At Jones Beach, for one of their last concerts in their farewell tour as it happens.
Me 'n' The Stevieling 'n' Mrs Stevie had tix because it was my birthday present (my precious). Mrs Stevie provided said tickets, but I still haven't found out what manner of perfidious skullduggery she's feeling so bad about that it prompted a dig into the handbag of such generous proportions. No doubt it will all end in tears1.
The evening was perhaps a little muggy, but we saw no sign of the promised thunderstorms, which was good because Jones beach is an open-air theater and wet comes in when it comes down. This was the Stevieling’s first real Rock concert and I wanted it to be as good as it could be. My night was slightly marred due to one ear being blocked (again) and making the whole affair one of glorious monophonic reproduction.
I wasn't disappointed though.
The opening act was Elvis Costello, who was superb even though I'm not a great fan of his recorded work 2, and I enjoyed his set immensely. Sting came out and joined in on one song (the title of which escapes me now) and at another point he was surrounded by three guys "playing" guitars and dressed like he looked in 1977 (complete with black suit, thin tie, Elvis hairstyle and fat framed glasses) - the Police in drag of course. Hilarious to them wot was there.
It was the first time I'd seen The Police live too. In fact, apart from Fairport Convention (who play smaller venues all told than the 16k seaters like Jones beach) we haven't seen any groups since 1995, when we saw Yes on the Talk tour. At Jones Beach.
The band were in good form and played forever, material from all their studio albums. I wasn't impressed by one of the arrangements, but it was more a case of "not to my taste" compared to the better known studio version than "naff". I won't even say which song it was because honestly, I was the only one not cheering like a loon at the end of it. Ergo, must've been me3.
The set list, as best I can remember it, went like thuslywise:
Message In A Bottle
Walking on The Moon
Voices in my Head segue into When The World Is Spinning Down
Driven To Tears
Don't Stand So Close To Me
Hole In My Life
De Do Do Do De Dah Dah Dah
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
King of Pain
Can't Stand Losing You/Reggatta De Blanc/Can't Stand Losing You
Encore time.Purple Haze
Wrapped Around Your Finger
Deep Blue Sea4
Encore time. Dos Maas.Every Breath You Take
Everybody go home time.
Somewhere in there, probably in the first encore between Roxanne and Wrapped Around Your Finger, they played Next To You. Understand that I had no writing materials to hand and had to use an old stage magician's trick of making a rebus out of the whole thing as it happened. This involved storing stuff in Mr Brain5 and, well, the rebus broke on the drive home. It hardly matters, except to note the two glaring problems with the evening.
1) No Synchronicity I.
2) Although there were three huge TV screens, each of them showed the same view, usually Sting.
Now I'm the first to admit that Sting is a bang-up songwriter and performer, but there's three of 'em in the band and one might have thought that they'd put a camera on each of 'em. One would have been an idiot to have backed that thought with money though.
Even though Copeland is probably one of the most energetic and inspiring percussionists on stage when he's on form, there was precious little tv coverage of his work at the concert. Summers got some shots, but even during his one big solo, during So Lonely, when Sting walked to the end of the stage (and it's a wide stage at Jones Beach) to clear the area for Summers to work, the TV followed Sting walking stage left instead of watching the soloing Summers. This, combined with the stage setup involving Sting standing twenty feet away from the other two could lead anyone to believe that the rumours of friction between the band members is still alive and well.
But they played well, and they played long. We got our money's worth, and I share with the others fortunate enough to have been to one of these shows the no-doubt smug feelings of canary-stuffed cat.
The stage lighting effects were interesting too, with a sort of headband across the front hiding the gantry upon which various colour themes were displayed as each song played. At first they seemed to be inspired by the album from which the songs came (red led segments on a black background for stuff from Ghost in the Machine, shades of blue for Reggatta De blanc and so forth) but then they seemd to become more random, but in all honesty I wasn't watching the lights, much, and I could easily have missed a whole subtle subtext painted in light to reinforce and compliment the sonic wash of the compositions as they unfolded a greater narrative encompassing the whole performance. Like I said, I wasn't paying them that much attention.
I've already said that it's been a long time since I rock and rolled at an event of this sort, so I might just be out of touch, but it seemed to me that there were an awful lot of strobes flickering from the stage out into the audience. It occured to me this might be an attempt to prevent the hundreds of iPhoners from videoing the affair by futzing up the auto exposure of the teenytiny cameras. They were trying anyway.
Before the show started I became bemused by the faces around me. I looked at one guy waiting to buy a tee-shirt and asked "When did we all get so old?"
He responded "Well, everyone here's on drugs. Mostly Lipitor, but some Crestor and a few Blood thinners."
He wasn't wrong either. There were more than a few of the crowd who obviously had secret portraits in oils stashed somewhere safe, and the median age couldn't have been much under fifty, and the buch manning the Harley Davidson display looked like they might have been founder members of the Hell's Angels.
Bizarre moment of the concert: Sting came out for the second concert without his shirt (I'm told this is a "trademark: of his) and a total stranger waltzed over and asked to use my 7x10 binoculars to go nipple watching. Since the neck strap was tangled in my collar and I wasn't about to surrender the glasses to some strange woman I'd never seen before in my life I leaned over in order to let her look. After about twenty seconds An eternity when you are balancing precariously on one leg to accommodate someone who is showing no signs of going away when you desperately want them to I noticed that the Stevieling was ducking down to accommodate this nitwit and couldn't see the action herself, so I said "you're done". Nitwit pretended not to hear. I repeated "You're done" and pulled the binoculars out of her hands and told The Stevieling to stand up so she could see. Nitwit grudgingly left without so much as a thank you.
As always, it took over an hour for the carpark exodus to clear enough to make it worthwhile trying for home.
It was just great.
- Yeah, yeah, yeah, so I like Watchin' The Detectives and Oliver's Army but so does everyone in the whole world. Big deal↑
- In the interests of full disclosure I should point out that I have never cared for any of the songs from Ghost In The Machine, partially because of the nauseating Every little Thing She Does and the turgid Invisinble Sun but mostly because of the "woolly sounding" production on the whole thing. I regard this album as a low point in an otherwise notable (if all-too short) recording career↑
- A Blues number I wasn't familiar with↑
- Who is not my friend↑