THE POLICE: CERTIFIABLE
Live in Buenos Aires
Review by Mark Wiechman
Stars: Sting, Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland
Director: Jim Gable
Audio: Dolby 5.1, 2.0
Video: Color Widescreen
Studio: Cherry Tree Records/A&M
Special Features: See Review
Length: Disc One: Concert 109 minutes, Disc Two 51 minutes plus photos, two audio CD’s with complete concert
Release Date: November 11, 2008
“Woke up this morning, can’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone in being alone
Hundred billion castaways looking for a home
I’ll send an SOS to the world…”
How much have I missed the Police? When I purchased my first DVD player, it came with a free Sting concert DVD. I literally fell asleep watching it. He looked great, sounded great, sold tons of CDs….but those of us who grew up in the 80’s, who heard Every Breath You Take (the best song of the 1980’s) everywhere, and who spiked our hair and learned bass just to be like Gordon Matthew Sumner know better. What happened? Although they broke up at the height of their popularity, The Police were not just Sting’s band, they were much, much more. His formation of a jazz/rock all star band was artistically interesting…but…well….they should have been arrested for loitering. Sometimes perfectionism stifles rock.
When the Police were at the height of their popularity in the 1980’s, Sting explained in an interview why they were so different from other bands: “Most bands start with a Led Zeppelin record. We approached it the other way.” Andy Summers has also explained that they tried to approach everything differently than most trios, using reggae as a means to minimize everything. Each instrument was a thread of its own, instead of the Cream-style arrangements in which everyone played the same riff or tune. By playing less, they left space in which each idea could blossom on its own.
Of course, it never hurts to have a lead singer who resembles a Greek god, has the range (but not the timbre) of an opera singer, and can write some of the best pop tunes of his era with the energy of punk rock and the bookishness of a professor. When the Police were no more and Sting launched a jazz-rock ensemble, I missed the furious energy of Stewart Copeland’s drumming and Summers’ inimitable chorus-drenched guitar picking. Who else could just strum one chord with the high hat clicking and right away you know what band it is? Even before Sting sang a word? Listen to Roxanne or Don’t Stand So Close to Me and you will understand.
Interestingly this Best Buy-only concert was just the trio, not the big band they had on the Synchonicity tour. Many of the songs have different arrangements, which make them fresh. For example, the underrated Drive to Tears, a song about Lady Dianna’s short honeymoon with the media, now has a key change. Other tunes may lack some overdubbed vocals and other instruments, but the energy and magic is still there.
And hooray for Andy Summers soloing his brains out on several tunes, showing that he can do it all, with taste and discipline too. Sting still sings like a young man and Copeland is an inferno, with his graying locks shaking with every downbeat.
Songlist: 1. Message in a Bottle, 2. Synchronicity II, 3. Walking on the Moon, 4.Voices Inside My Head / When the World Is Running Down, 5. Don't Stand So Close To Me, 6. Driven to Tears, 7. Hole in my Life, 8. Truth Hits Everybody, 9. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, 10. Wrapped Around Your Finger, 11. De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, 12. Invisible Sun, 13. Walking in your Footsteps, 14. Can't Stand Losing You / Reggatta De Blanc, 15. Roxanne, 16. King of Pain, 17. So Lonely, 18. Every Breath You Take, 21. Next to You
Perfect, shiny and new with great camera angles and sharp colors regardless of the light level. South American audiences are known for their energy, and they were partying on this night. Also, two tunes have “alternate angles” which you don’t see very often anymore with DVD, which was one of its most innovative features.
No DTS but it is hard to imagine that this mix could be improved on in any way. Loud and thumpy but still bright on top, a huge improvement on the CD mixes, although the stereo mix here is still good, too.
The documentary “Better than Therapy” shows the Police re-starting with the old tensions and awesome music still there, as if they never stopped. But we can now see why the band had problems: Copeland and Sting are both perfectionists and seem to spend most of their time critiquing each other’s playing, which is peculiar because while they are both fantastic players, their attention to minutiae is pointless because they always sound great and almost every song featured some improvisation.
On the other hand without that drive the Police would not be so great, right? Sting is a perfectionist who plans things and is very introspective, whereas Copeland is spontaneous and never runs out of energy or stops talking. Sting never thinks rehearsal is enough, and Copeland was ready to perform day one. And poor Andy Summers, calm but serious, just tries to be like Switzerland. Much like Cream’s Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, the rhythm section needs to chill. But they also explain how they have worked together better these days.
Other special features include photo galleries. There is also a nice booklet with the set featuring fun photos from Buenos Aries. The packaging is less than fabulous, but this may keep the price down. Just make sure the discs are secure before you close it.
They have filled the hole in my life, and everything they do is still magic to me. Bravo! And please guys, don’t wait almost three decades to do this again!