Zenyatta Mondatta

Passaic, NJ, US
Capitol Theaterwith The Fleshtones
Police raid Capitol with their rock-reggae...

The Police, Britain's rock-reggae trio, first came to the attention of Americans when their single, 'Roxanne', popped up on 'No Wave', the A&M Records sampler that also introduced Joe Jackson and Squeeze. The song was so irresistible and infectious that it became an instant hit and stirred the music industry.

Seldom has the blending of rock and reggae been so distinctive and successful. The Police used Sting's reedy soprano and bass guitar as lead instruments with guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland providing the rhythms.

'Outlandos d'Amour', the band's debut album, offered one great, danceable track after another.

Happily, the Police have lived up to their initial promise. Their consistency has brought them considerable success. Their third album, 'Zenyatta Mondatta' is comfortably ensconced in the upper reaches of the sales charts.

The Police's show at the Capitol Theater Saturday, which sold out long ago, found the band in fine form. The set-change music by reggae star Bob Marley set the tone, and the Police took the stage to a screaming, standing ovation (they've reached the hard-to-control-crowd status). From the opening two numbers, the popular singles 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' and 'Walking On The Moon', the band controlled the audience.

Sting was ebullient, grinning broadly and displaying the confidence that in earlier concerts had predicted his success and contributed to his selection for a major part in the film 'Quadrophenia'.

He seemed comfortable in his role as the sex symbol in the Police, stretching his hands over his head to show off his muscular build and shaking his head of blond locks.

The evening's 17 selections were culled from the band's three albums, with a concentration on 'Zenyatta Mondatta', the new LP, that explores Third World rhythms related to reggae. The Police had no trouble duplicating the full sound of the records, no mean feat considering there are only three instruments. Although Sting and Summer, who is capable of eliciting a great variety of sounds from his guitar, are partly responsible, most of the credit must go to Copeland, quite probably the greatest white drummer in reggae, if not of all rock. Using cymbals, different areas of the drum heads, rim shots and anything else at hand, Copeland teased and punctuated the beat while solidly keeping it. He doesn't need to play a solo - he does one all night long.

Sting and the Police use repetition as a device which, on record, tends to get boring. But in concert the visual and dynamic effects make up the difference, even though the repetitions are stretched out even further.

At 90 minutes, the concert ended just before it turned from pleasure into pain. Sting's voice has a tendency to grate, and the band as a whole doesn't offer the seductive, sinewy reggae of a Marley, but a more powerful, muscular version.

In addition, the show was prohibitively loud, hastening fatigue and at times rendering the lyrics and musical nuances unintelligible. When are the folks at the Capitol going to learn to turn it down?

(c) The Courier-News by Steve Libowitz (with thanks to Dietmar)