Drummer Stewart Copeland hasn't yet posted another "disaster gig" review, as he did a couple months ago on his message board, and last Tuesday's Police concert at the Xcel Energy Center hardly qualified, whatever Bream or Ross say.
But the local stop of the reunion tour contained at least one highly entertaining fuckup: Guitarist Andy Summers lost his place on "Every Breath You Take." First of all, how do you lose your place on "Every Breath You Take"? I can play that song with my feet. Second, the Police were playing it not as That Stalker Song, which is what it is, but as That Song That Got Us a Massive Audience That Doesn't Give a Crap About The Rest of Our Music, which is also what it is. So instead of being moody and minimal, they rocked out so as to bond with all those embracing couples mistaking a creepy domination fantasy for the summertime anthem of their youth. Which somehow made it all the more fun to watch the exchange of looks between permanently amused-to-be-here singer-bassist Sting, and Summers, who looked like he'd just been yanked back from a conversation he was having three cities ago.
The Youtube footage of "Message in a Bottle" confirms what I thought at the time: The song rocks, and that guitar line would justify any band's career. That's how the Police began, and it's a good opener. The lyrics are charming rather than quaint or outright bad, though I enjoyed the Youtube comment "Twin Cities is doing fine Sting. Hey, who was the 10 millionth visitor or whatever? I got yer goddamned message in that bottle, bro..."
I came to love the Police before I appreciated the art of lyrics, so rhyme dictionary lines such as "I have only come here seeking knowledge/Things they would not teach me of in college" (on "Wrapped Around Your Finger") never bothered me until high school (1984 yo), and the song has never been quite as powerful since. Still, the second creepiest song on Synchronicity was, again, great live, even in revisionist form, with Copeland banging away on percussion rather than drums until the typically stirring rock coda.
"Wrapped Around Your Finger" was the first Police song in my young fandom where the music overwhelmed any consciousness of the lyrics (my friend Josh informed me the tune was about marriage, but then Josh was smarter than I), and I vaguely remember thinking it came from Mars until I first heard the Clash's version of "Armagideon Time." Still, there was a straight line between the Clash to the Police to Big Audio Dynamite to Fugazi to—nobody really (Fishbone?), in which reggae not only informed but galvanized and reshaped a great guitar band's entire rhythmic gestalt, and "Wrapped Around My Finger" stands as a masterpiece in this company today as much as ever.
As for Sting's much maligned "jazzy" reinterpretations of the ends of songs, I'd say about half worked, and half didn't, and since I wasn't taking notes I couldn't tell you which half. I wasn't transported by the show, as I was watching U2 a couple years ago, and I wasn't entertained the way Prince entertains. The band's jokes were entirely verbal, and in the nosebleeds, and with that overly reverbed vocal mic, I couldn't make out a word.
But there was the feel, and the pleasure, of simply watching three guys connect in the unique musical way they do, with Copeland going from apparently willing but expressionless participant to singing along even on the dumb songs: I would blow my head off if I had to play "Roxanne" as many times as he has, but there he was mouthing the words, smiling, bringing Andy Summers back to earth. Hope to read about it on his message board.