The Police — a soul act? The notion may be a stretch, but not by much, judging by the reunited band’s performance Wednesday at the sold-out McAfee Coliseum in Oakland.
Fans expecting the rough-edged, punky, jazzy rock that characterized the group’s early years may have been disappointed; others, particularly those who enjoy Sting’s solo career, found the show completely satisfying from start to finish. (I’m one of the latter.)
For nearly two hours, the biggest band of the early ’80s served up shaded and warm — yes, bordering on soulful — renditions of its greatest hits.
There wasn’t much kick-butt rock until "Can’t Stand Losing You" and "So Lonely" toward the end of the set, but it didn’t hamper many listeners’ enjoyment.
After all these years, Sting (bass, vocals), Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drums) still sound great together. They clearly have benefited from their 23-odd year hiatus. All in what looked to be fantastic physical shape, the fellows seemed to be having a good time, and enjoying the fact that, at this point, they don’t have anything to prove — simply playing those excellent songs will do it.
On a stage with a basic light show and video screens equally focusing on each member, the Police opened with "Message in a Bottle," followed by "Synchronicity II" and "Don’t Stand So Close To Me," in which Sting’s vocals were like honey.
He tried to get the crowd to sing along on "When the World is Running Down …" (it only sort of worked); then Summers kicked in with a fancy guitar solo on "Spirits in the Material World."
"Driven to Tears" was followed by a dreamy, appealingly amorphous "Walking on the Moon." The lesser-known "Truth Hits Everybody" led the way for "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic."
Copeland did some cool percussion work — with a gong and cymbals — on a very evocative, haunting "Wrapped Around Your Finger." The mood continued on "The Bed’s Too Big Without You."
"De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" had the crowd bouncing, while "Invisible Sun" and "Walking in Your Footsteps" were, once again, soulful.
"Roxanne," of course, was a crowd pleaser, as was "King of Pain."
Fans waited breathlessly for "Every Breath You Take," really a creepy song if you pay attention to the words. Still, when it finally came around, the megahit sounded terrific, going down as seemingly effortlessly as the tunes that preceded it.