Elvis Costello + The Police
Hollywood Bowl – May 27, 2008
When the trio of 2 Brits and a lanky American swaggered into the LA offices of their record label in the 70s, their goals were to sell out a few gigs in Hollywood clubs, get some airplay and shift some records. Fast forward three decades. The same trio swaggered onto the stage at the Hollywood Bowl (a few miles down the road from their long defunct record label offices also on Cahuenga Blvd) after selling out two nights at the venerable venue and moving 50 million records in the interim.
A far cry from their first gig in LA (The Whisky, March 1979), The Police delivered a satisfactory survey of their myriad hits. The performance seemed somewhat perfunctory. The two Hollywood Bowl shows closed out the first leg of their US tour. Sting looked avuncular with his salt and pepper beard; actually, he looked professorial. He referenced his prior career as a teacher when he introduced “Don’t Stand Too Close.” The crisp camera work confirmed to the fans in the back rows that Sting’s remaining punk credibility was manifested by his shredded bass. Andy Summer’s guitar was also somewhat battered, but still in sufficient fettle to provide the melodic structure to the band’s songs. Stewart Copeland buried the hatchet (to the delight of many accountants), which was the main catalyst to the band’s reunion. Still playing the role of percussionary loon, Copeland moved from a somewhat traditional drum kit to a larger assembly of cymbals and gongs for songs like “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”
No question the band was tight, but missing was most of the energy and spontaneity during the band’s hungrier days. Many of the songs were rearranged to accommodate Sting’s less supple vocal cords. Did I sense some understandable boredom around his bazillionth rendition of the deep lyrics of “De Doo Doo De Da Da Da”? Much of the reggae influence in the early songs has been bleached out. Nowhere to be found in the two hour set list were any of the members’ solo efforts; Sting has released more albums under his own name than with The Police. Summers and Copeland have both reached success in the TV and film scoring world. Summers has had signature guitars created by Fender, Gibson and Martin, which must be some sort of record.
The band roared through their initial six year existence, disbanding in 1984 with the same sort of acrimony that split The Eagles a few years earlier. But one can certainly understand the incentive to reunite, sold out tours confirms that fans vote with their dollars. Strolling by the crowded souvenir stand with the $75 hoodies while “Murder By Numbers” was playing was apt. More power to these three chaps.