Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland have said that their current tour will be their last as The Police. Judging by their performance at Saratoga Performing Arts Center Friday night, that’s certainly a crying shame.
Playing to a crowd of roughly 40,000, the group sounded as if it had never broken up after 1983’s “Synchronicity.” Clearly, the boys have done some serious practicing in order to pull this reunion together and sound this great.
Opening to massive applause with “Message in a Bottle,” Sting and company proceeded to pummel the audience with tracks from each of their five studio records. The only one to really receive short shrift was debut “Outlandos d’Amour,” although the band naturally played “Roxanne” during the encore, and threw in “So Lonely” mid-encore, and a vamped version of “Can’t Stand Losing You” to close out the set proper.
Although the band might have been lacking some of the youthful energy of its heyday, this isn’t even really a complaint (come on, that was like, 20 years ago). They more than made up for it with tight, impassioned performances. Sting was clearly the focal point here, forcefully bellowing the lyrics to songs such as “Walking on the Moon” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” and running about the stage, at times sneaking up behind guitarist Summers.
Speaking of Summers, he had numerous moments to shine as well. His solo on “When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Around” in particular ripped quite nicely. And let’s not forget Copeland, whose coup de grace came during the tribal beats of “Wrapped Around Your Finger” later in the set.
If any complaint could be made, it’s that the band didn’t play long enough; the initial set lasted only an hour, although the encores lasted a good half-hour. The band’s set was polished and concise, lacking
somewhat in spontaneity, although at this point in the game these guys don’t really need to be spontaneous.
Contrast this to Elvis Costello, whose short, yet meaty 12-song set was comparatively raw. Costello concentrated heavily on his hits, although he did find space for songs from his latest effort, “Momofuku.”
As the album recalls Costello’s gritty garage heyday, performances of songs such as “American Gangster Time” and “Flutter and Wow” fit in quite nicely alongside more established material such as “Pump
it Up,” performed early on in the set.
The best moments, however, coincided with Costello’s best. A rapid fire, frenetic “Radio, Radio” received massive crowd approval; the only complaint was that it was over too soon. “Watching the Detectives” became the set’s centerpiece, prominently featuring Costello’s grinding noise guitar lead.
Costello saved the best for his last three songs, inviting Sting up to perform on an emotional reading of “Alison.” A tense performance of “Go Away,” from “Momofuku,” followed close behind, and by the time
Costello launched into “What’s So Funny ’Bout Peace, Love and Understanding,” the crowd had been whipped up into a sufficient frenzy. The song built to a deafening close, with drummer Pete Thomas, bassist Davey Faragher, keyboardist Steve Nieve and Costello pounding away at the closing notes of the song with vicious, animalistic power.