The best of what's still around

July 6, 2007


"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 tours.

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.



When: 6:30 tonight
Where: Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison
Tickets: Sold-out