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Interview:
The Police Enjoying Return To Duty
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK



If it took hell freezing over to get the Eagles back together, a Police reunion always seemed likely to occur only when Satan recited the Lord’s Prayer.

Let’s hope Beelzebub knows all the words, then, because the onetime blond bombers of punk rock — Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland — are indeed back on the beat, for the first time since splintering in 1984 in the wake of the multiplatinum, Grammy-gobbling triumph of “Synchronicity.”

The reunion is big news in and of itself, but so is the reaction. Since the group’s show-starting performance of “Roxanne” at this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony in February, the Police tour was the No. 1 most requested event for the first half of the year, according to Ticketmaster, and the group’s been selling out even multinight stands at arenas and stadiums around North America, with plans to traverse the rest of the world into 2008.

“There was a slight moment of paranoia — ‘Well, what if we’ve actually left it too late and there’s not the interest we always imagined there would be?’ ” confesses guitarist Andy Summers.

“But luckily and very happily it proved to be the absolute extreme opposite of that. We’re selling out stadiums in literally an hour and a half all around the world. It’ll definitely be the biggest tour of the year next year. I don’t think anybody can get past us on this one.”

Talent and temper

The Police certainly have the goods to back up the hype.

Together for seven years — formed by Sting (real name Gordon Sumner), Americanborn drummer Copeland and guitarist Henry Padovani, with Summers joining and Padovani leaving in the summer of 1977 — the group sold more than 50 million albums and won six Grammy Awards. By the early ’80s, as “Every Breath You Take” was notched at No. 1 on the charts, it was one of, and quite possibly the, biggest rock band in the world, transcending its early punk rock identification to sit decidedly in the pop mainstream.

“It was the personal chemistry of the three of us,” Summers, 64, explains, “three very intense people determined to succeed at all costs, willing to work extremely hard. Very talented songwriter. Great arrangements, and very different sounding than other bands.”

Cope land, 54, adds, “You look for reasons why (the Police were successful), but there’s really no way to figure it out. We are just very blessed, and I thank the ground that I walk on that there is still a continuing interest in the music that we made 30 years ago.”

The Police also were a volatile outfit, though Sting, 55, says that temperament was more about musical perfectionism than personal animosity.

“We fought because we cared passionately about the music,” Sting notes, while Copeland claims that “we’ve never hated each other. The question of was it worth shouting at each other to get this brilliant record was resolved years ago — yes, it was worth all that shouting. We fought tooth-and-nail over the music, but as human beings we always liked each other.”

“Now,” Summers cracks, “we do yoga and eat granola. We love everybody.”

Impromptu regrouping

The Police never really announced a breakup; the trio just stopped working together. Sting had the most commercially successful of the members’ solo careers, with 11 Grammys and 14 Top 40 hits of his own — as well as acting roles in film and theater and a best-selling memoir, “Broken Music,” in 2003.

Summers and Copeland maintained busy careers, too; the guitarist also published a wellreceived autobiography — 2006’s “One Train Later,” which will be issued in paperback during the tour, along with the photo book “I’ll Be Watching You: Inside the Police 1980-83,” — while Copeland delved into film scoring and directed a Police documentary, “Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out,” from home movies he shot while on the road with the band.

But save for some special gatherings — three dates on Amnesty International’s A Conspiracy of Hope tour in 1986 , Sting’s wedding in 1992, the trio’s 2003 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — the Police showed no inclination to work together ever again. The decision to reunite, broached by Sting in late 2006, came as abruptly as the group’s halt.

“This light bulb went off in my head,” he says, “ ‘I’m gonna call Andy and Stewart and tell them that we should do a tour.’ I thought, ‘Well, it’ll surprise them, it’ll surprise the world and it’s surprising me, too.’ ”

Sting adds that reuniting is “very healing,” too.

“It’s a part of my life that I’ve sort of run away from for 25 years,” he explains. “So to come back and be with the band and develop these relationships again, we’re wiser than we used to be. We still fight, argue about the music, but we have ways of navigating now that we didn’t have before. We’re wiser and a bit more mellow.”

‘Tremendous job ahead’

Indeed, Summers notes that the attention, huge ticket sales and big money surrounding the Police reunion help mitigate any disagreements that may crop up between the three musicians.

“I think we’re that much more conciliatory towards one another because we have a tremendous job ahead of us,” the guitarist notes. “It behooves us to keep everything friendly and a good working relationship, which is what we’re doing. We’re all smart guys; we’re not gonna screw this one up.”

There has been one flare-up that harked to the old days, however. After the tour’s third show, in Vancouver, Copeland trashed the performance on his Web site, calling it a “disaster gig” and writing that “mighty” Sting looked like “a petulant pansy instead of the God of rock.” But the comments have apparently not disrupted the tour’s flow, which has included performances at the Bonnaroo festival and at Live Earth.

The Police also have issued a self-titled two-CD retrospective to accompany the tour, and Summers acknowledges that the idea of new Police music and extending the reunion beyond the current tour also has been broached. But that’s an area about which he feels it’s safest to be circumspect.

“I think, y’know, we take it as goes,” he says. “Right now this tour goes through till next March, and then at some point along the line I think (continuing) would be a consideration. ‘Do we carry on? Do we stop? Is this forever?’ Who knows?

“I think right now what we have to do is get into really being a band together. We can deal with the rest later.”





The Police and Fiction Plane perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (July 15th) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Some tickets are still available at the $52.50 level. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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