Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy
Every other large-scale concert of the year so far.
Believe the hype. It’s not often I’ll say that. But last night’s Dolphin Stadium stop of the Police megatour revealed a band so technically assured and connected onstage, even after a 21-year break, that every new jack rock act should stop immediately and take notes.
Good thing, too, for the 44,000+ paying fans in attendance who deserved to get their money’s worth. Because tickets were damn pricey: Seats in the stadium itself were $50 to $90, before service charges. Tickets in the expansive field section, the only place from which the band itself was physically visible, were a whopping $225 (more for a VIP package). Oh well, at least a portion of the proceeds were going to the international NGO Water Aid.
Starting promptly at 6:40 was first opening act, Fiction Plane, which – let’s just get this out of the way – is Sting’s son’s band. Like other famous sons-of (Jakob Dylan, the Lennons), vocalist/bassist Joe Sumner has huge shoes to fill, and an uphill battle doing so. He’s off to a running start. Even though the stadium was about a fifth full, the threesome played their upbeat rock with brio. And Sumner both looks and, more importantly, sounds like his dad – good things. Fiction Plane’s own headlining show this Thursday should better reveal how he sets himself apart.
Next up, Maroon 5, in their first appearance opening for the Police. As they took the stage, the audience’s energy, especially the female portion, palpably ratcheted up a notch. Singer Adam Levine is celebrated as much for his clean-cut good looks as for his impressive soul-inflected falsetto, and he was as unthreateningly pretty as ever in a popped-collar navy polo and tight white pans. All he had to do was pause for a moment, and a series of whoops accompanied the audible thud of panties hitting the ground. But still, he seemed nervous, attacking every song with the same stony look of concentration. This wouldn’t have been visible further out, though, and the band was tight, and Levine’s voice still achieving its unique modulations. Hopefully after a couple more dates at such large venues, he’ll loosen up a bit and start having more fun.
Finally, at 8:50, a dramatic darkening of the stage lights, and then appeared drummer Stewart Copeland’s staggeringly complex drum kit on a riser, bathed in a yellow light. Then Copeland himself banged a gong, and the rest of the band materialized.
Sting has almost always seemed a near-mythical superhuman, and his appearance just furthered this notion. Trim and muscular in a wiry way, he looked at least 15 years younger than he actually is, and fit enough to take on a man half his age. His crystalline eyes were mischievously alive, and he sang while maintaining his trademark semi-bounce and arch half-smile, never seeming to tire. Hell, the man didn’t even really sweat, just “glowing” instead.
Copeland, meanwhile, though completely silver-maned, looked youthfully elated the entire time, pounding his kit with charmingly goofy seriousness. After particularly rousing numbers, he’d punch the air in triumph. Axman Andy Summers was more subdued, but allowed himself to crack a smile or two after some particularly shredding solos.
And further to their credit, the Police stayed relevant an immediate onstage, skipping the theatrics and pyrotechnics of dinosaur bands. The stage set was relatively stripped down, with some colored lights at the sides and top, and a few closeup screens behind and on either side of the trio.
As for the music – before this tour, the Police played their last concert together in 1986, but it sounded as though the intervening 21 years never happened. The three bandmates still possessed a near-telekinetic connection onstage, a mere glance passing between them as they passed quickly back and forth from razor-sharp to improvisational. Classic tunes were sometimes given reworked intros and outros, but only just – true to form, the set was kept supertight. And much like Police songs themselves, the set list was designed for a tension of energy – volume and tempo would increase for a few tracks until a frenzied crescendo, and the band would pull back a little for a somewhat softer outing.
Attending a reunion concert by an older band can be a little bit like attending Catholic church, with its ritualized sitting and standing at the mass proscribed times. Stand when you should be sitting, and risk raising the vitriol of the more tired people behind you. But from the opening strains of “Message in a Bottle,” the crowd was on its feet, all the way through the end of the third (!) encore, over an hour and a half later. Bang for the buck, indeed. -- Arielle Castillo
Police set list:
1. Message in a Bottle
2. Synchronicity II
3. Walking on the Moon
4. Voices Inside My Head
5. Don’t Stand So Close to Me
6. Driven to Tears
7. Truth Hits Everybody
8. The Bed’s Too Big Without You
9. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
10. Wrapped Around Your Finger
11. De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
12. Invisible Sun
13. Walking in Your Footsteps
14. Can’t Stand Losing You
16. King of Pain
17. So Lonely
18. Every Breath You Take
19. Next To You
I’m way too young to have caught the Police the first time around, and I have serious misgivings about stadium concerts.
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Thought tickets were expensive? Parking was $30.
By the Way:
Maroon 5 makes up for its previously postponed club date at Studio A today at 3:00 p.m (sold out). Fiction Plane headlines at the Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.