Thursday was a gorgeous day in Chicago; a bit humid, but it was still an amazing evening for The Police concert. Overall I thought it was a fantastic show, and unlike Greg Kot at the Tribune, I was perfectly happy with the start of the show (“Message In A Bottle”) and the fact that it built to a higher energy in the second half. I’ve been lurking on the forums at Stewart Copeland’s site for a while, so I knew that the guys had worked out new arrangements to many of the songs.
I thought starting with “Message In A Bottle” and “Synchronicity II” was good, because they are pretty high energy songs that are known by even casual Police fans. Then they did a set of more mellow songs, including new slower-paced arrangements of some songs (I am forgetting the actual songs and the order). At that point a lot of the audience sat down, because the mood was more mellow (and, after all, this is an audience of 35-55 year old folks!). In this set was what I thought was the least successful of the new arrangements, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”. This song depends crucially on a sort of agonized tension as the teacher struggles against his desire for his student. The decision to sing in a lower key sapped the chorus of the energetic tension required to pull off that emotion. Sting sang on key, but the overall effect was flat.
The guys really hit their stride with “Truth Hits”, which is an excellent song, and the new arrangement really works. Of course, I loved “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, which they didn’t mess with too much, and the video of which firmly cemented my Monster Crush On Stewart Copeland. Everyone sang along with “Roxanne”, of course. There were two instances in which they mashed-up songs, using one song as a bridge in another; the first was “Voices Inside My Head” with “When The World Is Running Down”, and the second was “Can’t Stand Losing You” with something I’m completely blanking on. “Regatta de Blanc” was very effective for stadium audience participation, with Sting egging us on to sing “eee-ay-yo” over and over at the top of our lungs (Greg Kot found this to be one of Sting’s verbal tropes, but if you really know the Police well, you know that this is a strong thread of the reggae themes in their music). “Walking In Your Footsteps” had very cool dinosaur video effects and was well-arranged, as was “Invisible Sun”. I also liked how they played some older, less well-known songs in the latter half; they ended with “So Lonely” and “Next To You”, and they were an energetic frenzy.
One of the coolest things was in “Next To You”, their last song, they left the stage, and Stewart came back wearing a Cubs jersey that said “Copeland 07” on the back. A very classy touch. They also showed a montage of old photos while they built up the frenetic energy in the song. It was a great way to end the show.
We had seats at the bend between the third base line and home plate, which meant that the stage was pretty far away. But once they started playing, they displayed images on three large screens behind the stage and one screen to each side. The stage itself was very spare (befitting the spare structure underlying the music), but the most amazing thing about the stage setup was the camera work and the lighting. The sides of the stage were set up for very cool, tall light effects, simple but extremely effective. I loved the camera work, because all three of the guys got lots of camera attention, Stewart’s drum kit was well-lit, and the camera shots did a good job of showing their musicianship by focusing on their hands while playing. The camera work helped make this a concert for the connoisseur as well as the casual pop fan. Even after 23 years I remain firmly convinced that these three guys are amazing musicians, and that Stewart Copeland in particular is one of the most creative and gifted drummers I’ve ever heard in my life. He also has a brilliant and incisive wit that I love.
Sting also did a good job of dealing with the fact that this was a stadium show and not an arena show or a club show; he didn’t talk too much, and he involved the audience in call-and-response on several of the songs. In our section most everyone was singing and dancing the whole time. Here it is, 14 hours later, and my adrenalin is still high, and we’re still sitting around watching Police videos on YouTube.