Time supposedly heals all wounds, but not for the Police. The famously combative trio is still fighting, though not nearly as much these days.
"In olden times, we tore each other to shreds 24/7, but now it's only a couple hours a day and it's only about the music," says drummer Stewart Copeland.
"We get along just fine socially until we strap on. Then it's ... 'I can't believe you're playing that.' " Mr. Copeland talks easily about the band's infighting, as if it's perfectly natural. In a way, it is.
Friction between Mr. Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers caused the Police to break up in the mid-'80s at the peak of the group's stardom. But friction is also what made the band's music tick.
The Police's songs sounded like an explosion at a record store as jazz collided with pop, reggae, punk and world music. Today, a year after the band reunited, the discord continues to make for a strange harmony.
"It's part of the dynamic," says Mr. Copeland. "It's an odd match, and we twist each other into shapes that aren't necessarily comfortable. But it's what makes it what it is."
The reunion tour started in May 2007 on a typically tense note. After opening night, Mr. Copeland wrote on his blog that Sting "looks like a petulant pansy" and said: "There is something wrong. This is unbelievably lame. We are the mighty Police and we are totally lost at sea."
In retrospect, he says he's sorry he besmirched "my buddy Sting" and blames the toxic blog item on hyper self-criticism.
"That night, we blew the building to smithereens. It was an incredible concert by anyone's standards other than our humble selves, because you just have this unshakable feeling that it sucked," says Mr. Copeland.
"I wrote, 'The mighty Police are lame.' I think we're lame even when we're great."
The Police reunion has been a box-office smash, selling 1.8 million tickets in 2007 and grossing $212 million, according to Billboard. But not all the customers left the arena satisfied.
After the band played American Airlines Center in June, some fans wrote The News complaining about the new arrangements and slower tempos for classics such as "Roxanne" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger." They paid up to $225 and they wanted the hits exactly the way they remembered them.
"We can't help but throw stuff in there and ham it up, which makes each night a little different," Mr. Copeland says. "We try to keep it pretty close to the original, but we're living, breathing musicians. We keep ourselves entertained."
Last year, the Police toured with Fiction Plane, a forgettable trio led by Sting's son, Joe Sumner. This year, the opening act is Elvis Costello, who came from the same late-'70s British punk scene from which the Police emerged.
"We're rivals," the drummer says. "The rivalry wasn't between bands, more between songwriters who had different values: One was about the hook, the other was about the depth of the poetry, although I'm not gonna say which was which."
Most critics would say Elvis is the better poet and give Sting the edge in the hook department. Either way, it's a killer double bill.
"If the support act really wakes the place up, it's all the better for us," Mr. Copeland says. "But there aren't enough Wheaties on the planet for them to eat to catch us. That ain't gonna work."'
Mr. Copeland, 55, Sting, 56, and Mr. Summers, 65, recently announced they'll go their separate ways again after a "last ever" show in New York City.
"We're such a force of revenue for so many people that the only way to get away from this behemoth is to put a stake through its heart and bury it, so everyone will get the message to go home and get another job," Mr. Copeland says.
The band hasn't yet set a date for the farewell show, and Mr. Copeland is in no hurry to do so.
Despite the creative bickering, the reunion has been profoundly moving, he says.
"The Police is kind of a church, and the concert is a liturgy of that which has gone before," he says. "When we play those songs, they're infused with two decades of people's lives. There's emotional baggage in those songs, and we feel the power of it. It's really something."