Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Police Conduct Sting Operation at The Stadium

Tonight was the night The Police wrapped a three- show stand in the Southland around their fingers. Performing to nearly 56,000 people at Dodger Stadium, Sting played the bas(s)es like Juan Pierre, Stewart Copeland bashed hits like Russell Martin and Andy Summers strummed pitches like Brad Penny. Okay, enough of the baseball-music puns.

Although I've been a Police fan since 1980, when "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" rocked the airwaves (on now-fallen Los Angeles radio stations like KIQQ and KMET), and own two cassettes, one LP and one CD of theirs and also consider them my all-time favorite rock band to exist in my lifetime, I never had the opportunity to see them in concert. So when I found out they would be burying their proverbial hatchets and reuniting for a tour to make tons of money off of hundreds of thousands of 30- and 40-somethings, I was sooo there. Besides, previous Los Angeles shows like their 1983 Hollywood Park concert on their Synchronicity tour (which also featured Thompson Twins, The Fixx and Berlin, like totally rad!) was the stuff of legend, perhaps the greatest Southland concert of the '80s (behind The US Festival and The Rolling Stones' 1981 Coliseum Show (where opening act Prince got booed offstage) of course). Furthermore, I had never been to Dodger Stadium for a non-baseball event, so seeing The Stadium in a different context was an additional incentive to go (not lost on religious Dodger fans in attendance were folks in caps and jerseys, those ubiquitous 99 Cent Only Store beach balls and a failed attempt to start a wave during an intermission).

Being only three miles away from home, and after finding out that my carpool plan involving a few other friends failed to materialize due to scheduling issues, I took the (M) Bus to The Stadium. No way was I paying $15 to park my car all by myself. I rode the Metro Local line 304 bus to Echo Park (which was notable since today was the final day of the 304's operation before being supplanted by Metro Rapid line 704). After a brief stop to the ATM and a quick bite to eat, I continued on line 2 to Elysian Park Ave. The walk up the hill was way easier than it looked. Besides, I didn't have to deal with the long queue of cars, the aforementioned $15 parking fee or the funneling of cars into adjacent lots.

Within 15 minutes I'm in The Stadium and located my seat, on the Field Level, about 30 feet from the right field foul pole. I had a skewed view of the stage but a way better view than, say Top Deck or even Infield Loge. After buying my requisite Police Tour t-shirt, I was set!

Opening act Fiction Plane got a polite-but- "Who-are-you-guys?" response from the crowd. If only they knew that the lead singer/bassist was a dude named Joe Sumner, who is the son of the headlining band's lead singer/bassist. They were alright, but what a way to get exposure, huh? I can only imagine how that came about:

JOE SUMNER: Hey dad, can my band open up for your band during your big reunion tour? We just started our own MySpace page!

STING: Excuse me, Joe? Can you get back to me later? I'm having tantric sex with your stepmother right now.

Next came The Foo Fighters, which was an unexpected treat for most of the fans in attendance. Though I'm not a big alternative rock fan, or even much of a Foo Fighters fan, I totally respect Dave Grohl as a musician, songwriter and frontman and even thought of him as the real musical genius in Nirvana. Grohl even found time to jump out into the crowd and do a guitar solo atop some equipment cases by the lighting tower. They even outdid The Police in terms of energy and stage presence.

After 9p.m., the lights dimmed and only the stage lights and the glow of concession stand signs lit The Stadium. Needing no introduction, The Police took to the stage, heralded by just the sound of Los Angeles resident Stewart Copeland striking a large gong behind his trademark Tama drum kit and Summers' opening arpeggiated guitar riff of "Message In A Bottle."

You know what? Here's the damn setlist for you trainspotters:
1. Message In A Bottle
2. Synchronicity II
3. Walking On The Moon
4. Voices In My Head/When The World Is Running Down
5. Don't Stand So Close To Me
6. Driven To Tears
7. The Bed's Too Big Without You
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
15. Roxanne
16. King Of Pain
17. So Lonely
18. Every Breath You Take
19. Next To You

What can I say? It was a classy, no-frills rock show, devoid of dancers, skits and a "concept." Just lights, some fog, and a thrilling gigantic LED display that framed the stage and glowed with appropriate colors and designs (red, blue and yellow streaks for "Synchronicity II" and red lights for "Roxanne"). The display even projected video images like the lighted candles for "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and footage of Northern Ireland and Iraq for "Invisible Sun"). My personal highlights were songs like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "King Of Pain," when Copeland manned a large percussion setup behind his drumkit and played an assortment of cymbals, bells, large drums and chromatic percussion, the rhythmatist he is, only to deftly segue into his drumkit later in the song. And the whole show was one gigantic sing-along, with Sting still the showman he is, getting the crowd to sing his trademark vowel sounds ("EEEE-OHHHH!!!") en masse.

User sanvicente201 from YouTube posted this clip of The Police performing "Driven to Tears" from a similar vantage point as my seat.
The magnificent LED display can be seen here in action.

Though some have panned The Police's reunion concerts because of the "re-interpretations" of some of their songs, I say to those reviewers, don't spend your $125-$250 on the show, just stay home and listen to their albums instead. As a very musically-inclined person myself, I appreciated most of the re-interpretations (though "Don't Stand So Close To Me" was admittedly limp and awkward) and surely a trio of superbly talented musicians like The Police would tire of playing 20- and 30- year old songs the same way over again. Besides, Sting couldn't hit those high notes like he used to and the band tried to make do without the synthesizers that drove their last two studio albums or the use of additional musicians onstage.

From the very first note, something happened to me. I suddenly felt like I was 11 years old, listening to KIQQ 100.3 FM (remember Francesca Capucci?) and rocking out to The Police during their heyday. Just like the Star Wars prequels (and despite of any of its flaws), The Police made me feel just like a kid again. Every little thing they did was magic.

Oh yeah, the whole bus ride thing saved me $12 (I paid $3 for a (M) Day Pass). There was a busload of people waiting at the Douglas Ave. bus stop after the show - seems I'm not alone at being alone, as Sting would say. The line 2 bus got this militant back in its neighborhood some 40 minutes after leaving The Stadium structure. I pity the fools still stuck in the parking lot by then.

Everybody's Talkin'

After returning from the concert and checking this militant's blog, I didn't believe what I saw. A hundred billion bottles washed up on the...okay, okay, I'll stop the Police puns. But I got not only some additional comments but some props on not one but two other Los Angeles blogs. So Gracias, Salamat, Xie xie, Khawp khun, Shenorhagal em, Kamsahamnida and Thanks to my newest Rival Guerilla Factions, and DIY Downtown LA!


Miles said...

Nice review! I loved KIQQ and haven't thought of it in years and now find myself thinking fondly of those smog filled summer days in the 80s. Next time there's a concert at Dodgers Stadium, try to get a ticket on the field -- maybe this wasn't allowed because we're in the middle of the season -- it's surreal.

Militant Angeleno said...

Yo Miles - Which did you listen top more, KIQQ or The Mighty 690? :) j/k! KIQQ RULED back in the day. That and KROQ were all I listened to back in the '80s.

There were definitely seats on the field (they called 'em "Floor" seats as to not to be confused with the Field Level stadium seating where I sat). Remember, the Boys in Blue are in the middle of a 10-game road trip, so this was the opportune window for a concert. The Floor seats were just prohibitively expensive for me :)

Anonymous said...

I loved the "Ten Cue" myself but it's the station ID from the Tijuana-based rival that I remember best. Repeat after me: Eckeyz Aaaaay Tay Ree Ah -- The Mighty 690!

Anyway, great report on the Police concert and I'm glad I found you via L.A. City Nerd. Personally I may be decidedly white and gentro, but thankfully I'm an Angeleno from day one and way too far outta the age bracket to be even remotely hipster.

Look forward to reading more of your perspective.

Militant Angeleno said...

Will - Was it me or did The Mighty 690 play every song nearly twice as fast? Devo's "Whip It" (played 8 times an hour) sounded like it was sung by chipmunks.

Thanks for your comments, Will, I hear you're a legend around these here parts, blogwise. I also used to think you were the same Will Campbell I knew back in college, who's also a native Angeleno, but that Will is an African American in his mid-30s.

Anonymous said...

What excellent recall you have MA! Mighty 690 did run their platters faster. I'm not sure if it was double-time, but easily double-digit rpms above normal.

As to my status as legend, you're too kind. Any of that is all in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Actually, parking was $20, if you can believe it. Being a Dodger fan myself but not a fan of the $15 parking at the stadium, I was already hoping that my group would opt to park outside the stadium on Sunset and walk in. With the traffic before the show way worse than anything I'd seen going to a game, we were going nowhere fast on Sunset going northbound and abandoned ship, parking on the 110 overpass.

When we got to the parking booths, I was aghast that they'd jacked the price to $20. But I wasn't shocked at all by the total chaos after the show. I knew that, unlike a game that may be a blowout, or with people wanting to avoid traffic, no one was going to leave early and miss "Every Breath You Take" -- especially at $100+.

I really think it was all the limos crammed into the lanes that caused much of the problem. I got a ride to Union Station, took the red line to the Wilshire bus and walked home from my stop. Even though the bus took more than a half hour to arrive, when I got to my neighborhood a limo was just dropping of its passengers, and I was convinced they had just arrived from the stadium.

That made me smile.

Jazmin said...

Hey Militant, I just saw your blog following the link from Nerd. You got a good thing going here. Loved the Dodger analogies on The Police review.
Go Dodgers!

Anonymous said...

does anyone by chance know why the song "don't stand so close to me" by sting (the police) was written? i need to know for my education class in college.

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