February 13, 2007

The Police take no prisoners at their Grammy reunion

Jenna Jameson notwithstanding, the musical ménage of Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers, and Sting rank among the elite of history’s greatest threesomes. Formed in 1977, The Police won over fans in the early 1980s due to a combination of their unique sound and the collective hangover much of the public felt in the wake of the late-’70s punk rock movement.

The Police, originally comprised of drummer Copeland, Corsican guitarist Henry Padovani, and bassist/principal songwriter Sting, were the right band at the right time. (For the record, if my birth name were Gordon Sumner, I would go by Sting, too.) Andy Summers replaced Padovani, and the band was complete. Their music drew upon everything from jazz and soul to rock and reggae. Their first album, Outlandos D’Amour, released in 1978, contained hits like “So Lonely,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” and the infamous tale of a prostitute, “Roxanne.” With that, stardom beckoned, and with each subsequent album their fame grew.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the band’s first single, “Fall Out.” On Sunday night, the Police reunited for only the second time in public by opening the Grammy Awards. The only other time was in 2003 for the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Sting told the Grammy audience, “We are the Police, and we are back!”

The band played a scorching version of their classic tune “Roxanne.” Personally, I have a vehement disdain for the Grammy Awards and don’t really place any importance on the winners. If you disagree, consider that the Dixie Chicks won every category they were nominated for this year. That includes the big three: album, record, and song of the year. This was just another sign in a long list of things pointing to the approaching apocalypse. But I digress. The only reason I watched any of the Grammy’s this year was simple: I wanted to see The Police. In fact, I turned off the telecast shortly after the trio bowed to the crowd’s standing ovation.

I remember being a sophomore in high school, around the time when I first started getting into The Police. I saw the Sting of today and had trouble reconciling his present persona with his image as rock ’n’ roll front man. Why he left, I never completely understood. I distinctly remember sitting in my room at the time listening to the New York classic rock station Q104.3 and hearing a Police song. When it ended, the DJ let out a sigh and said something like, “Wouldn’t it be great to say I’m going to see the Police this Friday. Man, if only.”

Twenty-three years since their last tour they are back, and not just for one song. The tour will begin in Vancouver in May. As of today, they will be headlining the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on June 16. The Police fan in me hopes a new album results from this tour. However unlikely this may be, it would be great to see them back in the studio. While it will be impossible, in a perfect world this tour would avoid all the trappings of a textbook nostalgia trip. Nostalgia trips are nice in the beginning, but they never escape the past.

The performance itself left much to be desired, simply because of its brevity. While the band was more than stellar, visions of a future tour kept running through my mind during the short reunion performance. The Police reached their height in the early 80s. While the band did not break up until 1986, their 1983 swan song, Synchronicity, marked for many the beginning of the end. After five albums, the band finally called it quits, and the diehard fan could only wait and pray for a reunion.

The band members are in relatively good shape compared to some other touring rock bands—just look at the Rolling Stones. I mean, Keith Richards has been playing guitar in front of death’s door for 40 years. For a long time The Police were part of the storied past of rock ’n’ roll. Let’s see if they can stake their claim in rock ’n’ roll’s future.