We don’t need no stinking badges!

The first time I saw The Police in concert was twenty-five years ago. They played the Sunrise Music Theater, a small venue that seated a couple of thousand people in Sunrise, Florida. I was about a dozen rows back, slightly stage left of center. Sting was playing the stand-up bass.

When I saw them last week, it was in Southern California. The venue seats a little less than 20,000. I sat in the Terrace. Still, it wasn’t a bad view since I was directly next to the stage at the front of the section, so the view was completely unobstructed. Besides, there were a couple of jumbotrons directly in front of me.

I’ve also seen Sting perform solo in concert, and I enjoy his music. Nonetheless, I prefer his work with The Police. I was excited to get the opportunity to see the group rejoined again after so long. I had very high expectations, considering the three of them are now seasoned veterans and Sting is a great talent. In the end, the show was enjoyable but it didn’t meet my expectations.

Surprisingly, the star of the show was clearly Stewart Copeland. His drumming and percussion performance was flawless, and his style was captivating. The Police’s rhythms are so complex, yet the beauty of Copeland’s drumming is more the riffs he leaves out than the ones he plays.

Sting’s bass playing was also excellent. However, he was not in top form vocally—it wasn’t bad, but he didn’t have the chops I’ve heard him sing before. In all fairness, that should come as no surprise considering he got little vocal support from his band mates, and they had already been touring for a while. The vocals were left almost entirely up to Sting. There were none of the harmonies that their studio work has and there were little backup vocals. Sting’s voice was probably a bit tired and so he didn’t hit some of the higher notes.

Certainly Andy Summers should have been able to sing a lot more than he did. It’s not as if he was too busy playing guitar. Summers plays few of the fast, intricate leads so common in rock. He mostly played his trademark simple, spatial guitar licks. Nonetheless, he did a fairly good job playing them.

The stage production was somewhat lackluster, particularly juxtaposed against the Roger Waters concert I went to last week. The Police had a typical laser and light show. They played a couple of videos on the jumbotrons, but it was mostly live shots of the band that they played on them. The sound reinforcement was a little muddy with the reproduction of the bass and drums when they were playing fast and loud.

However, when the band was playing some of their more spatial songs that they’re noted for, their instrumental work was excellent. It was refreshing to be treated to quality musicianship by a classic power trio line-up that is so rare in contemporary music. Although I wasn’t blown away by the concert, I was well entertained. The Police showed that they don’t need to carry badges to do good work.

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