The Police in concert - and a few surprises

So we saw the Police live in concert at the MCG last night. I'm still not over it, but at least now I can speak and write about it. It was absolutely amazing not just because they rock but because it was so weird to see them at all - they did break up in '85/'86, after all. Seeing them up there after being a fan for almost as long as I can remember and knowing that it was all over for most of that time was simply surreal. And I can't honestly say I know any other band quite like I know the Police. I actually have everything they've ever done as a band, plus a lot of what they've done solo. I know the band history. I even spent enough time poring over their biographies as a teen to have random details at my fingertips years and years later. But most of all, I know their songs so intimately that each time they'd vary the chords or beat slightly to start a new one, I'd know the words even before I registered what the song actually was and basically sang along with the whole concert.

On the whole, they didn't vary the songs very much from the album versions, and even where they did I knew where they were going because I've listened to so many concert recordings. Most of the variations were the kind the Police themselves made back when they played, but some were more Sting-y. Interestingly, they didn't really play any of the songs Sting has sort of absorbed into his own repertoire. I'd have loved to hear Bring on the Night, Low Life, Demolition Man or Shadows in the Rain, for instance. I don't know if that was deliberate or whether they just didn't feel like doing them. The set list itself was the same they've been playing throughout. They opened with Message in a Bottle and then went into Synchronicity II, following that with Walking On The Moon. Then came Voices Inside My Head, When The World Is Running Down. Don't Stand So Close To Me, Driven To Tears and Hole In My Life. Everyone went suitably mad for Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Wrapped Around Your Finger was really really good with Stewart Copeland using gongs, chimes, bells, xylophone, and all manner of percussion to give it that air that it has. De Do Do Do De Da Da Da was a fun follow up. Then we had Invisible Sun, which was accompanied by lots of images of children living in poverty. That theme continued with Walking In Your Footsteps, but then they changed the pace again with Can't Stand Losing You followed by Roxanne and then 'closed' with King Of Pain ( I think). They came back with So Lonely and Every Breath You Take, and then came back again to do Next To You before leaving the stage for good.

Fergie opened for the Police. Yeah. It was odd at first, but she was actually quite good - she's one hell of a performer and sings her guts out. Yes there's lots of posturing and posing - that's what her music is like after all - but along with that she did a Black Eyed Peas medley and, what was most surprising, a few covers of Guns and Roses-type music that were actually quite fun. I could have done with a little less ass-shaking (Yes, you have a bottom. Wow. I'm thrilled to bits for you. Really I am.) but that's really my only gripe and even that's a bit forced because it was, as I said, good fun.

The big shock though, was Fiction Plane. We weren't seated yet when they started playing so I couldn't see the stage, but I remember thinking, man, that sounds a lot like Sting, only it can't be because that's not a Police song. We might not have gone down at all, only the music was echoing horribly in the hallways so we thought we'd go ahead even though it was about 7pm and we knew the Police wouldn't be on till 9:30. I vaguely remembered that there were two opening acts listed on the ticket so I figured this was whoever it was that wasn't Fergie and thought they sounded pretty good once we got away from the hallway echo and started making our way down the steps to the ground (did I mention that we were on the ground? Not in the prime, thousand-dollar seats, obviously, but not too far from the stage either and the perfect distance from one of the big screens.). And there on stage was someone who was clearly not Sting by my god did he look like him. And sound like him. This is what he looked like. Go look. It's uncanny. And then I remembered that yes, Joe Sumner* has a band and yes, there was something about him touring with the Police. But it was weird to actually see someone whose existence I've been aware of pretty much as long as I've known anything about the Police. Anyway, I got over the weirdness enough to quite like the band and want to hear more. They're playing tonight at the Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne and while I don't know if I'll make it, they're definitely worth a look.

* To clarify: I assumed that anyone reading this would be aware that Sting's actual last name is Sumner, and that his eldest son's name is Joe and would therefore get the reference. Obviously that wasn't entirely reasonable given that not everyone was a 14-year-old Police fangirl.