Four hours before the Police bade their final farewell to Britain, a karaoke contestant called Steve was belting out Message in a Bottle in a tent a few hundred feet from Hard Rock Calling's main stage. A middle-aged man in a Stranglers T-shirt, Steve had a gritty voice for a Sting stand-in, but still he managed what none of the afternoon's paid acts could - he got a crowd going crazy.
The daytime bill was positively dreary. Starsailor struggled to convince that a comeback could be on the cards, while KT Tunstall's folk-pop felt lacklustre. The best bet was to stick with Steve, who was no doubt down the front at the Stranglers' surprisingly good soiree. A superb 'Skin Deep', a truly spooky 'Strange Little Girl' and a gorgeous 'Golden Brown' proved that some successful rock reunions aren't about making millions.
Since Sting swallowed his pride to re-form the Police 16 months ago, he has coined enough to buy a small country. He has also discovered a genuine respect for his former friends. There was no trace of the tension between the trio earlier in the tour. Nor, thankfully, of the jazzy interludes previously imposed to remind the band who is boss. Looking lean in casual black clothes, with grey peppering a spiky beard and a smile on his face, Sting proved the perfect party host. "London, are you ready to sing?" he asked three times, after introducing "the legendary Andy Summers" and "the extraordinary Stewart Copeland" midway through the opener, 'Message in a Bottle'. Favourites came thick and fast: 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', 'Walking on the Moon' and 'When the World is Running Down' in particular had gone decades without dating.
At times the crowd was surprisingly subdued; 'Demolition Man' borrowed from the Police's punk days, but was met with polite toe-tapping instead of pogoing. Still Sting kept his cool. "C'mon you posh people over there, put your hands up," he ordered. Summers sneaked a guitar solo into 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' that actually enhanced the song, and even 'De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da' was more ska classic than silly ditty.
An encore that included a stripped-down 'Roxanne', a grungey 'King of Pain' and a lengthy 'So Lonely' was unforgettably good. Just as they did the first time around, the Police are going out on a high.
© The Times by Lisa Verrico
The Daily Telegraph:
The first time around, in the Eighties, they fizzled out with a whimper, leaving behind them a cloud of acrimony and a sense of unfinished business. This time, the Police went out with a bang.
Last night, on the second night of the Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park, the globe-conquering trio made what they say will be their last ever British appearance. The show, in front of 35,000 fans, reiterated their enormous strengths - musical cohesion and muscularity, the stage presence of Sting (his face now bearded), and a big bunch of top tunes.
In the year or so since they re-formed, Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland have played to more than three million people in a tour that has grossed over $340 million. In August they play a charity show in New York that they vow will be their last ever.
I saw them last year in Birmingham and was impressed, but not blown away; this time, they were much more fun to watch (although Summers still delivered some epically dull guitar solos). Their performance had a party atmosphere: the crowd were in the mood for a good singalong, while the band's playing had an exuberance that was previously lacking.
Perhaps they sensed that the end of their momentous undertaking was in sight. All the hits were there, including a sensational 'I Can't Stand Losing You', 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take'.
The weekend-long festival itself was blessed by good weather and featured a strong line-up of acts on two stages. Sheryl Crow, who survived breast cancer a couple of years ago, showed that her music has acquired new depth and substance, The Bangles delivered a crowd-pleasing set that was perfect for a balmy Sunday afternoon, while K T Tunstall was a breezy, gutsy blast of energy.
All this was watched by a thoroughly heterogeneous crowd, among them a small boy in a pushchair who was woken, frowning, from his slumbers on Saturday evening by a father who wanted him to witness "the world's greatest guitarist'' - Eric Clapton - who duly delivered one of the best shows I've seen from him in years.
Sometimes Clapton can be a diffident performer, but here he looked assured, confident and happy, and played some blistering solos. He was backed by a terrific band that included the increasingly authoritative guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, who took part in some fierce duels with Clapton. In an enthralling set that majored more on Derek and the Dominos than the Cream years, the highlights were 'Keys to the Highway', 'Motherless Children', 'Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad', 'Layla', and a gorgeous 'Running on Faith'. Fantastic.
But the weekend belonged, in the end, to The Police, who said farewell without regrets, without sadness, but with a spring in their stride and smiles on their faces.
And while Sting may wish to go down in popular memory as a man who raised awareness of the plight of the rainforests, I suspect that he will be remembered by most people for the gloriously meaningless mantra that rang out from his mouth and from thousands more in the crowd last night: "Eee-yoh-ohhh!''
© Daily Telegraph by David Cheal
The Police bade an emotional farewell to their UK fans last night with an arresting finale to London's Hyde Park Calling festival.
Sting and his supergroup - who reformed last year - belted out a long line of their classic hits to more than 35,000 revellers enjoying the summer sunshine.
Alongside Stewart Copeland on drums and Andy Summers on guitar, Sting opened the show by telling the fired-up crowd "It's nice to be back home."
The trio then closed the weekend-long festival, headlined on Saturday by Eric Clapton, with 90 minutes of pure rock nostalgia.
Kicking off with 'Message In A Bottle', they went on to deliver perfect performances of the trademarks that defined a glittering 30-year career.
Iconic tunes like 'Roxanne', 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'Walking On The Moon', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' had the whole park on their feet singing along.
And a clearly emotional Sting admitted he'd come a long way during those three decades, working as a school teacher before shooting to stardom.
The show - part of the Ambassadors of Rock tour - also featured The Bangles who began the afternoon with their own trip back to the 80s, treating those who'd arrived early to favourites 'Manic Monday', 'Eternal Flame' and a superb version of 'Walk Like An Egyptian' mixed with Simon and Garfunkel's 'Mrs Robinson'.
They were followed by English rockers 'Starsailor', and the Lancashire lads didn't disappoint with a stonking set including 'Four To The Floor'.
But it was left to Sting and The Police to bring the curtain down on two days of superb music for those who don't own a pair of wellies and couldn't be bothered to make the trip to Somerset for Glastonbury.
A beautiful rendition of 'Every Breath You Take' was a highlight, though Sting surely missed a great opportunity to deliver some of his own material to the loyal crowd.
Sting said earlier this week that it was the end of an era, adding that during the 125-date tour the band had learned how "all of us had advanced from the young men that we were, but also stayed more or less the same."
Well, The Police might be hanging up their instruments, but their music certainly stands the test of time.
He finished yesterday with a simple "Goodnight London".
And those who were lucky enough to join three million other fans on this special farewell tour will have gone home happy having figured in their own piece of musical history - with a concert to savour in the memory for a long time to come.
© The Sun by Jonathan Weinberg
The Evening Standard:
It's been a big weekend as far as the British music scene is concerned. Despite much criticism, Glastonbury pulled it out of the bag and Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday celebrations saw Queen and Will Smith take to the stage in Hyde Park on Friday.
So with the festival atmosphere in full swing it was only fitting that it should continue with Hard Rock Calling. Eric Clapton and The Police headlined the event; with The Police playing their final UK date to a crowd of 35,000 last night. What a note on which to end an era.
The band couldn't have picked a better opening number than 'Message In a Bottle' - iconic and with just the right rhythm to set the mood. Songs like 'Roxanne', 'Can't Stand Losing You' and 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic' are hard to beat in the live performance stakes; building up an electric atmosphere for a night that will go down in music history. The defining moment came in the encore with 'Every Breath You Take'. Arms in the air, the audience could not have been more transfixed on what must have been an emotional moment for Sting and co. Superb.
As expected, Clapton played well on Saturday but there wasn't the same sense of energy. 'Layla' received a lively reaction from the audience making the second half of his show the better.
Sheryl Crow did a good job of warming things up earlier in the day. 'A lot has happened since I was last here. I got engaged, got un-engaged, had breast cancer and adopted a baby,' she said. 'Soak Up The Sun' and 'All I Wanna Do' were ideal for the occasion.
John Mayer played for the second night in London; following Friday's gig at Brixton. The set list was condensed for the 45 minute Hard Rock slot; meaning songs like 'Say' and 'Slow Dancing In a Burning Room', two of the best at Brixton, were missing. His stunning guitar solos on songs like 'Gravity' and a blues version of Duffy's 'Mercy' made up for this.
Acts like KT Tunstall and Starsailor were also well-received with Starsailor's 'Four to the Floor' a highlight.
Festival season is officially under way and things look promising. Here's hoping the best is yet to come.
© Evening Standard by Amira Hashish