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Music DVD Review: The Police – Certifiable

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The Police still hold a special place in my heart because they were at their most popular throughout my high-school years. Their final and most successful studio album, Synchronicity, was released during my senior year, and it was all you ever heard on the radio and MTV. It would not be much of an overstatement to say that they were the biggest band on the planet that year. What better a time to break up the band then, huh?

Well, we all know what happened next. Sting went on to have an equally successful solo career, and Stewart and Andy went on to wish the band had never broken up. In 2003, the Police were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame where they performed "Roxanne," "Message In a Bottle," and "Every Breath You Take" live for the first time in nearly 20 years – and they still sounded amazing. This, of course, caused many a fan, including myself, to begin jonesing for that improbable Police reunion.

On February 11, 2007, The Police opened the 49th Annual Grammy Awards with a killer performance of "Roxanne" – but not before first announcing, "We're The Police, and we're back!" This led to the thrilling announcement of a 30th anniversary reunion tour that would begin in May of 2007 and go until August of 2008. Their two shows in Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 1 & 2, 2007 were filmed for a new concert DVD, which was named Certifiable because Sting once claimed he'd have to be certified insane to re-form the Police.

The DVD set list features 19 songs that are culled from each of the band's five multi-platinum studio albums. Sure there were a few of my personal favorites left out, such as "Spirits In The Material World" and "Murder By Numbers," but you would be hard pressed to complain about this set list. This doesn't mean that there isn't anything to complain about though. "Don't Stand So Close To Me" gets the lame-ass '86 treatment instead of the superior original arrangement, and the ominously potent "Invisible Sun" never quite realizes those qualities here. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" sounded flat, and "Synchronicity II" did not come close to the intensity of the original.

Thankfully the band was fairly faithful to most of the original song arrangements, and never completely deconstruct any of them like Sting did on his solo tours. Not that I didn't appreciate many of Sting's new jazzed-up arrangements, but I wanted to hear me some authentic, rocking, Police on this DVD. Many of these live performances sounded rather sparse and empty compared to the original versions, because many of the extra instruments and samples that were used on the albums were missing here. The band would have benefited greatly from having a keyboardist onstage with them to flesh out some of the more complex arrangements, especially the ones that featured keyboards from Ghost In The Machine and Synchronicity.

Some highlights of the show were the charming "Voices Inside My Head" / "When The World Is Running Down" medley, as well as the great extended jam version of "Roxanne." "Driven To Tears" really smokes as well, especially Summer's guitar work. For the most part, however, this concert was just not as thrilling as I had anticipated it to be. Sting's vocals still sound amazing, the band's musicianship can be jaw-dropping at times, and the performances were really tight, but I still found myself getting bored every time I tried to sit through the damn thing – and my wife shared my sentiments.

The Police really need some new material to play before embarking on another tour. Sting still seems bored with most of the material, which is probably why he never bothered to play any Police songs even close to their original form on any of his solo tours. It must have been painful to play "Every Breath You Take" again every night – I know it was painful to listen to after already overdosing on the song in the '80s.

The production quality of this DVD is top notch. The video was filmed in hi-def and the widescreen picture looks exceptionally sharp and detailed. The camerawork ranks up there with some of the best I have ever seen. You get a perfect blend of close-ups, medium band shots, and some very wide angle shots that capture the enormity of the stadium and the stage show marvelously. Director Jim Gable lingers on each shot for several seconds before sweeping over to the next amazing camera angle. Very nicely done.

Audio was provided in both Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo and they both sounded stellar. My only minor complaint is that Andy Summers guitar was mixed a little too low in the surround mix and just didn't quite have the same impact as on the CD mix. The instrument separation and clarity was amazing, however, and the bass was particularly thunderous. This is definitely one mix where the louder you crank it the better it sounds.

A second DVD features a 50-minute documentary titled "Better Than Therapy," which takes you behind-the-scenes during the months leading up to the tour, and features interviews with the band and crew. Highlights include footage from the band's warm-up gig at the Whiskey a Go Go club, which probably would have made for a more interesting DVD. The bonus DVD also includes two photo galleries, one by Andy Summers and one by photographer Danny Clinch. The package also includes two CDs that feature the same songs as the DVD.

On a side note, I don't know if I just got a defective disk, but during playback of the DVD on a computer the disk is labeled as Police: The Synchronicity Concert in the media player title bar, and the chapter names correspond to the songs from that particular DVD.

Set List
01. Message In A Bottle
02. Synchronicity II
03. Walking On The Moon
04. Voices Inside My Head/When The World Is Running Down
05. Don't Stand So Close To Me
06. Driven To Tears
07. Hole In My Life
08. Truth Hits Everybody
09. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
10. Wrapped Around Your Finger
11. De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
12. Invisible Sun
13. Walking In Your Footsteps
14. Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta De Blanc
15. Roxanne
16. King Of Pain
17. So Lonely
18. Every Breath You Take
19. Next To You

Performance 7/10
Production 9/10

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About Paul Roy

  • Whazboz

    I saw Summers play in a small theater in Atlanta about 1992. His band was supposed to open for the John Mclaughlin Trio, but, due to some technical problems, they actually went on second. Almost everyone had left – there were about 50 of us in the audience. After a couple of songs, someone yelled at him that the guitar was too loud, and he reacted with mock horror and abuse of that person. It was fun seeing someone I had only seen in arenas so close up.

    The Police aren’t doing any new material or any more tours : this is it.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I dunno… I’m kinda glad they didn’t push on after Synchronicity. I mean I like some of the songs but they were starting to sound a bit tired in a creative sense(my opinion). Maybe it was the whole Sting/Stewart situation…who knows? Whatever the case, I am happy that Mr.Copeland moved on and did his thing especially with Oysterhead along side of Claypool & Anastasio. See what happens when we think it is a bad thing when our favorite bands break up?

    I do agree with ya,Paul, that they need to produce some new material. Hopefully, go back to that fusion reggae rock kind of sound..maybe a little bit heavier.

  • Paul Roy

    Tom, I knew my comment about Andy and Stewart might get a few comments. I agree with you that they were anything but a couple of struggling musicians since the Police broke up, but I’m sure that they missed selling millions of albums and playing in front of tens of thousands of people on a routine basis. I would kinda compare them to John Paul Jones. Yeah, he may have did his share of quality work over the last few decades, but you just know he was/is itching to get Zeppelin back together. That’s an entirely different ball game.

  • I thought this was a fantastic live set, so I can’t agree with the boredom you’ve experienced, Paul. In fact, I’m totally boggled by that – I’m finding it difficult to listen to the albums right now because the performances on this are so good that the albums sound incredibly tame. Except for . . . “Every Breath You Take.” I will agree there. That’s a quick “let’s get this over with” run-through, just as it was when I saw them last year. They seemed bored of it then and it’s obvious here that they’re playing it only because they simply can’t get away without doing it. It’s even rendered with a sort-of “romantic” vocal, as if Sting has given in to the clueless bunch that are using this in their weddings and such. Hasty and bored.

    Oh, and Stewart Copeland hardly needed a Police reunion – he’s had an extremely successful career doing soundtrack work for TV and movies. Andy, maybe, has drifted into obscurity in jazz, but I don’t seem him struggling, exactly.

  • “my personal favorites left out…”

    I too would have preferred those over “Roxanne” and “Breath You Take.” If it appeared on Greatest Hits, I would replace it with a deep cut, but then I am funny like that.