There is potentially nothing more hilarious than listening to 20,000 mostly nostalgia soaked Angelinos trying to keep pace with 'Roxanne'. As if the song's broken wandering verses aren't enough, a certain one named lead singer's penchant for scatting through his own well known catalog could make singing along especially challenging.
But Sting and his fellow Police men haven't reunited to make things musically or thematically tricky for themselves or their audiences.
'Roxanne', its syncopations manageable even for the sing-along inclined, arrives nearly half way through the band's two hour set, punctuated by a bath of - what else? - red lights and driven home by a powerhouse chorus. "Put on the red light! Put on the right light!"
The song is, of course, an enormous crowd pleaser. The whole evening is.
Taking in the band's hugely ballyhooed reunion tour Wednesday night (The Police plays the Honda Center Thursday and Dodger Stadium Saturday), I thought about a lyric from the band's 'So Lonely': "No surprise, no mystery." (At a ticket face value of up to $260, the preceding 'So Lonely' line "Just take a seat, they're always free" doesn't exactly apply).
This isn't entirely a criticism. Given that this is their first time together after nearly two and a half decades, Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland seem hell bent on giving the crowds exactly what they want. Who exactly can blame them?
The boys move their way through a collection of numbers - mostly hits - from their first five albums ('Ghost in the Machine' gets especially short shrift), not exactly hurrying to evening's end, but not lingering either. There is, from time to time, an occasion for the audience to parrot back one of Sting's ubiquitous 2Ee yo, ee yo yo yo" chants.
Between song patter? Personal or biographical insight? Not a trace. "We haven't been together in 24 years. I should introduce the band: Stewart, this is Andy. Andy, this is Stewart," Sting says some two songs in. Which about does it for the evening's non sung quotient.
The rest is music: familiar tunes (Man, they cut some great ones back in the day!) familiarly arranged. The band does not cover a single non Police track, much less any Sting, Copeland or Summers solos.
The set kicks off with a gong blast from Copeland, immediately followed by 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Synchronicity II' (Staples acoustics don't make for great attention to complex lyrics such as those that come with 'Synchronicity II'. The audience tends to greet especially popular numbers ('Don't Stand So Close to Me', 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic') with immediate great excitement, but the band isn't drawing out any of the lead ins. Like I said, they're here to play and play some more.
There are precious few opportunities for any of the three band mates- who perform with no back up musicians - to cut loose solo style within a song. Summers gets some strong individual riffs in during 'Can't Stand Losing You'. Copeland shuttles between his drums - for the heavier, harder beats - and an assortment of percussion and hanging instruments, including a xylophone, on 'Walking in your Footsteps' and 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' giving the latter a sultry exotic feel. Finally,some arrangement experimentation!
'Footsteps' finds dinosaur skeletons walking across the video screens, one of the rare instances during which those screens are used for anything other than band close-ups. The other is the overtly political 'Invisible Sun' - one of the few socially conscious songs The Police has included in this concert lineup. As Sting breaks off lyrics like "And they're only going to change this place/By killing everybody in the human race," the screens are replete with images of war torn Iraq and saucer eyed children.
Twenty four years has seen the band members age gracefully. Sting, his blond hair still with a trace of punkishness, is as sinewy and wails as mightily as ever. Summers, now in his 60s, looks and plays decades younger while Copeland's shock of bushy hair behind his headband has gone white. The trio are clearly marshalling their energies; there's not a lot of movement or leaping among any of the trio. Indeed, Joe Sumner, Sting's son and the speaker climbing lead singer of Wednesday's opening band, Fiction Plane, out-jumps his father by probably a 5:1 ratio.
Mutual on-stage acknowledgment is largely in short supply until the bows and encores, but this is clearly a reunion with rapport among its members. Talent, too. Sting pours a bit of reverse seductiveness into 'Don't Stand so Close'. 'King of Pain' and 'So Lonely' - performed during an encore set - are dynamically upbeat despite their rather gloomy subject matter.
There were three encores. The Police actually wished the audience good night before returning to sing 'Every Breath You Take'. Yeah, right. As if the satisfied 20,000 was going to leave the building before that one came around.
Not a lot of risk taking, to be sure, but while the Police are back together -even for a short time - they figure to have quite a few people watching every step they take, every move they make.
© The Los Angeles Daily News by Evan Henerson