The Police's 'last' gig provides plenty of thrills - and NYPD's marching band...

August 07, 2008

The Police brought a sense of fun to Madison Square Garden for their final concert.

When it comes to retirement, pop stars break more promises than politicians.

See Streisand, Bowie, Cher.

But The Police swear - really they do - that Thursday night's performance at the Garden was their absolute swan song.

If so, they went out on a playful note they can be proud of.

From the show's start, the trio struck a less than reverent tone, opening with a surprise cover of Cream's 'Sunshine of Your Love', and closing with the 'Looney Tunes' theme.

You could view the first move as a historically minded nod to the band that pioneered their power-trio format, especially since The Police chose a parallel song for their first encore: Hendrix's 'Purple Haze'.

But it seemed more like just a way for them to act like the world's biggest bar band for a night.

Though The Police have been snaking around the world for over a year, Thursday night's 150th gig had an appealing looseness.

For a surprise kick, the band brought out the NYPD marching band to bolster the beat of 'Message in a Bottle'. Otherwise, they mainly stuck with a set list that has changed little since they started.

One fiddle this time: Thursday night's show doubled as a benefit, with part of the profits going to the city's PBS stations, and another part earmarked for planting 1 million new trees around the city.

To break things up, Sting sang around the melodies of many songs, adding flashes of freshness, if sometimes at the cost of intensity.

Andy Summers took more fruitful liberties with his solos, adding a rich swirl of sound to 'Driven to Tears', and an especially ornery run to 'When the World Is Running Down', both grounded by Sting's driving bass lines.

All the best songs underscored the wisdom of the band's essential notion - to harden and speed up one of the world's most sensual and leisurely beats (reggae), then match it to easy pop tunes.

It's a sound they were smart to bring back after 25 years away. Let's hope they break their promise and do so yet again.

© New York Daily News by Jim Farber


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