So one day the Wife tells me that The Police are planning a reunion tour, that she’s always been a gosh-darned enormous fan of Stewart Copeland, having loved his work within the group when she was a kid (and I was twenty), and that it’d be cool if we could see them perform sometime during what promises to be something more than the customary geezers-announce-hell-freezes-over-while-we-pay-for-the-grandkids’-trust-funds reunion tour.
If her durable ardor had been something I’d been told about before, I’d certainly buried it within my impression of some of Wife’s other childhood musical preferences… the likes of many of which just make me snicker. <cough> Guns ‘N’ Roses <cough>
But there’s certainly nothing wrong with The Police as far as I’m concerned. “Synchronicity” was one of the first CDs I ever bought (years before Napster’s peer-to-peer presence changed the landscape for such purchasing decisions), and their 1985 remake of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” was one of my very last pop vinyl purchases. But that’s the extent of my ownership of anything Police-related as far as I can remember.
She points me at a choppy Youtoob post of the tour announcement, and several interesting things occur to me as I watch the boys perform a handful of their damnably durable songs.
First, the gig (recorded off an MTV broadcast) is taking place within a relatively small, intimate space. Something I’ve rarely had the pleasure of hearing a band of this stature perform within.
Second, the drummer (someone I can’t remember having seen very much of) is being a bit of a jerk, heckling the Almighty Sting while they play. I give the man points for throwing darts at the stuffy hot-air balloon I’ve been hearing on tepid rock radio for years. I also have occasion to remember that this amusingly rude fellow has done lots of soundtrack work, which I respect.
Third, they seem very unrehearsed in front of that Whisky crowd, but I’m not suffering for it. They sound very good actually. It will be months before I see their brief, energetic appearance at the Grammys, which took place the night before. But right at the moment, I’m seeing something I find impressive: a decades-old band that doesn’t require my indulgence to tolerate while they jam.
A few days later, I acquire the audio from the tour announcement broadcast and then realize how good they actually sound, having a new reason to focus upon the skills being displayed. It’s because these new versions of the songs are working very well for me indeed. It’s as though I’m listening to them for the first time, which is very good. I play the tracks over and over again for days into weeks, the way I do when I’ve found music that resonates.
Throughout the four tracks, Stewart Copeland does things I don’t remember ever having heard a rock drummer do. He’s unpredictable yet precise, doing things with syncopation and ghod-knows-what-else that somehow add up to much more than the caveman-pounding-on-skins that a lot of rock music coasts along with. It’s as though Charlie Parker had been reborn and somehow translated his saxophone bebop into an amazing percussive mesh that, at times, sounds as though there’s more than one guy sitting at the kit. Proper jazz aficionados will no doubt have more accurate analogies in mind.
It gets better when Wife steers me to speeches Copeland has given at a screening of his documentary, “Everyone Stares,” a filmed account assembled from his own home movies of the band’s original tour, and at a conference for Mac OS X. He talks about audio and video editing technology like any true creative who has found newly enabling joy in nerd-dom. He is very entertaining, and spot-on about the profound abilities that cheap desktop computers have made available to everyone. I look forward to seeing the movie.
“Everyone Stares” is a vigorous kick from start to finish. It reminds me a little of a more-chaotic, less-studious companion to D.A. Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back.” Hilarity and irony, wonderfully assembled in a manner which attempts to convey the dizzying experience of having been there, within the bubble of a suddenly-famous rock band.
And the DVD’s menu music goes a step further, featuring Copeland’s own remixes of several Police standards, which he calls “The Derangements.” Wife sees to it that I am provided with audio of these new/old tunes. Once again, I play the tracks over and over again for days into weeks.
Okay, I’m sold. I’m a fan, god damn it. I want to see this guy perform in person. What am I, twenty again?