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Staples Center, Los Angeles
Wednesday, June 20


A quarter-century ago, nearly everything the Police did was magic. But Wednesday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the band had trouble catching that lightning in the bottle, as new arrangements of its classic material kept the show from living up to the legend.

During much of their nearly two-hour set, singer-bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer-percussionist Stewart Copeland reinterpreted the band's catalog, toying with tempos, varying arrangements and playing with their fans' memories.

In a recent interview, Sting claimed the motivation for reforming the trio was "to go back, retrace those steps and make the band better." Bad call. In his perfectionist, musical mind, Sting may see flaws in his band's old material, but that was the way the fans loved it and expected to hear it live. Instead, the audience was treated to a tribute show that might have been billed as "Sting, Summers and Copeland reinterpret the songs of the Police."

Things started promising enough with a fairly faithful version of "Message in a Bottle," initiated by Copeland pounding a massive gong behind his drum kit. The 55-year-old Sting, sort of the male Madonna, looked fit beyond his years in a sleeveless white T-shirt and tight black trousers tucked into combat boots. Copeland, the youngest member of the trio at 54 and the only one of the bottle blondes to allow himself to go gray, sported a New Wave headband and spectacles, while Summers was nattily attired in a suit, but when his face was projected on the large video screens in the rafters, he looked all of his 64 years.

Two songs into the set, things started to go awry. "Synchronicity II," from the band's final studio album in 1983, was a mess. The trio rebounded with a skank-worthy rendition of "Walking on the Moon" but stumbled again on "Don't Stand So Close to Me," which sounded closer to the misguided 1986 remake than the 1980 original.

What made the Police so captivating during its initial run was how the trio managed to harness the energy of punk but apply it to some fairly complex arrangements. While many of their punk peers literally learned as they played, Sting, Summers and Copeland came into the band as pros who cut their teeth in jazz and prog-rock outfits. The reunited Police brought all their musical expertise to Staples, but for the most part failed to re-create that infectious energy that first grabbed our attention. Making matters worse, Sting had trouble hitting high notes a few times during the set, most notable on the trio's biggest hit, "Every Breath You Take," one of several encores.

The Police reunion tour -- which was scheduled to hit the Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday and stops at Dodger Stadium on Saturday -- certainly is not an embarrassment, but it's not enriching the band's legacy. It's just fattening up their collective bank accounts.
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