Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Police and Elvis Costello at the Hollywood Bowl May 27

Had the good fortune of receiving a gift of a pair of seats for this show. I had never seen either act perform in their heydays, and tonight was probably my only chance. Lisa and I sat pretty far back in the Bowl -- it would have been better with binoculars, but we didn't bother with them. Plus, I think closer up it would have been a lot louder. I could nearly speak normally with Lisa at the beginning of Costello's set, but as the evening went it got gradually louder, more like the concert sound I know and love.

I wasn't a rabid Costello fan in my younger days, but I always liked his hits, and he brought most of them out last night. "Radio, Radio" was a favorite of mine since he spontaneously performed it on Saturday Night Live after cutting off the tune he had originally planned. He also did "Peace Love and Understanding," "Every Day I Write the Book," and "Watching the Detectives." When he launched into "Alison," he was joined on stage by none other than Sting himself, who joined on the first chorus and then took a verse of his own. He also featured a few songs from his new "long playing record," as he called it, Momofuku, which really is out in vinyl format. My favorite was "Flutter and Wow."

The Police did not disappoint, but they didn't blow me away either. Sporting a scraggly, greying beard, Sting looked like an aging professor who moonlights playing bass in a bar band on weekends (albeit a very in shape and handsome professor). Stewart Copeland was full of energy, but for some reason, the headset microphone he sported all night was never put to use. Andy Summers was really good, adding all the edgy and atmospheric guitar magic he was known for when the Police were the top band in the world. Sting's voice sounded fantastic, but clearly his age was showing, as they had to drop many of the songs into a different key because he could no longer hit those high Cs and Ds (well, neither can I anymore, but then again I don't sing for a living). The trio were tight, but open enough to be listening for moments of spontaneity. Copeland's work on the percussion rig behind his drum kit was phenomenal during "King of Pain" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger." And, even sitting as far back as we were, when they broke into "Roxanne," we all jumped up on our feet and danced. All in all, however, the band seemed just a bit tired. I was looking for a truly rocking performance, but it all seemed kind of lukewarm to me. Maybe that's just my nostalgic yearning for my own youthful energy, but I still left feeling a bit unsatisfied.

This was my third concert at the Bowl in the last year. Last July it was Rush, last October it was Genesis. By far, Rush had the best show, playing with all the commitment of a band that still had something to prove. I think that's what I missed about last night; having nothing to prove means that the band gets to relax and have fun, knowing full well that most of the crowd will go home feeling elated at having been able to see their heroes again.

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