On paper it sounds like the ending of a really cheesy movie. The leaders of two mercurial, groundbreaking British bands who came up at the same time in the new wave era share a stage three decades later, taking turns singing the verses of a somber ballad written back in the day.
But when Sting and Elvis Costello did just that at Red Rocks on Monday night it was a triumph, not cheesiness. Both started out with early hits and stayed vital as artists for most of their careers. Trading verses and harmonies on "Alison" seemed like a tribute to both where they came from and where they've gone since then.
Putting The Police and Costello on the same bill was a masterful idea that The Police really didn't need to entertain; Sting can sell out venues like Red Rocks on his own, and The Police tour has been a concert-world juggernaut.
Incredibly, neither act had played the Rocks before. Costello mentioned only being there at a concert with his wife, Diana Krall; Sting announced The Police had never played there.
They were rewarded with one of the most perfect weather nights of the summer, and fans got a full serving from both.
Costello served up some best-known songs early on, including "Pump It Up" and "Everyday I Write the Book," mixed with newer greats like "American Gangster Time" and "Either Side of the Same Town." His set was marred only by a bass-heavy mix and a guitar that was inaudible at times.
A rousing, set-closing "(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace Love and Understanding" followed the Sting duet.
In many ways The Police set list echoed the one at the Pepsi Center last year, with Message in a Bottle and "Walking on the Moon" making early appearances.
Yet nearly every song got a bit more of a rearranged tweaking, from "Can't Stand Losing You" to "Wrapped Around Your Finger"; other songs got added that weren't there before, including a pounding "Demolition Man."
The effects weren't quite as spectacular as last year, but a big screen gave close-ups of every detail, from Stewart Copeland's cymbals to Sting's open mouth (he appears to have excellent dental hygiene, by the way).
There was more crowd interaction, with all three band members loose and playful. Guitarist Andy Summers was particularly hot, nailing some deft, light guitar solos in "When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around."
An hour-plus main set turned to encores with "Roxanne," and the crowd lapped it up.