Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Police To Perform Together Again

A recent announcement that the group The Police would be performing together at the upcoming Grammy awards brought up some fine memories. I'm happy to hear they'll perform again.

Their first album attracted my attention and it soon became a hit thanks to the single "Roxanne". But the more I listened, the more I liked the whole album. Mixed in with the pop/punk/reggae style there was something more. I made a lot of people listen to it and made cassette copies for friends. All very legal back then.

I kept telling friends to keep their eyes on this band - they would do great things, I predicted.

Their next two albums also made some hit singles, but you could tell the record company was trying to make them crank out more of the same old-same old product, as evidenced by the repeated goofy album titles - "Reggatta del Blanc" and "Zenyatta Mondatta".

I was afraid the trio had been consumed by marketing madmen.

"Ghost In The Machine," however, brought out more of their unique talents. The styles were more eclectic, though still had it's pop music appeal. The lyrics were political, thoughtful and the album title itself was taken from the essay by Arthur Koestler. The music was as intense as ever, and now the lyrics were matching that strength.

Koestler again provided ideas for their last album, "Synchronicity", as did Carl Jung and writer Paul Bowles. Bowles' novel "The Sheltering Sky" was the inspiration for "Tea In The Sahara," and led me to read the novel. It's a teriffic novel, and I'm grateful the music led to it's discovery. Bowles was a composer as well, making music for stage plays in several collaborations with Tennessee Williams.

Both "Ghost" and "Syhnchronicity" are listed in the top 500 all-time best albums according to Rolling Stone. But for me, "Synchronicity" is on my own short list of best albums.

I got to attend their live show for that album in Knoxville, their last tour together. One of the things I've liked best about the trio - Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland - is that they are just that, a trio. Guitar, bass, drums - some occasional keyboards. A trio has to work very hard, especially in the world of arena rock shows. (Side note: a recent documentary made from footage shot over the life of the band by Stewart, which he directed, "Everyone Stares: The Police The Inside Out", is a fascinating look at how rapidly the band rocketed to worldwide fame.)

It's an amazing thing that happens when the sum is greater than the parts. That's true for them.

The show was loud, energetic, fierce and ranks as one of the best I've ever seen.

There was a moment during the show when I learned something about how their music affected their fans, about how their music could express basic human ideas with complexity and simplicity.

The band performed the song "King of Pain," and the entire audience sang along, word for word. Looking around, each person was singing "I'm the King of Pain." Not Sting or Andy or Stewart, or someone other poor soul. It was all very personal. I am the King of Pain, they all said.

Their influence on music videos through the 1980s was also significant - sometimes simple, sometimes somber and surreal. I always enjoyed "Invisible Sun" from "Ghost In The Machine," shot in Ireland and relating to the endless conflict there. But the song, like many others, evokes vivid thoughts about universal experiences. So here it is. And I am eager to see them perform together again, 30 years after their first album was released.

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