SHOW REVIEW

Bell Centre turns into a Police state...

More than 19,000 fans pack the concert hall to the rafters as aging rockers remind them of what the excitement was all about way back in the '80s - music, music, music

''Nous sommes les flics,'' said the man who needed no introduction, from the band who needed no introduction, to the crowd of more than 19,000 who had waited nearly 25 years to see them. The Police reunion tour stopped in for the first of two nights at the Bell Centre yesterday and, except for the ill-advised reworking of a couple of songs, they stuck to script and pulled it off. Not bad for a bunch of old guys.

There's a lot riding on this tour - egos, money, a musical legacy. The Police disbanded at the peak of their popularity, when internal conflict reached the point of no return in 1984. And while the three members have regrouped on a few isolated occasions, this is the closest they have come to once again behaving as a band.

But despite the cynical lens through which this series of shows can quite rightfully be seen, they managed to remind us what all the excitement was about in the first place. The music. From Andy Summers's first guitar notes, launching the night's first song, 'Message In A Bottle', they were off and running. Stewart Copeland pushed things fast-forward with a steady, multi-textured rhythm, and Sting came in with the classic line: ''Just a castaway / An island lost at sea, oh.''

This was the Bell Centre as it's rarely seen for concerts - packed to the rafters, with electricity in the air. ''Another lonely day / No one here but me, oh,'' he continued, acknowledging the irony (no one but him and 19,000 adoring fans) with a grin. The smile didn't leave his face for most of the night, magnified on the big screens above, alongside shots of his bandmates, hard at work.

Sting's voice was in top form, clear, crisp and arrestingly pretty. And he wasn't afraid to show it off, ad libbing harmonic variations to many melodies. Which was fine when it was kept to a minimum. 'Synchronicity II' and 'Walking on the Moon' both went off without a hitch. But when they got to the moody 'Voices Inside My Head', things began to unravel.

As the song morphed into 'When the World Is Running Down', halfway through, the band's attempt at an update sounded cloyingly out of touch. Summers's guitar solo was filled with cheese, and Sting's singing was new-jazz nonsense. They were in the midst of a modern-rock mess. 'Don't Stand So Close to Me', next, didn't fare much better.

'Driven To Tears' got things back on track, as the band contented itself with exploring the subtleties of the original arrangement. With 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' the liftoff was permanent. The crowd was on its feet, singalong in full swing. Sting led a call-and-response of his infamous ''Ee-oh, ee-oh, ee-oh-oh.''

And the hits flowed freely - 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da', 'Can't Stand Losing You', a climactic rendition of 'Roxanne', and the soothing release of 'Every Breath You Take'.

Sting took one more liberty, on 'So Lonely', near concert's end. ''All dressed up and nowhere to go,'' he sang, ''Welcome to the Stewart Copeland show.'' Old rivalries die hard, apparently. But the band played on, and if Copeland was miffed, he took it out on his kit. Maybe it really is just like old times.

Fiction Plane opened. Led by Sting's son Joe Sumner, the band delivered a forgettable set of surprisingly hook-less rock songs. On the bright side, there was a resemblance in the voice.

(c) The Montreal Gazette by T'Cha Dunlevy

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