The Police and Elvis Costello live up to hype in Van Andel Arena concert...

May 11, 2008

The Police validated its reunion junket Sunday night at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

Hearing 'Roxanne' for the first time on a college radio station in 1978 left me thunderstruck, the desperation in Sting's voice turning this sort-of-punky, sort-of-New Wave, sort-of-tango-hued song into an instant classic.

I'd never heard anything quite like it.

On Sunday, precisely 70 minutes into the reunited band's Van Andel Arena concert, The Police made the unusual love ode sound as urgent and novel as it did three decades ago.

With the stage and arena bathed in red lights to match the lyrics, Sting propelled the tune with his pleading vocals and torrid bass lines while drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers added the right rock nuances in a 5-minutes-plus rendition of the song.

In the band's first - and perhaps last - Grand Rapids appearance, The Police forcefully validated a mega-hyped reunion junket. A satisfying, 19-song performance exhibited the breadth of the band's hit singles repertoire, even if the trio played in front of a two-thirds-full arena (probably due to tickets costing as much as $252.50 each).

I'm sure the reunion (prompted, in part, by the 30th anniversary of "Roxanne's" initial release) has sparked its share of tense, marital-spat moments since the band launched its world tour last year. But on stage Sunday night, the three musicians displayed only amicable, wedded-style bliss, with a grinning Sting hovering over Summers' left shoulder during an extended guitar solo on 'So Lonely' and Copeland cheerfully pounding out some rock 'n' roll fury on 'Next To You', which closed the show.

Although 'Message in a Bottle' and 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' had a couple of rough edges, the band for the most part sounded tight and potent as they played on a high-tech but straightforward stage with a huge video screen as a backdrop.

The fit-and-trim Sting, 56, in a sleeveless top with a grizzled beard, was in good voice, rarely straining for notes; Copeland, 55, confirmed his stellar reputation as a topnotch percussionist even if he tossed in some melodramatic touches; Summers, 65, while grandfatherly in appearance, played solidly with climactic solos on 'Driven to Tears' and 'Can't Stand Losing You'.

The trio turned trickier songs 'Invisible Sun' and 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' into captivating live gems, though 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' gets my vote for the ditty inspiring the most baby boomers to shake what their mamas gave 'em, aka the White-Folks-Dancing-Badly Award.

Elvis Costello played six songs from his new recording, 'Momofuku'.And despite a late-arriving crowd that missed part of it, Elvis Costello's opening performance proved just as compelling, making this one luminous double bill.

Listening to Costello spit out 'Watching the Detectives' for the first time about 30 years ago was as jarring as hearing 'Roxanne'. And just like The Police, he showed Sunday that reliving past glories can be enthralling, with Costello and the Imposters - Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and Davey Faragher - trotting out songs from his first few albums: 'Watching the Detectives', 'Pump It Up' and '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?' which made a fine set-ending anthem.

Recent material from the album 'Momofuku' was every bit as bracing. That may explain why Costello played six tracks from the new recording, including the raucous 'Stella Hurt' and terrific, upbeat 'Go Away', a recent addition to his live set. Another recent addition to Costello's set: Sting joined him for a splendid duet on 'Alison' to the crowd's delight.

While the sound mix wasn't always ideal during Costello's set - which included a somewhat slapdash 'Radio, Radio' - the bespectacled guitarist played with real vigour, as did Thomas and the inimitable Nieve, who supplied his trademark organ accents and special effects flourishes.

© Grand Rapids Press by John Sinkevics


May 10, 2008

Show Date: May 10, 2008
Location: Chicago, IL
Venue: Allstate Arena

May 9, 2008
It was a family affair last night at Carnegie Hall for the annual Rainforest Foundation concert. Not only did Sting, Billy Joel, and James Taylor perform, but so did their kids: 17-year-old Coco Sumner, 22-year-old Alexa Ray Joel and thirtysomethings Ben and Sally Taylor (whose mom is Carly Simon)...