Orlando Sentinel, May 19, 2008

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Not just the usual suspects

Jim Abbott

The Police and Elvis Costello find ways to bring new life to their classic songs.

One mark of an interesting band is the ability to find new ways to showcase old material.

In a generous, well-paced show Friday at Amway Arena, the Police made its second trek through Central Florida in roughly a year worth the time by tilting familiar songs at slight angles to make them fresh again.

Last summer at the St. Pete Times Forum, it was drummer Stewart Copeland who defined the sound, but his inventive percussion faced formidable competition on Friday from guitarist Andy Summers.

Although the band began on a subdued note, with the gentle tones of a gut-string guitar beneath "Bring on the Night," the trio mostly kept the energy high in faithful renditions of signature hits. The opener was followed by "Message In a Bottle," which sparked the first of numerous sing-alongs over nearly two hours.

Generally, the template varied little from the Tampa show, down to the "Are you ready to sing?" admonition that introduced "Walking on the Moon" in the early going. At times, it seemed as if the show was rolling off an assembly line, but it's hard to complain when the music is this engaging and precise.

Looking a bit older, with a scruffy, slightly gray beard, Sting was a fit, energetic presence. He carries himself with a swagger, but his band mates manage to match that charisma musically. Summers asserted himself with surprisingly ferocious lead work on "Driven to Tears," then shifted gears to open "Everything She Does Is Magic" with a lovely chiming introduction.

The latter was an inspired union of rhythm and melody that showed the band is still plenty nimble. In one of several well-timed transitions, it was followed by the moodier "Wrapped Around Your Finger." Copeland stepped from behind his drum kit on that one to tinker with an assortment of funky percussion toys.

If the Police occasionally took the subtle approach, opening act Elvis Costello and the Imposters banged away with arena-worthy intensity in a terrific 50-minute set that mixed songs off the new Momofuku with a reliable batch of favorites.

It was interesting to hear how smoothly chestnuts such as "Mystery Dance" segued into new songs such as "No Hiding Place," perhaps the hookiest Momofuku track.

Costello had some help from Sting on "Alison," but the big, brash ending wasn't as cool as the understated country touches that Costello has employed in smaller halls. His unhinged, distorted guitar solo in "Watching the Detectives," however, was sheer bliss.

By comparison, the Police tackled things with more restraint, even in the jazzy encore jam on "Roxanne." It was proof that a delicate touch can be effective, too.

© 2008 Orlando Sentinel Communications


Orlando Sentinel, May 19, 2008

Jim Abbott reviews The Police and opening act Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Friday, May 16, 2008, Amway Arena, Orlando, FL.


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