Dodger Stadium, June 23
By Siran Babayan
Dodgers Stadium. Never Again. I had an easier time getting through the birth canal than I did zigzagging in and out of the stadium’s graveyard of a parking lot where the traffic was so brutally long and slow all four passengers in the Prius in front of me took naps in between stop-and-gos.
Well, one has to earn comped $250 floor seats a few feet away from Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Marisa Tomei who had come, like I, to watch the Police – a band that turned their brand of reggatta de punk into commercial gold, doing what predecessors like the Clash couldn’t do and essentially becoming one of the biggest bands in the world – reunite and play to 55,000 castaways looking for a home.
It’s easy to pick on Sting for making one smooth jazz album after another as if he’s been stuck inside an elevator since the Police‘s unofficial split, when in fact, all three had jazz backgrounds before and after the band. (It was Sting, by the way, who made the first move towards reunification). And maybe 23 years was just the right amount of time the boys needed to pursue all those other ventures (solo efforts, movie roles, film scores, autobiographies), regroup, and sound as cohesive and effortless as they did on this night, each under his own colossal spotlight – Andy Summers, in control of the ax, minus the guitar god bravado; Stewart Copeland, a marching band geek in a headband and white gloves behind the skins; and Sting, so at ease and confident, with nary a bead of sweat on his toned and tanned 55-year-old body.
The band opened with “Message in a Bottle” and then coasted through a mostly best-of, two-hour set spanning their catalogue from the1978 debut Outlandos d’Amour to their blockbuster swan song Synchronicity. “Don’t believe what I saw,” sang Sting, eyes rolling across the filled high-altitude seats. Ah, but this was no ordinary greatest hits show. The trio kept themselves off the nostalgia bandwagon and exercised their might as musicians by tweaking some of the more familiar numbers, making them soar to newer and greater heights. Sting turned all scat man jazzbo during “Roxanne,” when the stage lights appropriately went red, and lowered his register to emphasize the lecherous lyrics on the hot-for-student “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” proving there’s still a lot of passion in those pipes. (No one wants to hear Sting the preacher man, yet “Invisible Sun’s words – “I don’t wanna spend the rest of my days/Keeping out of trouble like the soldiers say” – sadly resonate more today than they did in 1981 when he wrote it as a lamentation on Northern Ireland.) And Copeland gave songs such as “King of Pain” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger” a more exotic, Eastern flare by tinkering with a nifty set -up of hanging chimes, cymbals and a xylophone displayed behind his drum kit.
There were two show-stealing moments: “Voices Inside My Head” drifting into “When the World is Running Down,” the baddest bass line Sting’s ever conceived of. And “Can’t Stand Losing You,” the peppiest song written about suicide, morphing into “Reggatta de Blanc,” which, if you recall, won the band their first Grammy for best rock instrumental.
So many “yo-yo-yo”’s we sang that night in our ridiculous faux Jamaican accents.