Last night I relived my childhood. I saw The Police in concert. The sound of Sting’s voice filling an open-air stadium (this time in Oakland) really took me back—though the biggest Proustian moment came when I saw Police posters for sale. Posters!
The performance was fantastic. Sting can still sing gorgeously. He’s still got a winning little twist to his mouth as he does it, and if my ass and biceps look as good when I’m 55, I will be seriously, seriously happy. (I’m not sure if it was an ironic note or not, but the band revisited its 80s look, headbands, sleeveless shirts and all.) The really great thing about the show was seeing the band feeling free to delve deeper into their influences. Sting got a little scat into “Roxanne,” which might have been borderline cheesy in a solo performance, but with Stewart Copeland there to reign him in, it was amazing. There is obviously still some interpersonal tension, but, damn, hearing them let their songs get a little abstract and airy, but then—POP!—bring them back down to earth, made me really wish they had been able to make that compromise as a band. In my younger years, I would send a dozen roses backstage for Sting at every concert. Last night, I thought the roses were for Stewart. (Andy came across as a man with ample skills but little soul.)
One disappointment: There was no political statement or undertone. Correction: During “Invisible Sun,” a song about the bleakness of the industrial age, the video monitors showed footage of what might have been Iraq. But, come on, “Bombs Away” was an obvious follow-up:
The President looks in the mirror and speaks
His shirts are clean but his country reeks
In Afghanistan hills
But we’re O.K…
“Walking in Your Footsteps” also begged to become a song about exploding the carbon bomb instead of the atom bomb (Hey there mighty brontosaurus / Don’t you have a message for us? You thought your rule would always last / There were no lessons in your past. … / If we explode the atom bomb, / Would they say that we were dumb?).
Nonetheless, the songs revealed their well-craftedness as the band turned some major chords minor, filled up some places that had been emptier, and emptied out some places that had been fuller. The Police aren’t just the pivotal band of my youth; they’re also a band that has earned a significant place in musical history.