Outlandos d'Amour

Davis, CA, US
Freeborn Hall
Police performance catches Freeborn crowd...

Creating a strangely vivid sense of deja vu, The Police performed at Freeborn Hall Sunday night.

Only a couple of months ago The Police visited Davis at the Coffee House with the Readymades, who were also second-billed at the Freeborn show.

The Police opened with 'Can't Stand Losing You', a tale of a lovelorn fellow who feels suicide is the only solution to his romantic predicament. Within this first tune the America/British trio exemplified their novel musical approach: combining the energy and aggression of new wave with the sensual shadings of reggae. All three Policemen - drummer Stuart Copeland, guitarist Andy Summers and bassist Sting - are gifted, skilful musicians.

But the band's most forceful effective instrument is Sting's voice, a wide ranging, sometimes rasp tenor. During most of the set's 12 numbers, Sting added impact my making occasional jazz like improvisations that brought nuances to the songs without harming the music's taut structure.

The Police wove three new songs into the show, which slightly distinguished it from the earlier Coffee House appearance and also indicated that despite their breakneck touring pace, the group is trying to gather material for a follow-up album to the immensely successful debut LP, 'Outlandos d'Amour'. Unfortunately the new material sounded disturbingly similar to tracks from Outlandos, and sprang from the same thematic base of lost loves, loneliness and despair.

Which isn't to say the entire Police show was disappointing. They performed dynamically and sounded as good as a band can sound working with a dismal P.A. system in a hall where the acoustics are notoriously poor.

Even the world's worst acoustics couldn't have affected the crowd's loud, overwhelming response to the song they persistently demanded to hear - 'Roxanne'. Over a fluid reggae rhythm, Sting sang about top-40-radio's favourite prostitute, alternating his voice between harsh raspiness and smooth crooning. Throughout 'Roxanne' the stage was bathed in red light. Heavy symbolism.

Over the past several months the second-billed Readymades have clearly developed a legion of followers undoubtedly because they've developed into an alluring, superior new wave band. From the show's start, lead singer Jonathan Postal was brimming with energy and enthusiasm both of which spilled over to the Freeborn throng, avid Readymades fans and initiates alike.

The Police weren't the only band onstage comprising top-flight talented musicians. The Readymades are not only talented, but are also versatile enough that a few times some of the band members traded instruments with no loss of virtuosity. The instrumental star of the show, however, was guitarist Ricky Sludge. Wearing horn-rimmed glasses and clad in a worn tee shirt and baggy pants and black high-top basketball shoes, Sludge could have passed for a stereotypical UCD engineering student. He might not be a whiz with a calculator, but his guitar leads, particularly on 'After the Earthquake' and 'Death Wish' were economical, clean and sizzling.

About the only weakness of the Readymades set was its disappointing length. They performed for 40 minutes and despite the crowd's roaring please, didn't return for an encore.

Chicago-based singer Wazmo Nariz opened the show and quickly proved himself to be an exciting, goofy new arrival in the new wave arena. Backed by an excellent four-piece band, Nariz bounded and boogied all over stage with dramatic, amusing awkwardness.

A large streak of off-the-wallness runs through Wazmo, as evidenced by his songs such as 'Checking Out The Checkout Girl' and 'I Want To Have Sex', his playing a guitar with no amplification, his wearing two neckties, and most noticeably, his adopting the name Wazmo Nariz.

Despite some of the kooky titles, his compositions were stirring, and his vocal style rates favourably with Talking Heads' David Byrne. Keep an ear out for Wazmo. He's going somewhere, though I'm not quite sure where.

(c) The Californian Aggie by Duncan Strauss