SARATOGA SPRINGS — "The question is do you want to sing with me tonight?"
Sting didn't really need to ask, but the crowd roared back in the affirmative.
"There are 20,000 of you out there tonight, so I wanna see 40,000 hands in the air," he added, like some kind of cheerleader.
Again the crowd didn't need much coaxing. They were packed into the Saratoga Performing Arts Center for one reason — to see the reunited Police before their 14-month reunion tour comes to an end next week.
From Stewart Copeland's opening bang on a five-foot gong, the Police could do no wrong, and the enthusiastic crowd was on its feet all night long — cheering, dancing and singing along with nearly all of the hits that the British rock trio dredged up from their career days (1977-85).
Launching the night with the reggae-laced "Message in a Bottle" and the dreamy, shimmering "Walking On the Moon," it was clear that bassist-vocalist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland were in fine form. Despite Sting's scraggly salt and pepper beard, his voice was strong and supple, easily reaching for the high notes and holding them with surprising command.
This wasn't merely a nostalgia show, and more than a few in the crowd had already seen the band several times since they kicked off their reunion tour back in May 2007. The music sounded fresh and exciting, whether it was the hammering power-trio riffing of "Demolition Man," the crowd-pleasing pop of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" or the tightly woven, jazz-flecked ensemble work of "Driven to Tears."
Copeland was a stand-out all night long, and he made the most of his moment in the spotlight for a slinky, exotic re-arrangement of "Wrapped Around Your Finger," flailing away at an array of percussion instruments from chiming temple bells to thundering tympani.
It's been 30 long years since the Police made their Capital Region debut at the long-defunct Hulla Baloo nightclub in Rensselaer, and if Friday night's show wasn't quite as exciting as that one, it was at least a fine and fitting farewell.
Elvis Costello opened the show with an impressive, 55-minute set that saw him sprinkling in some sparkling new tunes from his latest album, Momofuku, along with a well-chosen batch of old favorites. Despite some equipment problems — both his amplifier and his microphone had to be replaced mid-show — Costello and his band (bassist Davey Faragher, drummer Pete Thomas and the inventive keyboardist Steve Nieve) ripped through "Radio, Radio," "Everyday I Write the Book" and "Pump It Up."
The clattering "Lipstick Vogue" (with Nieve on theremin) and the carnival-noir deconstruction of "Watching the Detectives" were the highlights, although the crowd roared the loudest for the ballad "Alison," performed as a duet with Costello and Sting.
In fact, Costello and the Imposters were so good that it was hard to believe that they were the opening act.