’ “Hell Freezes Over 14 Tour.” And with no new material out, the band had no choice but to play the classics everyone loved so much back when.
An opening set by the Fratellis (coming to the Fillmore tonight), a band best known for an iTunes commercial, was loud, loud, loud. Enough to make improvised earplugs fashioned out of napkins, that’s how loud they were. The Fratelli’s mix of blues-tinged rock and rockabilly-tinged rock was competent enough, although there was a sense during their set of, y’know, just waiting around for the main event.
As for the main event itself, well, what can you say but, 45-year old dudes with bleached-blonde hair, rock on! From the opening notes of “Message in a Bottle” to the last resounding guitar strum of “Next to You,” the Police were everything they were cracked up to be, and only slightly worse for the wear. Sting sounded better tossing out pretentious Nabokov references in-between loping, Robbie Shakespeare-esque basslines than he does issuing pretentious, new age-y world music-tinged treatises that should belong to Yanni (and Yanni alone). Stuart Copeland was a drum monster all night, and Andy Summers’ guitar runs cut through the crowd like a knife through hot butter. All the hits were there, from the obligatory (“Roxanne,” “Every Breath You Take,” “King of Pain”) to the semi-obscure (“Invisible Sun,” “Driven to Tears,” “Voices in My Head”). But the most impressive thing about the Police’s set was that it was just the three of them -- no extra musicians, no 14-voice chorus, no guest appearances by Carlos Santana or the Dalai Lama. The arrangements were perhaps a tad mellow, but other than that, it was just like 1983 all over again. Don’t believe Stewart Copeland: The Police still rock.
Critic’s Notebook: T-shirts were $40. Beers were $10. Top ticket was $225. This was the first U.S. show of the Police tour which opened in Edmonton. All 46,500 tickets sold out in under an hour. -- Eric K. Arnold