BURGETTSTOWN — The Police said farewell Monday without much sentimentality.
There were no teary-eyed goodbye speeches at P-G Pavilion; no fancy thanks-for-the-memory gestures from one of the '80s most successful rock bands during what was supposedly their eighth-to-the-last ever concert, and first in western Pennsylvania in 25 years.
The Police simply came out and rocked, which was OK, especially for fans who don't require note-for-note reproduction of songs as they sound on radio.
Throughout their one-hour-40-minute set, the three blonde Police-men — singer-bassist Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers — often tinkered with the speed and intensity of well-known songs.
That strategy worked on "Don't Stand So Close to Me," with its slow simmering intro, and "Can't Stand Losing You," which ended with Summers strumming U2/Edge-like riffage.
Though "Roxanne" suffered from a stretched out and bogged down middle, while "So Lonely" lingered a little too long.
The trio's musicianship was sharp, notably Copeland's reggae-jazz flourishes on "Walking on the Moon" and "Driven to Tears" that latter song featuring fine shredding from Summers.
Sting's voice sounded sturdy all night. He smiled a lot, too, like when jokingly questioning why he gave up a teaching job with a pension to pursue a music career. He insisted he recalled the Police's first Pittsburgh concert in 1978, adding, "I was 10." (According to the band's own press release, the first Police show here was March 1979 at the Decade in Oakland).
For someone who's 56, Sting looks extremely fit, as he felt compelled to display in a tight shirt that looked like some wind-resistant outfit you'd see on an Olympic bobsledder. Alas, his shirt wasn't stain resistant, as several sweat marks would prove on that humid night.
The night's most surprising fashion statement came from Summers, whose guitar strap featured Kenny from TV's South Park with the catch phrase, "Oh, no they killed Kenny." Sting's strap had what looked like a sheriff's badge.
All levity was cast aside as the band launched into "Invisible Sun," while a video screen showed black-and-white slide photos of unsmiling, presumably impoverished or war-stricken children of various ethnicity. That video could have been cliched and overwrought, but as the song approached its ending, optimism emerged and the children were shown smiling and laughing. A nice touch.
Some fans may have wished the band had played a longer show. A lesser-known gem like "Murder by Numbers" or "Canary in a Coalmine" could have been a fabulous addition.
And while a little hard to pinpoint, there seemed to be something lacking from the show; some sort of intangible or spark that could have elevated the Police's performance from good to transcendent.
After all, it was their final Pittsburgh show, and every little thing they did should have been magic.
Instead, the night seemed a bit anti-climactic, maybe because Pittsburgh missed out on the first leg of the North American farewell tour last year.
Still, we thank the Police for the memories.
And a hearty "Bravo!" to Monday's opening act Elvis Costello & the Imposters, who ripped and roared through oldies like "Pump it Up," "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" and their reggae-rock take on film noir, "Watching the Detectives."
The ballad "Alison" was most special, as Sting trotted onto the stage unannounced to join Costello on the chorus.
No rocker makes more eye contact with his audience than Costello, who successfully implored fans to get on their feet.
Costello has a new record, "and when I say record, I mean a piece of plastic with a groove in it," he said.
He and the Imposters played a few entertaining cuts from that record, most notably "American Gangster Time."