The Police / Elvis Costello and The Imposters, Shoreline, Mountain View, 7/14/2008.

At some point in your life, Dear Reader, you must have said to yourself — and you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t — you must have said to yourself, This is my favorite band. That band was The Police, back in 1983, at the tender age of [don’t even ask], when I saved up my allowance to buy my very first album on cassette, Synchronicity, which was followed by a voracious rifling through their back catalog, beginning with Outlandos d’Amour. In hindsight I can see, even back then, the obsessive quality of my consumption: it wasn’t enough to get the five studio albums; I had to go buy a bootleg Synchronicity T-shirt, and even that volume of The Secret Policemen’s Ball, on vinyl for crying out loud, where a solitary Sting sings “Roxanne” without his fellow band members. (But my incipient critical faculties didn’t cling to The Police for too long, fickle as they were; they were supplanted, in too-quick succession, by Talking Heads, U2, and The Cure (1984, 1985, and 1986 respectively) as my Favorite Band Of All Time, but no matter: The Police were the very first.

Just a few hours ago, with Son and Eloise, I finally fulfilled something of a lifelong and impossible dream of mine: to see The Police in concert. It feels odd to report that the highlight of the concert was Sting making a surprise appearance to sing a duet with Elvis Costello on “Alison”, but the element of surprise gets me every time. (Costello also played “Pump It Up”, “Radio Radio”, “Watching the Detectives”, “Everyday I Write The Book”, “Clubland”, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”, and I swear they were playing “Accidents Will Happen” during the soundcheck, but he didn’t play it.) But again, no matter: The Police gave a fantastic concert from start to finish, with my brain completely fried from what was technically 25 full years of waiting.

So, the setlist, as far as I can remember, below:

  1. “A hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore.”
  2. “I hope my legs don’t break.”
  3. “I’m a walking disaster.”
  4. “Echoes things that you said.” / “Same tape I’ve had for years.”
  5. “Just like that old man in that book by Nabokov.”
  6. “Shame wells in my throat.”
  7. “I shake like an incurable.”
  8. “I resolved to call her up a thousand times a day.”
  9. “I will turn your face to alabaster.”
  10. “And no one’s jamming their transmission.”
  11. “Looking like something that the cat brought in.”
  12. “And my LP records and they’re all scratched.” / “Rio riay riayo.”
  13. “I won’t share you with another boy.”
  14. “There’s a skeleton choking on a crust of bread.”
  15. “I always play the starring role.”
  16. “I keep crying baby baby please.”
  17. “I sold my house I sold my motor too.”

Giant Steps Are What You Take.

So I’m about to break my Concert Rule #1 (no arena/stadium venues) after hearing this bit of news. Holy cow. My very first “favorite band of all time” ever, back circa 1982-83 — at least the very first band that inspired me to go save up my allowance and buy their entire discography. On vinyl even! (Indeed, the very first CD I ever owned* — bought second-hand, still at a piggy bank-breaking price, from an early-adopter friend — was Every Breath You Take: The Singles.)

I remember my dad — who was the big Nat King Cole / Tchaikovsky / Richard Clayderman fan — being quite skeptical of my new obsession. “Paulit-ulit lang ‘yan, ah,” he said, dismissing the repeating “Keep it up” coda of “Walking on the Moon.” I tried in vain to point out how Stewart Copeland was clearly playing different drum patterns, but to no avail: my music had been dissed.

U2, Talking Heads, The Cure (in that order) then followed, in typically youthful hyperbole, as My Favorite Band Of All Time, but The Police was always the first. And now they’re going on tour.

*Side note: I’m thinking now of how kids these days probably have little conception of their first CD, or even the first time they heard a CD. Ah, the days of record cleaning fluid and dipping a Q-Tip in rubbing alcohol to clean the rollers and heads… I still remember the first time I popped the Police CD into the player and almost fell back in shock — perhaps too trebly, especially those early pressings, but sonically, a total revelation; Hugh Padgham’s work on Synchronicity never sounded better.