As the final notes of “Next To You” filled the Madison Square Garden air in New York tonight, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers and Sting held hands and took one final bow as the Police. Someone dressed as an obese opera singer took the stage behind them, and the fat lady literally sang as the Looney Tunes music began playing. As Sting did a goofy dance, Porky Pig spoke: “Obley, obley, obley… That’s all folks.” Sting strode up to the mike as his bandmates began walking offstage. “Madison Square Garden!” he yelled. “Center of the city, center of the world! Goodnight!” Thus marked the end of the 150th and final gig of the Police’s 15-month reunion/farewell tour in which they played to 3.7 million people — and made nearly $386 million.
The night didn’t begin so smoothly. As opposed to the standard opener of “Message in a Bottle,” the band began with a dreadful cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” It was nice to pay homage to another famously embattled trio who also ended a series of recent reunion gigs at Madison Square Garden, but classic rock covers clearly aren’t their forte. Things picked up quickly when the New York City Police Marching Band took the stage and pounded away “Tusk”-style on “Message in a Bottle.” From here their massive catalog of hits started pouring out fast and furiously: “Walking on the Moon,” “Invisible Sun,” “Can’t Stand Losing You” and so on. Sting’s daughters danced near their father during “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.” Barely pausing between numbers, the band ran through the show oddly quickly. The whole thing was a hair under two hours.
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Before playing the naughty schoolgirl anthem “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” Sting looked back at his pre-Policeman days. “Before I took this job I worked as a teacher at a convent in England,” he said. “I was the only man. I had a pension, a mortgage… What the fuck happened to me?” What happened was he met an American drummer named Stewart Copeland and started what became one of the most massive bands in history. They broke up at their stadium-packing peak in 1984 and Sting insisted for decades they’d never reform. Throughout the night Sting looked happy he changed his mind, or maybe he was just happy the whole thing was nearly over.
the main set, a backstage camera showed an extremely bearded Sting laying back in a barber chair. Two blonde women began furiously shaving his beard with an electric razor, while men shined his shoes and gave him a manicure. When the hair was short enough they coated his face with shaving cream and used a disposable razor to finish the job (“C’mon, use a straight razor!” yelled a guy near me.) Midway through Stewart Copeland gave him a kiss on the lips. Do they really actually like each other, or is it all an act? It’s impossible to know for sure. “It’s been a huge honor to get back with my old friends,” Sting said earlier in the night. “The triumph of this tour is that we haven’t strangled each other — not to say it hasn’t crossed my mind.” Farewell tours are a longtime joke in rock & roll (the Who are about to launch their seventh post-“farewell tour” tour), but it seems likely this is really it for the Police. In many ways, they went out on top.