/ 6 August 2008

The Police, almost at peace

During a lengthy reunion tour that concludes on Thursday, The Police didn’t necessarily resolve the conflicts that blew apart one of rock’s most successful groups nearly 25 years ago.

At least its members seem to understand them better.

“People don’t really change,” guitarist Andy Summers said. “We’re the same three [jerks] we always were. I’m actually quite proud of the fact that it’s gone on as long as it has.”

The Police had initially planned to end their 30-year reunion tour a year ago in Giants Stadium, bringing full circle to a career where the first United States show was in New York’s grungy CBGBs nightclub. Things were going so well, both personally and as a business, that they kept adding legs; the reunion tour will end as one of the five biggest money-making rock tours of all time.

The full-circle idea stuck, however. The 96th and final show of the tour will be in New York’s Madison Square Garden, a benefit for two local public television stations.

At the simplest level, Summers said it has been immensely satisfying to see the faces of fans who had grown up listening to songs such as Roxanne, Don’t Stand So Close to Me and Every Breath You Take.

“I’m in front of the stage and you literally see people break out into sobs or kiss each other and jump around expressing joy,” he said. “It’s been quite emotional in many ways.”

Some things never change: Summers was stuck in the middle between the “two kids scrapping on either side”, headstrong singer and composer Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland, the volatile anchor of the band’s meld of punk-rock, reggae and jazz.

Copeland is a visceral musician, one who sees music as a spontaneous exercise of joy and who loves the creative process. Copeland views Sting as a musical genius, but one sure of his ideas and not really interested in collaboration. Now that Copeland has spent several years composing film music, hiring musicians to play exactly the notes he wrote, he can understand why he drives Sting nuts.

“When he exercises his right to have it the way he imagined it, it’s a problem for both him and me,” he said. “I just can’t do it. I can’t remember it. I have my own ideas. I’m incorrigible.”

When he was 25 years old, he couldn’t understand all this, said Copeland, now 56.

Sting, Copeland and Summers would occasionally socialise after the band broke up in 1984, “but not really to the extent where we were able to clear up all of our misconceptions about each other”, he said. “It was really good for us to figure out what made the band work and what didn’t work, so we could appreciate each other unconfused by these other issues.”

Working with Sting has been inspiring, he said, “but, man, I need to breathe sometimes”.

He doesn’t want to overemphasise the conflicts, because Copeland said they’ve really been having a good time on the road.

Copeland gave another hint to his personality when he trashed the band’s performance over the internet after the first couple of gigs. “We are the mighty Police and we are totally at sea,” he wrote on his blog.

The last leg of the tour has contained the best shows, he said.

“As we’re getting more into it and less uptight about living the legend, it is actually becoming the stuff that got us here,” he said.

So is this really the end?

“Yes,” Copeland said. “It was the commitment in the beginning that made it possible, that it was a finite commitment. That has actually made it a lot of fun.”

Same question to Summers. Is this really the end?

Yes, but …

Maybe it’s because he’s seen the history of bands like the Eagles, who are now a fully functioning recording and touring unit again after once saying hell would freeze over before they would reunite.

“I’m fully prepared to say that was it, we’re fine and we’re done,” Summers said. “On the other hand, I’m fully prepared if someone comes back in a couple of years and says we ought to give it a go. You have to consider it.

“A lot of bands, like the Eagles and probably numerous other ones, everyone sort of matures and they realise that it’s fantastic business and the impetuosity that comes with being very young and walking away from something that is really successful, you kind of get over that.”

He said he doesn’t expect it to happen, but “that’s the model that’s out there for me”. — Sapa-AP

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