I went to see The Police with Elvis Costello last night at Shoreline. In a word: fantastic. In a few more words: much better than Oakland last year! Better opening act, better energy, better melodies, better venue, better sound and much tighter playing all 'round.
While this was the seventh time I've seen Elvis Costello live, it was by far the grungiest set I've witnessed. It was balls-out distortion, pounding drums and very loud. If you like "Uncomplicated" from Costello's 80's release "Blood and Chocolate" then you would have loved it. But if you were hoping for something lighter, then you might have felt lost. Still, I think it was very à propos to have two "class of 77" bands together.
The Police came on stage around 9pm to what was by then a packed house. My wife and I were in the second reserved section, still quite a ways from the stage, but the sound was excellent and there was a clear view. I managed to get quite a few good photos, but you may have guessed that the close ups were taken from the big screen behind the band. Still the views were good and the screen was big and bright.
To be honest, I was disappointed in last year's Oakland Police concert, and this time it was a completely different feeling. The re-worked and dulled down melodies of last time were thankfully nowhere to be heard. The band played better together and there was a greater sense of enthusiasm and energy from Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. The selection of material also lent itself to a more up-beat show. (Though I would have liked to have heard "The Bed's Too Big Without You" which they did very well last year.)
The setlist included pretty much all of The Police's greatest hits as well as a couple of more obscure numbers like "Demolition Man" and "Hole in My Life." The show began with a high-energy version of "Message in a Bottle" and was followed up by "Walking on the Moon," "Synchronicity II," "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Can't Stand Losing You," "Everything She Does is Magic" and others. The band wrapped up with "Roxanne," "Every Breath You Take," and a frantic version of "Next to You." At just over 90 minutes, the set was a bit shorter than I expected, but still excellent.
Sting's vocals and bass playing were top notch and Andy Summers' guitar playing was superb. I think he's one of the most under-rated guitarists in the world considering how much sound he's able to provide. Most of the catchy hooks in The Police are due to the way Summers' blends his playing against Sting's vocals. It's something that always made The Police sound unique. When you watch Summers' play it becomes all the more amazing as he never seems to sweat or miss a beat. Meanwhile, drummer Stewart Copeland was definitely enjoying himself. Copeland's complex drumming style adds a lot of texture and richness to The Police sound. I gotta say, that even after 30 years, The Police have a sound that still stands the test of time: three primo rock musicians that combine to deliver a sound that is unduplicated.
There aren't too many dates left in this tour, so if you're at all on the fence, I encourage you to go see The Police live. They will be playing remaining dates in the US including Salt Lake City, Denver, Milwaukee, Detroit, Boston, and New York through August 7. And after that, hopefully a live DVD, but don't expect any follow on gigs.
The San Jose Mercury News ran a review along with an interview with Copeland and a set list. I've posted some photos on PicasaWeb. And I'll follow up with a more detailed write-up of Elvis Costello's set --with more photos --next week.