Ghost In The Machine

Newcastle, GB
Gateshead International Stadiumwith U2, The Beat, Lords Of The New Church, Gang Of Four
The Police perform in Gateshead...

It seemed more like a Third Division relegation match be taking place than a rock show when Police put on a concert at Gateshead last weekend.

Instead of the expected 35,000 fans, only about 12,000 turned up leaving acres of empty space around the arena. A dull, grey day hardly helped to lift the mood. For Sting it was not the the kind of glorious homecoming he might have expected, and was surely the first time in a few years when he has not appeared in front of a sell out crowd.

There were no surprises in their show or indications where they may head to next. But after an uneven start they began to play with their usual zest and vigour.

Towards the close, numbers like 'Invisible Sun' and the classic 'Roxanne' finally put some excitement into the event.

Next spring the group will return for a full-scale British tour and then they will have to prove that neither their appeal nor their musical prowess is beginning to falter.

(c) Daily Express by James Johnson (with thanks to Dietmar)

These foolish Stings...

Despite The Police's best intentions, Sting's 'homecoming' gigs have never really done the group justice. Two years ago in Newcastle City Hall at the end of a long and gruelling world tour, Sting's voice was hoarse to the point of extinction. Last weekend at Gateshead Athletics Stadium, they played their first major live gig for several months and were predictably stiff-limbed for much of the set.

The weather and the attendance didn't help much either. Grey clouds hung low overhead all day although they managed to refrain from dropping their contents. And while the organisers spoke optimistically of twelve and half thousand ticket sales, there never seemed to be more than half that number present.

Whatever the real figure, the stadium looked depressingly empty, offering further evidence that it was the Rolling Stones who mopped up this summer's rock and roll crowd allocation. There's a low limit to the number of £8.30 tickets you can buy on the dole.

Open air rock shows need a certain amount of nostalgia to make up for the lack of comfort but the 1977-style nostalgia served up by the Lords Of The New Church who opened the show wasn't the right kind. The impression was of a bunch of first wave punks thrashing around for a formula, having been overtaken by the second, third, fourth and fifth waves.

The Gang Of Four weren't exactly a laugh a minute either. I actually thought they played a very good set - and their new lady bassist has added a lot more strength to the rhythm section - but their serious intellectual posturings were badly mismatched with this audience.

It took the Beat to bring things to life with their own lively brand of 2-Tone nostalgia. They've held on to the original spirit of enthusiasm and entertainment with an uncomplicated joy that none of the genuine 2-Tone bands managed to maintain.

You'd have to have a long mac down to your ankles to resist their infectious style and if they've not yet been able to top 'Mirror In The Bathroom' as their finest moment, they give you a highly enjoyable build-up to it.

U2 took advantage of the day's upswing to reinforce the numerous claims made on their behalf to be 'the next big thing'. Currently cooped up in the country getting their third album together, they exploded with a barrage of pent-up energy that no amount of pastoral activity can fulfil.

Bono demonstrated his sudden sense of release quite literally by scaling the PA stack beside the stage and crowning it with a white flag that he'd plucked from the audience, singing 'Electric Co' all the while. ''There's only one flag and that's a white flag,'' he announced with a defiantly peaceful fervour for these aggressive times.

There were no real surprises from the band but the final couple of numbers - 'I Will Follow' and 'Out Of Control' - plus the 'Celebration' encore had an irresistible force born of a group chemistry that's bubbled into the most precious of rock and roll commodities - charisma.

The Police have already got their rewards for that very quality. Their problem now is to hang on to their status by delicately juggling their trademarks to stop the band members from becoming gross caricatures of themselves. They had no new songs to offer and the set was similar to the one they toured with at the end of last year, but the addition of the brass trio to their line-up has given them a new impetus live which they haven't exhausted yet.

There was an air of caution about 'Message In A Bottle' and 'Every Little Things She Does Is Magic' but 'Walking On The Moon' managed to blow some of the cobwebs away and Sting started to put a bit more vehemence into Spirits In The Material World, 'Hungry For You' (which he eloquently introduced as being 'about f**king') and 'When The World Is Running Down'.

Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland had limbered into shape by the time 'Demolition Man' came along and with the brass section never showing any inhibitions, they got increasingly better from that point.

If 'Shadows In The Rain' fell short of its possibilities, 'Bring On The Night' benefited from another turn of the screw - it's become one of their most adaptable and durable numbers. And the final batch of oldies satisfied the audience, some of whom were a bit dubious of the 'new fangled stuff' from 'Ghost In The Machine'.

But virtually all the stage effects the Police tried were wasted by their failure to have a backdrop behind them which meant that all the smoke blew straight out the back while most of their light show was rendered useless.

Sting was in a somewhat bellicose mood when he wasn't filling us in on his Geordie childhood. He introduced Andy Summers as 'The Sun's mystery blonde' and called the Daily Mail 'Nosy Bastards', not to mention lambasting his recent legal opponents. If it gives him a new cutting edge and pushes the Police forward to their next album in a suitably aggressive spirit then hopefully the money will have been well spent.

But he should start coming to terms with the fact that he's lost any private life and he'd be unwise to make much of a vendetta out of it with the media. I mean, even the girl that Bono plucked out of the audience to dance with him at the end of U2's set was called Trudie.

(c) Sounds by Hugh Fielder

Copper shocker...

This was the day Sting returned to fleece his homeland: tickets £8.30, T-shirts £5, programmes £2, hamburgers £1. With a warning on the ticket to buy only inside the stadium 'so that you receive only official items at their normal price', there was a suspicion that the whole affair was Sting's revenge on Tyneside for the years he spent playing in pub jazz-rock bands.

The Lords of The New Church, the first band, did nothing to dispel this feeling, with a mercifully short-set filled with spectacularly unoriginal songs and tiresomely familiar poses which should go down a storm on the American stadium circuit.

The Gang of Four began their set with what was easily the worst sound I've ever heard - a howl of feedback and so much trouble that it was impossible to distinguish between Hugo Burnham's cymbals and Andy Gill's guitar. The sound man took his ear plugs out as the Gang swung into 'Man In Uniform' and a glimmer of the power of one of the hardest, most exciting live bands around began to show through.

The Beat play bright, bubbling sunshine music and under the grey Gateshead skies their fizz inevitably fell a bit flat, although their joy and enthusiasm did reach the crowd enough to cause the first real stir of the day. They deserved their encore, but I was surprised at their literal treatment of their singles - I had expected them to be more adventurous live.

A well supported U2 were welcomed, with energetic bouncing breaking out across the audience. They produced a set of excellent, if traditional rock, characterised by The Edge's distinctive guitar and Bono's soaring vocals.

The Police were totally predictable. Coming on over a tape to ecstatic applause from the half empty stadium, Sting yodelled and changes basses for every other song (did he really need that many - or was he just trying to ward off boredom?), Andy Summers played his heavy metal guitar solos, and Stewart Copeland hit everything in sight but, unfortunately, not in time.

I can't say that they played badly - they're mush too professional and slick for that - but their many hits were trotted out with a lack of excitement which suggests that their days as a group may be numbered.

The three are too intelligent to carry on with anything as meaningless as the Police has become - Sting will drift into acting, Stewart Copeland will become a film director, and Andy Summers will probably end up playing for the Tygers of Pan Tang.

The audience loved it - but then at £8.30 a time they could hardly afford not to could they?

(c) Record Mirror by Jonathan Hope

A sour spirit's bitter venom...

Breathe two, three, Gang of Four. Charge the pace, lead the pack. Gateshead. Lead the pack. Warm 'em up. Three, four. And there goes Jon King on a spurt - running to a burnt out beat. Cinders with no fairy Godmother (not even Sara Lee) to invest metamorphic properties into the set.

When Gill shouts ''Let's regress to our childhoods!'', he means it. The Gang of Four have regressed to a pre-natal state, an incubatory existence that is suffocating in its security.

The funk trappings become a womb-warm enclave of safety/predictability that blankets the tracks in much the same way as the clouds smother the stadium with their cloying, concrete grey. The workers on stage failed to control the means of production - if they had the workers on the floor would have shown solidarity (and clapped)

The hotch-potch audience seemed more intent on the local ales than on the imported victuals. In fact by the time The Beat came on the stadium seemed to be emptying - at its peak the audience may have reached 9,000 which was poor by any standards. But who cares about the crowd? When Roger and Wakeling take to the stage, they push the pressure so high that the clouds disperse and the Gateshead stadium wraps up in a Wizard of Oz whirlwind and lands in the West Indies with a thud and a toast.

New tracks spun around the stadium at breakneck speed, 'Ackee 1, 2, 3', a searing, calypso dance of strength: The Beat bring 'Unity Ina Community' to Gateshead. The Beat lose the tongue, rock the mike, shuffle your feet and move your mind. There were cries for 'Stand Down Margaret' - a call that was answered with venom.

'Get A Job' could have been the theme for this most depressed of areas. The lack of crowd, the thousands that couldn't afford the tenner to get in, The Beat shouted the message to them. ''That likkle woman by the name of Margaret'' should listen to this hottest of toasts.

It was sad in the light of the performance to see The Beat playing second steppers to U2. It was a shock to see the usual musical hierarchy so inverted - musically it was a gross mistake as The Beat easily outshone Bono's Emerald Express.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness (and Bono obviously feels very close to God). The pomp and ceremony of U2's pseudo-religious rock filled the arena. Through the echoing love psalm 'Gloria' to an overdrawn 'An Cat Dubh', U2 wowed the crowd. 'I Will Follow' led the audience into their own promised land - but Bono had better watch his step because he's walking on thin water.

Throughout the set we were treated to Bono's own brand of Christian peace politics: ''The only flag I believe in is a white one,'' ''Give peace a chance'' and an authentic ''God bless you.''

Bono's friendly and mutually returned gifts of peace and love were in sharp contrast to the rantings of an enraged Sting. The Police had arrived - the return of the prodigal son. This boy is a Local Hero. Local enough to waffle about his childhood. Local enough to be one of The Boys. Star enough to kid the crowd into believing him. Amongst family and friends Sting showed us a tantrum - and gave all of us a lesson in propaganda, and how to use a gig as an organ for your own personal rantings. ''For avid readers of the Sun that are here - tonight's mystery blonde is Andy Summers!'' ''The Daily Mail - the nosy bastards!''

Sting wasn't a Brendan Foster on this running track - more a bad boy Steve Ovett. Twp, three, four... keep your head above water, keep the Press machine churning. When Sting says: ''I'm singing this in French, because it's about er... how can I say it... er... FUCKING!'' your are shocked into laughter. Sting, whatever the Press would have you believe, is about as controversial as Page Three. They have christened and wet the head of their new Jagger. Let's talk mega-star and gossip column.

Think of a Police single, times it by two, add a figure between nine and 15,000 and the Police played it (and the audience sung it). The word for the crowd to move in came with an SOS and a bottle. The spell continued with 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' and 'Spirits...'

But live, the Police depend not upon the individual strength/genius of their singles but upon the strength of their sound. The totality of their lumbering dubbing and the fluidity of their delivery coupled with the back chat from archangel Sting leads to a spoon-fed adulation from the devoted.

The Police sound the depths of familiarity with such aplomb that the overkill of Summers' guitar is unnoticed by the less discerning 'pop' fan. In places the excess is of Stones-ian proportions. At other times the most subtle, simple, beautiful flashes of purity shine through - Sting almost whispering over a faded echo of 'The Bed's Too Big' or a rousing 'Invisible Sun' that showed that all the light had come from the stage not the sky.

Before we left tired and blinded (by the spot lights) we were treated to a couple of encores and a couple of those rants. 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' was preceded by some angst ridden sloganeering: ''Body Mist Stinks!'', ''The legal process stinks!''

The crowd loved it. The press loved it. Sting's bank manager loved it. The rain had held out. The audience had held out. Sting had held out. The Police has weathered operation Country man.

(c) New Musical Express by David Dorrell

Lukewarm greeting as hero returns...

King Sting may have expected to sweep all before him on his long-awaited return to his native Tyneside. But it was not to be. The huge Gateshead Stadium was little more than half-full when The Police stepped on to the stage and the disappointment seemed to register on Sting's face.

The reception was no more than luke-warm, but the band did their best to dispel the gloom by launching straight into three of the best known hits.

They opened with 'Message In A Bottle' and the audience began to perk up a little. Then they moved straight into 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic', a joyful rocking number.

An uptempo version of a third hit, 'Walking On The Moon', followed to try to keep the party mood going. They should have left it as it was recorded because the whole quality of the song is in its slow, almost hypnotic rhythm.

Several thousand of the faithful were now dancing and singing along, but Sting still did not appear to be happy. He interspersed the band'svibrant set with cutting remarks directed at a variety of establishments, and his anger at the world in general was obvious.

Despite their dissatisfaction The Police kept the faithful happy with a string of their most popular numbers. The songs in between seemed to be tolerated in anticipation of the next classic. A tuneless French number was thrown in for good measure. Sting told us the words were in French because they were naughty. A French Canadian on my left waited with bated breath. He could not distinguish a word. Perhaps Sting should stick to English.

Things livened up again with the soulful 'Bed's Too Big Without You' and 'De Do Do, De Da Da Da' as the band began to show why they are internationally acclaimed as superstars.

The tight, professional set, backed by three players in the brass section, ended clinically with 'Invisible Sun' and 'Roxanne'. During the references to red light in 'Roxanne' we were blinded by powerful white lights which was a bit of a mystery.

Off they went, but everyone realised that after only an hour they would come back. Return they did to more of a whimper than the roar which had greeted the Stones encore at their recent concert. Sting continued to dance and prance but he lacks the charisma and charm to try and tease with an audience the way Mick Jagger has done for 20 years.

They played three more songs including 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and went off again. Again they returned quickly to play 'So Lonely'. The audience enjoyed it after hearing the set they came for. But when Sting sang in Gateshead, in Newcastle - so lonely, I could not help thinking he half meant it.

(c) Newcastle Journal by Bill Brown

Stung into action...

Sting's homecoming as the son of a Wallsend milkman elevated to the top of the Christmas tree in the tinsel world of rock is the stuff fairytales are made of.

Unfortunately the sun, which can do so much to make an outdoor concert a success, hid behind the clouds, and the date at Gateshead wasn't the hoped for triumph.

The 15,000 plus crowd was treated to a set full of verve, enthusiasm, immaculate musicianship and lots of smiles. The Police were glad to be back.

Sting was an arresting sight in his yellow jacket - bringing back memories of Mick Jagger at St. James Park - white trousers and tiny bass that looked like it had been cut off in its prime.

His playing, along with that of Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland, was of a consistently high standard and he pumped out those sensual bass lines with emphatic authority.

The other two were on top of their form as well, and the band, as Stewart Copeland had promised, were red hot on the night, playing better than I have ever heard them. Their distinctive, fluid sound was augmented by a small brass section of two saxophones and a trumpet.

They played against a background of a grey Gateshead skyline on a cool, overcast evening with the wind blowing their hair about, but there was nothing dull or drab about the music. It sparkled.

The band seemed to relish the opportunity to show they had lost none of their vitality or hunger. Everyone was firing on all cylinders and it was a set to savour from the spine-tingling opening of 'Message In A Bottle' to the climactic starins of the final encore. From the evocative, atmospheric 'Bring On The Night' and 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' to the raw excitement of 'Spirits In The Material World' and 'Demolition Man' was a gap they spanned effortlessly.

If this is the result of a spell out of uniform, perhaps the Police should take more breaks away from live concerts. Ernie has every right to be proud of his son.

(c) Newcastle Evening Chronicle by Simon Mills

Superstar Sting takes his revenge - Night of fun as 15,000 fans see The Police on top form...

Superstar Sting came home at the weekend and took the opportunity to launch a bitter attack on his pete hates in front of 15,000 people.

Fans who had turned up to hear him sing found themselves listening to him slam the press, the legal process and the Virgin Record Company.

The man whose marriage, lifestyle and career have been put under the public microscope was determined to get his own back. And get revenge he did in style.

It started as humour. Gordon Sumner, alias Sting, who is amarried to actress Frances Tomelty, hit back at recent reports in the national press of a mystery blonde girlfriend.

It was the only thing to mar a concert that the crowd, through disappointingly small, loved. The standard of music was superb and Sumner was in good voice - in more ways than one.

His next target for abuse was Virgin Records. Just days after his recent courtroom battle with the giant record company ended in a blaze of publicity and apparant peace, Sting screamed: ''I hate Virgin Records. I hate the legal process.''

The man who left the North-East seven years ago as an unknown returned to Tyneside for The Police's only UK concert. Organisers expected at least 20,000 at the giant Gateshead Stadium. But they were disappointed.Latest reports put the number at between 14,000 and 15,000.

But it was enough. The moment Sting strode onto the stage in white jeans tucked into boots, a canary yellow jacket and braces and a tee-shirt, the crowd were with him. He looked like a young god. He couldn't quite match the athletic prowess of Mick Jagger but it was a close second.

He sang 'Every Little Things She Does Is Magic' and the crowd nodded their heads in agreement. Even the band's namesakes - the official Police - were tapping their feet to the beat. They were keeping a low profile at the concert with only around 14 officers in the crowd and many more outside.

One reserve policewoman was obviously a fan. Superiors stopped in amazement as they saw her multi-coloured spiky haircut peeking out beneath her cap.

For a man who used to be a teacher Sting's language at times throughout the concert deserved a black mark. But no one seemed shocked. least of all his family who were all watching from seats in the stand - his father, Ernie, mother Audrey, sisters and even his 75-year-old grandmother. Sting's look-a-like brother Philip greeted the former schoolteacher before the concert.

They joined in the clapping as Sting told the crowd: ''This night is very special for me.''

He went back to his youth and told how he helped his dad on his milk round when he was a young lad.

''We used to get up at 4am when there was no one around. I used to imagine what it would be like if there were no people around - say, if a bomb dropped on Newcastle.''

His return to Tyneside was a memorable evening. The local lad made good who seems to have left the North-East far behind was obviously pleased to be back.

He said: ''Seven years ago I left this town and I said I would make it. It's nice to come back and make you part of the success.''

And he told the crowd to sing along with the song 'Can't Stand Losing You'. The crowd were pleased to do this favour. By this time, after so many hits, the atmosphere was charged with emotion.

Thelighting was superb and as the full beams were turned on the swaying crowd it seemed like a mass of moving bodies and waving arms. It was a night of fun and police reported only two arrests for disorderly behaviour.

A spokesman said: ''We had just two arrests inside the stadium and they were just a bit of high spirits. It was a quieter evening than normal. We are very pleased with the way things went.''

There was every facility for the fans from a beer tent to a bar and plenty of food. Fans had travelled from all over Britain and more than fifty buses were outside the stadium to take them home.

There was no hiding the delight of fans, who had waited a long time to see Geordie Sting return home. He did it in style. His voice was superb and the band on top form.

It would be unfair to try to compare the Police with Rolling Stones. Many believe the Stones will never again go on tour. Their concerts this year may well be the end of an era. For the Police it may be the start of another.

Only one thing marred the concert. The inability of Sting to keep his voice on stage for what it's good for - singing.

(c) Newcastle Journal by Helen Lennox