I went and saw The Police play at Usana Ampitheatre in Salt Lake City on Saturday July 19. They are very close to the end of their 2007-2008 Reunion World Tour. It was a hot summer evening and there was a sellout crowd on-hand to listen to The Police play. I was very excited to hear this concert as The Police are one of my favorite bands and one of the few I’ve never had the opportunity to see play live.
The opening act was Elvis Costello and The Impostors who gave a fine performance. Elvis’ voice was in good form if a bit ragged on some of the high notes. Elvis’ guitar playing is really interesting. He has the ability to play very gentle ambient type guitar that fits his voice perfectly. He has a tendency to hit a little too hard when he’s playing the more rockin’ songs which causes the guitar to go out of tune a bit. His setlist consisted of his biggest hits with the strongest songs of the night being Radio Radio, Everyday I Write The Book, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding. The highlight of the set was when Sting joined Elvis on the song Alison. They sounded really good singing together.
Finally the sun set and The Police took the stage. They opened with Message In A Bottle which was a little rough but they definitely warmed up on that song. For the rest of the night they were greasy tight and sounded like a band that has been touring steadily for a year. We were really lucky to catch them at this phase of the tour because they really played as a tight-knit band. The musicianship displayed by Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland was just off the charts. I was really impressed with how good Sting is on bass. His bass playing skills get overshadowed by his singing and songwriting abilities. He really can wail on the bass guitar. Stewart Copeland’s drumming was rock solid and full of energy. He had a great big drumset with a ton of percussion which he played to great effect on Wrapped Around Your Finger. He truly is one of the greatest rock drummers. Andy Summers’ guitar playing was extraordinary as well. He played a Fender Stratocaster and his trusty old Fender Telecaster throughout the night. He has a fantastic feel for ambient guitar and creating soundscapes with the guitar. I have to give Andy credit for taking some long guitar solos. He’s not known for his soloing ability and his solos were as weak as ever on this tour. He had some good solo moments though. He also laid down plenty of bum notes on his solos. A funny moment moment happened when Andy was taking an extended guitar solo and the camera was on Stewart Copeland. Andy played a real clam and Stewart wrinkled his nose at the bad playing. What makes Andy great though is his ability to make the song happen on the guitar and he was fantastic all night at that. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic was played without any backing tracks and he carried all the guitar and synth parts with a single guitar. Andy did that all night long, filling huge spaces with a single guitar. It really was magical.
I thought for sure The Police would use more backing tracks on songs like Every Breath You Take and Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic but they didn’t. It was almost all simply drums, bass and guitar. I personally love that! It’s a testament to their ability as musicians to to be able to do that. Did those songs sound exactly like the record? No, but they sounded better because it was live! They did use some percussion backing tracks that I heard and some harmony vocal backing tracks but for the most part it was three guys making killer music. Sting did shy away from some of the highest notes in Roxanne but he can still hit them when he wants to. His voice has a bluesier quality to it these days that comes from years of singing.
Highlights of the night for me were Invisible Sun, one or my favorite songs off Ghost In The Machine. I was so glad they played it. I also really dug the way they combined Can’t Stand Losing You and Regatta De Blanc. They played Regatta De Blanc right in the middle of Can’t Stand Losing You then came back to Can’t Stand Losing You and finished the song. It was truly great. Every Breath You Take sounded awesome with Andy covering for all the piano and synth nicely with just his guitar. Songs I wish they would have played were Synchronicity II and Tea In The Sahara but I guess you can’t get everything right?
All in all it was a fabulous concert and what a beautiful summer night! If you get a chance to see The Police at their last few shows, GO!