Cop schlock

Bombs away in ol’ McAfee … coliseum, that is.

Bombs away in ol’ McAfee … coliseum, that is.

Ugh. The Police ought to be arrested, charged with douchebaggery, then speedily tried, convicted and sentenced to more rehearsal or ceasing live performances altogether.

Much hype has surrounded their reunion. Thus far, as last week’s sold-out show at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland proved, they’ve lived up to none of it. Remember: It’s been decades since the Police’s new-wave-era, reggae-infatuated power pop was fresh. Somehow, in 20-whatever years, they’ve managed to turn their most buoyant and energetic classics, like “Driven to Tears,” “Roxanne,” and “The Bed’s Too Big Without You,” into amorphous sludge, often dulled and drawn out by much pointless noodling.

How can a trio sound muddy? By playing an outdoor stadium. (No fault of their own, except perhaps in scheduling. But the money’s gotta come from somewhere, right?) And perhaps by noodling when not being well rehearsed enough to noodle. It only works when the band is tight, which the Police are not. As drummer Stewart Copeland even said once, they never were.

So, some things don’t change—except many of the arrangements, which failed to impress. Now, perhaps on principle, musicians should not be faulted by bent-out-of-shape fans or critics for tinkering with their own arrangements. It can be really dull to do the same thing over and over again. Thing is, it can be duller to drain the thing of what made it good to begin with. New versions of select hits (and misses) didn’t get much across beyond the band’s tacit admission of boredom with the old versions.

Which brings up the general reunion question—namely, “What’s up with that?” For the Police, it can’t be about the money. They’re all wealthy. It can’t be about fame, as they’re all famous enough. (Yeah, even guitarist Andy Summers. You remember Andy. OK, sort of.) And it can’t be about performing live, as they’ve all maintained live careers.

Just what, then, are these guys trying to accomplish? Sting (pictured left in silly hat) has said he didn’t want to record another solo album or follow up his surprise hit record of lute music. But regrouping with the old mates apparently to prove that a band once greater than the sum of its parts can in fact be mediocre? Kind of a Pyrrhic victory, isn’t it? Worse, it proves once and for all that even the music of the Police can’t compensate for Sting’s excesses.

The point may be moot, anyway. A quick scan of the Oakland crowd revealed next to no concertgoers under 25, and even fewer who weren’t white. Which means the Police and their audience may be disappearing like the dinosaurs in “Walking in Your Footsteps.”