Arrested By the Police (A Pun 27 Years in the Unmaking, Sad to Say...)

When I woke up at 6am Monday morning, I didn't even know that The Police -- yes, those The Police, currently in the middle of a monstrous reunion tour after not doing so for 23 years -- were coming to California, let alone playing in Anaheim. By 9:30am that morning, I did know, thanks to Jen calling me from work, informing me as to this detail. Following an affirmative to a certain question she asked of me, by 9:40am, we had tickets to go see them at the Honda Center at 7:30 on Thursday night. The only problem? Jen had to work until 8pm, so I would have to go there first and get our seats and wait for her to arrive, hopefully in time for Sting not to have started his hooligan-style shouting to the crowd. Whatever... there are buses to catch, and there was no way, now that I had tickets within reach, that I was going to miss this thing.

As it turned out, Jen switched out her day off with someone else at the Park, which meant we could now actually have a real date night on Thursday, which is an exceedingly rare commodity these days given our differing schedules. (Our two days off together this weekend past was the first time that has happened, barring sickness, in several months.) Dinner, however, had to be a lot lighter this time, since I have changed my lifestyle habits in the last two weeks: eating much smaller portions at each meal, eating those smaller portions every couple of hours, eating much slower, cutting out soda completely at home and at work, and getting back on an exercise regimen. So, since I had to have food that was both light and easy to break into two smaller meals, we ended up at Panera for sandwiches, and since my meal was actually finished in about ten minutes (only half the turkey sandwich and no sides), we had about an hour and a half to kill until the show.

My boss saw the band play in L.A. at the Staples Center the night before, but even before that he said his wife had gotten access to the stage notes and found out the band would take the stage at 8:45pm. We based our casual stroll towards the Honda Ponda on this, and relaxed following our meal by spending our idle time at Barnes and Noble, where, as usual, I spent far too much money. But, it had to be done -- after all, there were new Wilco and White Stripes discs to get. We finally ended up finding a sweet VIP parking spot completely by accident (we did have to pay $20 for it, though) and practically just walked into the building. Since I didn't take the time to learn the Honda Center's seat arrangements, I just thought we were going to end up three miles from the front of the stage, but it turned out, just like at McCartney two Novembers ago, we ended up in the upper tier but looking right over the stage itself. McCartney we were able to see from the front slightly; here, we ended up just behind the Police and at stage left. But, since there was a huge video screen just below our eye level, we got the opportunity to see all angles of the show. To a certain extent, I would almost end up with seats like this than with seats in the human stew in front of the stage. It actually serves to make the show more multi-dimensional.

When we walked in, there was a sign informing us "This concert is being filmed as part of a motion picture," and then it went into the whole waiving of our rights as human beings, etc., etc., images, etc. What this meant was that there was a track laid down below the front of the stage where two cameras rolled back and forth throughout the show. Additionally, there were numerous cameramen roaming about both around the stage and in the crowd, which made the show extra fun, at least for me. We checked out all of this after we finally found our seats in the utter darkness of the hall, since we walked in with the opening act blaring away already. They were called Fiction Plane, a fact I only ascertained due to their being a giant picture of their new album broadcast on a video screen while they played their melange of Nirvana-slash-Pearl Jam-sadly, slash- a little Creed and slash-, yes, slash-The Police. Every once in a while, the singer hit a note that sounded eerily reminiscent of a certain famous singer we were about to see in a matter of minutes, but we had no idea that he was actually Sting's oldest son (from his first marriage), Joe Sumner. All we did was make fun of the fact that he ended all five songs we saw him perform by crawling on top of the drum riser, climb on top of the amps, and then jump off in time with the last note. Each... and... every... time. We did, however, note that they sounded "alright". (It was the next morning that I found out who he was on the Wiki.)

The Police themselves took the stage promptly at 8:45pm, and naturally the crowd went apeshit, obscuring the first two lines of Message In A Bottle via their incapability to contain themselves. I refer to the crowd as a separate entity from myself, but here is the solid lead truth: I was shitting my pants as much as anyone. Just before they came on, in the last spare moments when we could still hear what the other one was saying, I said to Jen, "You do realize that I have been waiting since 1979-1980 to see these guys. That's 27, 28 years I have been waiting." Jen's reply: "I was two then," and then a laugh at the situation. "Barely two, probably." Ah, that age difference again. It rarely rears its head, actually, but when it comes to music and movies, it pops up all the time.

Let's assume hypothetically that the Police were unbelievably shitty that night. Given the swell of emotion bursting out of my every pore, would I really have been able to tell? And farther down the line, would I tell you if they were? Well, I have a reporter's to do so, but this is all I will impart of the negative: Sting started one song wrong at one point, and guitarist Andy Summers gave him a wicked, teasing glare and shake of his head; Sting forgot the words in King of Pain (at the second point where he was supposed to sing "There's a flag-pole rag and the wind won't stop", he stiffed on the moment, pooled his resources and managed to get out "There's a black-winged gull with a broken back," a line from much deeper in the song, and then shook his head and smirked); and there were at least three points in the show where the band really didn't come together, as if all of them were off on different tangents, and not in a way where it could be written off as some sidewinding free jazz tossoff. They were just missed connections. These are the sort of things that get bands kiss-offs on concert boards, often from people who go to a zillion shows and thing they've seen it all or just want to shit on everybody else's good time. I know people who have gone to shows, and if there was one thing that went wrong technically, it ruined the entire time for them. These people must be stopped.

But, let's speak of the emotion of the moment, stemming sufficiently both from me and, from what I could gather, every one around us. Because the show was not about precision or about musicianship or about how hard they rocked. Yes, Stewart Copeland was incredible -- in fact, my favorite part of the show -- and all three of the Police actually are excellent musicians, but it must be pointed out that this is a group that has played around a dozen songs together in two decades time. It will take a while to get that "group timing" back, and I think the bulk of the audience, who didn't go in with an agenda, accepted that fact. No, this event was about love, from the audience to a band that had gone away after only six years and five very good-to-excellent albums, and that had left a legacy of some very beloved songs. (Personally, I wish they had done Spirits in the Material World, an especially egregious exclusion, but I was happy they did play Driven to Tears, so I will call it even. Though they could have also done Demolition Man, Man In A Suitcase, Tea in the Sahara, Oh My God, Murder by Numbers or Hungry for You.... so, where do you leave off?)

Sure, there are people who are going to complain about the ticket prices (we paid $95 a shot for what I consider "stealth good seats," but this is based on my need to not be elbow-to-elbow with the great unwashed in a possible mob rush situation), but this is mostly not the fault of the band. The high ticket trend is something that must be fixed in our culture as a whole, especially with ticket brokers, i.e. what used to be called "scalpers", making shows impossible to see after five minutes of sales unless you've got five bills per on you. Besides, I had 27, 28 years of waiting for this band; add on surcharges and parking, and my ticket cost just over four bucks per year. Now, that's a true emotional investment.

So, a toast to The Police for their effort: Here's to hoping the tour goes well enough that these guys get over their slight bickering (Copeland has posted numerous swipes at their inconsistency on his blog), and find enough enjoyment in the experience that they will consider giving us some new music from The Police. Because that is the ultimate payoff for the fans in all of this. If you love the band or its music, even in a small measure, this is what you should wish to crawl out of the wreckage. Now, let's work on that Rockpile reunion...

For those interested, the playlist for the concert:
(8:45pm - enter stage)
* Message in a Bottle
* Synchronicity II
* Walking on the Moon
* Voices in My Head // Don’t Stand So Close To Me (medley)
* Driven to Tears
* Bed’s Too Big Without You
* Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
* Truth Hits Everybody
* Wrapped Around Your Finger
* De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
* Invisible Sun
* Walking in Your Footsteps
* Can’t Stand Losing You
* Roxanne

ENCORE ONE
* King of Pain
* So Lonely

ENCORE TWO
* Every Breath You Take

ENCORE THREE
* Next to You
(10:50pm - exit stage)

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