K and I saw The Police play at The Palace of Auburn Hills last night (7/17). Wow. I last saw them at The Myriad in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1984 for the Synchronicity tour. This time, they had an opening act, Fiction Plane, whose main distinction is they’re a 3-piece band, and the bassist/lead singer is 30-year-old Joe Sumner, who happens to be Sting’s (real name: Gordon Sumner) son from his first marriage. Joe has a lot of dad’s moves and sounds like him (I think — the sound balance for Fiction Plane was ghastly bad), but has Stewart Copeland’s hair. 🙂
Our seats were upper bowl, far end of the arena from the stage, 4 rows up. And almost dead straight on to the stage. Between our small binoculars and the 3 excellent video screens above the stage, no problems seeing the band on the relatively simple oval stage. The place was packed, including all the upper and lower bowl seats behind the stage, and both bands acknowledged the folks in the back at different times. Price: $52.50 each plus TicketMonster “convenience charges” of almost $10 each meant the pair of seats were just under $130 when we bought them back in March. Palace parking was $15. Before the show started, we got two regular hot dogs ($3.50 each), two soft pretzels ($3 each), and a Diet Coke ($5.50 in the 32-oz Pistons collectible cup) for $18.50. Did not buy an $8 draft beer.
Fiction Plane came on right on time at 7:30, and played about 40 minutes. Set change was about 30-35 minutes, then… the Police came on, starting out on a great note with one of my favorite songs, Message In A Bottle. It just kept going from there. Here’s the set list:
Message in a Bottle
Walking on the Moon
Voices Inside My Head
When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around
Don’t Stand So Close To Me
Driven To Tears
Truth Hits Everybody
Bed’s Too Big Without You
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
Walking in Your Footsteps
Can’t Stand Losing You
King Of Pain
Every Breath You Take
Next To You
They mixed up the tempo on a few songs — slowing down some, playing “Bed’s Too Big Without You” in about time-and-a-half tempo. Some worked better than others. “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” was sort of a weird mutant version combining the original with some of the 1986 re-recorded version that wasn’t nearly as good.
Things we missed: “Spirits in the Material World” and “Demolition Man”, most notably. The former needs strings, the latter a horn section to be really right, though, and aside from some minor looping use on “Walking in Your Footsteps” and maybe “Invisible Sun”, it was strictly Sting, Andy, and Stewart, bass, guitar, and percussion. No keyboards, no (visible) backing vocalists. I would’ve liked to hear “Canary in a Coal Mine” because it’s one of my personal favorites, and suitably up-tempo to be a fun concert song, but no dice there, either. It’s okay, though.
The guys? I was worried that they’d break down into squabbles by the time they got here, but it was very very very clear that they were having fun playing together. Musically? Very tight — Stewart clearly watching Sting and Andy for any on-the-fly changes and literally not missing a beat at all. Andy playing solos where needed (and, okay, one or two that weren’t) on a red Strat and a modified and well-worn Telecaster with a Les Paul humbucker pickup in the front position. Sting playing the same battered bass all night long. None of them has lost a step musically — hell, they’re all probably even better than they were back then. 23 years of practicing since I last saw them. 🙂
A word here about Stewart Copeland: He’s something like 54 years old now. He’s easily one of the best drummers on the planet, period. He mixes finesse — his high-hat work is so distinctive you can hear it on any song he’s contributed to in the studio — flexibility to use ALL of his kit, and speed when needed.
I’ve noticed that a lot of acts tend to book Detroit-area dates somewhere around the halfway to two-thirds point of their North American tour legs. This is no exception — it’s roughly halfway through the NA leg for The Police. Why is this? I think it has something to do with the crowds here. Detroit is a major music-driven place, and the crowds bring an energy that can recharge a performer. Besides our native sons and daughters (the whole Motown scene, MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, up to Kid Rock and, yeah, okay, Eminem and Insane Clown Posse, too), a number of acts — such as J. Geils Band and Kiss — “adopted” Detroit as their second home over the years and recording all or part of live albums here. There’s a bit on Seger’s “Live Bullet” album recorded at Cobo Arena where he says something about some magazine or other rating Detroit concert audiences the best in the country, and Bob adds, “I thought, ‘Shit, I’ve known that for 20 years!'” I’ve been in concert audiences in a few different places — Vegas, Tulsa, OKC, Dallas, Kansas City — and while I’ve never been to a show where the audience was bad, there’s just something extra about a Detroit music crowd, a little extra kick from the audience back to the performer in that give-and-take that, at the end of a really good show, leaves both the performer and the audience feeling like they’re on top of the world.
Worth every dime, yes it was.
And due to very clever use of both local road knowledge and how both the Palace and the Auburn Hills Police manage the traffic into and out of the Palace, we did an end-run around most of the traffic coming in, got a parking place right outside the north door, which was in turn right in front of our seating section, and we were out to the car afterward with minimal fuss. What’s even better, we were home in no more than a half-hour after I started the car, or about what it would take to drive home from that location on a non-event day. While I would’ve liked the show to keep going, when the show does end, I’m not a huge fan of lingering in massive traffic lines — and they were massive behind us. The Palace was full, and its parking lot was, too, at least on the north end where we were.
Hope this show makes the inevitable DVD release… I’d even welcome a soundboard “bootleg” of it.