Chicago Sun-Times, May 11, 2008

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Police beat nostalgia, say proper goodbye to fans

Jeff Elbel

In October 2006, Andy Summers published "One Train Later," an entertaining memoir spanning the guitarist's formative musical experiences through the Police's chart-topping apex. The book concludes as Summers savours his accomplishment as part of the world's premiere rock trio, but he expresses regret that the group imploded without acknowledging its fans with a farewell tour. "There was need for a closure maybe impossible to obtain," he wrote.

Not two years later, the Police are taking a victory lap following 2007's most successful rock tour. Chicago fans with deep pockets got a triple treat on Saturday, as a jaunt emphasizing previously overlooked markets added Allstate Arena to last summer's packed Wrigley Field performances.

Most of the set echoed material played at the Friendly Confines, but innovative twists made familiar songs like "Roxanne" seem more adventurous. "Bring on the Night" was a new addition, led by Sting's undulating nylon string guitar and ghostly wails from Summers' road-worn Stratocaster. The loping reggae-pop of "Hole in My Life" was also freshly dusted off, featuring the sharp crack of Stewart Copeland's snare drum.

The band ignited during songs allowing Summers to slip his leash. The 65-year-old guitarist blazed through a stinging "Demolition Man," supported by Sting's nimble and bubbling bass. The slashing chords and sparking solo of "Driven to Tears" also lifted the show beyond nostalgia, as Copeland applied dexterous but pile-driving rhythm.

Some of the show's least forceful moments were its most mesmerizing. During "Wrapped Around Your Finger," Copeland left his drum set to tinker with racks of hanging bells, spinning discs, and a booming kettle drum. Summers' crystalline guitar chimed during "Walking on the Moon," while Copeland filled space between beats with colourful fills. Sting led the room in enthusiastically sung "e-yos."

There were a few missteps, including Sting's bungled verse during "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" and Copeland's blown ending during an otherwise hot "Next to You." A revamped "Don't Stand So Close to Me" had more life than the band's 1986 remake, but didn't achieve the tension captured on "Zenyatta Mondatta."

If anyone had a rough night overall, it was Sting, who kept a bottle of throat spray and steaming mug within close reach. His voice seemed rattiest while reaching for the high tenor of "Can't Stand Losing You." During "Every Breath You Take," Sting seemed grateful for the 14,000 strong voices that came to his aid. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for helping me out tonight," he said later. "I'll never forget it."

The Police recently announced their final show ever, a benefit concert to be held later this year in New York City. Unlike '80s veterans Asia and Bauhaus, whose classic lineups have released new albums this year, the Police seem determined not to muddy their legacy. But at least they came out for a proper goodbye.

Opening act Elvis Costello ensured that most attendees were in their seats early. Costello led his Imposters through fifty minutes of hard-hitting pop, including material from the new Momofuku album. The spiky reggae of "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea" and dub-influenced "Watching the Detectives" were ideally matched to the Police's radio-friendly mixture of punk, pop and reggae. Sting himself appeared for a duet on brooding ballad "Alison."

© Chicago Sun-Times


Chicago Sun-Times, June 13, 2006

Jeff Elbel reviews the The Police and opening act Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Saturday, May 10, 2008, Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL.


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