The Police, HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY 5/3
For years, the phenomenon of rock royalty colliding with the common people who revere it has provided much awkward hilarity. Buffalo, NY may be the quintessential locale for such a rendezvous and The Police hadn’t been in the neighborhood for decades leading up to Saturday night. Following a very early and otherwise unremarkable opening set from Elvis Costello, the patrons of a three-quarters-full HSBC Arena were ready for some magic.
Since reconciling last spring, The Police have re-honed a dependably consistent spectacle with which to ply their hefty catalogue of hits. You name it, they’re playing it nightly. Stewart Copland’s exuberant drumming style maintains a freshness throughout the performance, while Sting packs solid vocals, engaging bass lines, and all the charisma you can handle. These two enormous talents effortlessly overshadow Andy Somers’ guitar playing, which never dazzles but does the trick.
While their shows may be prescribed and even predictable at this point, the band has an arsenal of battle-tested anthems at their disposal and enough sense to give the people what they want. They may be going through the motions but they are not asleep at the wheel, however simply gracing a long-forgotten city with their legendary presence appears to be all it takes on some nights.
This brings us back to the surreal scenario in which Sting plays David St. Hubbins while the people of Western NY obediently bow to his ridiculous whim. Enticing the crowd to get into the spirit, Sting reminded everyone that “this isn’t Rochester, this isn’t PoughkeepsieThis is Buffalo, New York!” With the bait improbably taken, the room was his and there was nothing that could derail the show, save for the sudden announcement of an unwanted Bills trade.
All things considered, the music was played with faithful gusto and the sound was noticeably crisp for an undersold hockey rink. On the heels of an 80 minute set already teeming with sing-along choruses, the hit parade encore (Roxanne, So Lonely, King of Pain, Every Breath You Take) ensured a joyous sendoff for all concerned. And it’s a good thing, considering it very well may be the last time this circus comes to town.