"We are the Police and we're happy to be back in Chicago," Sting told 40,000
fans at Wrigley Field on Thursday, the first of a two-night stand on the
trio's much-anticipated and heavily hyped reunion tour.
Moments later, the crowd was booing the peroxide blond threesome, but
that wasn't a comment on the music. The bassist and vocalist of the New Wave
hitmakers had simply noted that the last time he, guitarist Andy Summers and
drummer Stewart Copeland played here was in 1983 -- at Comiskey Park -- and
no mention of that venue will ever play in the Friendly Confines.
A consistent criticism of the tour has held that, Sting's stage patter
aside, the three musicians haven't seemed all that happy to be standing
onstage together again. Another knock has been that their renditions of
their greatest hits have been wildly inconsistent.
Well, maybe it took 21 shows to warm up and recover the groove the group
abandoned 21 years ago, but the Police showed as much vim, vigor and
fondness for each other and the material as I remember at the last two shows
I witnessed, at Madison Square Garden and Shea Stadium back in the day. And
truth be told, they were pretty inconsistent then, too. Some songs were
great, but just as many fell flat, and the same was true on Thursday.
On the plus side of the ledger: passionate versions of "Synchroncity II"
and "When the World Is Running Down..." that allowed Summers to stretch out
with some fiery but complex solos illustrating his merger of punk and
progressive rock, and entrancing takes on "Walking on the Moon" and "Wrapped
Around Your Finger" that respectively showcased Copeland's polyrhythmic
dexterity and flair for incorporating ethnic percussion and world rhythms.
As for luxury sports car pitchman and yoga guru Sting, he may have
transposed the keys for several tunes to make up for what he's lost at the
high end of his register. But to his credit, he didn't expand the Police
sound with hired musicians or digital backing tracks, and he was much better
in this setting than he's been on any of his jazz- and New Age-tainted solo
On the debit side, we also got dreadfully dragging versions of "Don't
Stand So Close to Me" and "Walking in Your Footsteps"; a leaden "Invisible
Sun" further weighted down by pretentious photos of Third World youth
splashed on the giant video screens and truly lousy readings of "De Do Do
Do, De Da Da Da" and "Roxanne," which are tired enough without meandering
jams stretching things out.
In the end, fans who saw the group during its heyday got a welcome dose
of nostalgia. Fans who never thought they'd get to see the famously
fractious trio had their chance. And whether any of it was worth $14.50 per
song -- which is what concertgoers who paid $275 for seats on the field
shelled out --probably depends on how much you loved those hits and how
little that kind of an expense hurts your budget.
In the most egregious example of nepotism Chicago has witnessed since
Todd Stroger, Fiction Plane opened with Sting's son Joe Sumner in the same
role as pop, holding down bass and vocals in a power trio. He sang like dad,
too, but the resemblance ended there, with Fiction Plane's generic chiming
pop lacking any of the drive, sonic originality or sophisticated songwriting
of the Police at their best.
WITH FICTION PLANE
When: 6:30 tonight
Where: Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison