Outlandos d'Amour

London, GB
Kings College
The Police on auto pilot...

Since burning their cuticles on the Sex Pistols, A&M have played a dark and astute game, emerging at this point with both Joe Jackson and The Police poised to enter the first division, just a radio 45 away from The Sun pop page and already selling out London gigs with ease. Neither act is particularly inspired but both are engaging and clever; strong pop.

Their canny stitching of reggae inflexions to the beat group bop has given The Police a virgin angle on the same old song, infusing a mildly conventional approach and relatively slight somgs with a wiry flexibility that's intriguing and not easily worn out. Their singles, like all good singles, combine familiarity and surprise in just the right proportions.

Here, they played like bands who've just got back from Germany that morning usually play. On auto pilot. They gave us the album, minus 'Masoko Tanga' and plus 'Fallout' and one new song, the title of which was drowned out in the applause.

Sides one and two were rendered in suitably crack fashion, Sting eminently capable of handling the integral muscular bass work without letting the vocals slip and Andy Summers coming through with most of the battery of guitar tones required of him as the lone axeman.

The audience scarf it all up and, without wishing to slight popular taste, there could be pitfalls hereabouts.

The crackle and tension that charms on the album is not easily dragged on the boards and the temptation to vamp through and use the rock edge for insurance, hype up the boogie section and toss in a ceratin rifferama, is easily succumbed to in front of hectoring crowds like this one.

Each number is drawn out, if only a little, and, apart from some ritual tightening and slacking of the wires, not much is added to plug the gaps.

It could be roadfever or a willingness to peak at a Boomtown Rats sort of intensity level or it could just be me, as I was obviously in a minority of one; but I could sense the sort of dumb awright kids sufficiency that The Who have been locked into for years making itself felt.

Not that The Police are anything less than up to scratch as a prospect: it's just that I know there must be more to love than this.

(c) Sounds by David Hepworth

Police at Kings College...

I'm confused. Are these three coves really the crowd I cupped a careful ear to before coming here tonight? If so, why are these... er, rather mature chaps pretending to be young punks? Why the frantic on-stage pogoing? Whither the three chord thrashing? Let's see if we can sort this one out.

The Police consist of bass/singer Sting, and what really amounts to his backing group in Andy Summers (lead) and Stewart Copeland (drums). The aforementioned Sting, when not raping Paul Cook or Joanna Lumley on film (''I had to be nice to her'' ) plays another role. He is a popstar. He is not a very good one. Almost resplendent in a rather dated flying suit, he plucks a nimble fretless Fender in the Townshend/Foxton high-jump windmill tradition and smiles a lot. He's got other tricks as well. He tells the audience, ''You're great, you really are'', and these young, soft-core punk punters go bananas.

Not me though. I just felt disappointed.

Disappointed because a band of the Police's obvious experience and ability ought to know enough to let the music speak for itself, instead of trying to tart it up with a lot of hackneyed stage (better make that staged) silliness.

Most of the numbers were taken from their promising debut album and bashed out with an eye to maximum effect and minimum sensitivity. Though Andy Summers did whip out a few earblinding solos, notably on 'Peanuts' and 'Hole In My Life' swung in and out of 'Fixing A Hole' with impressive alacrity, everything else degenerated into repetitive chanting and electric overkill.

The dichotomy between the live and recorded Police indicates a definite identity problem.

(c) Sounds by Lindsay Jones