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Sting calls for backup

The Police, on the outs for two decades, rocks the Grammys with `Roxanne,' and there may be much more music where that came from.

February 12, 2007|Randy Lewis | Times Staff Writer

STING put away his lute, dusted off his electric bass guitar and donned a black leather vest Sunday while teaming with the Police in public for the first time in two decades for a reunion that kicked off the Grammy Awards.

"Roxanne," the lady of the evening the trio serenaded in their first hit in 1979, long ago passed the point of needing to be advised "you don't have to put on the red light." But that didn't dim the 12,000-strong Staples Center crowd's ovation for the olive-branch performance of the pulsing number, one that was full of smiles from the once-feuding Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers.

Their three-minute performance segued quickly into the Grammys' first presenter, Jamie Foxx, but the good vibes are expected to continue to reverberate in 2007. Just how long and in what manner will be set out in a news conference the trio is holding today from the Whisky in West Hollywood, where they're slated to make "a special announcement ... to commemorate the band's 30th anniversary."

That's widely expected to be details of a reunion tour, one that fans and, perhaps to an even greater extent, concert promoters, have been dreaming of for close to two decades.

That would provide a splashy new chapter, or at least an emotion-packed epilogue, for the Police's storied career, which began in 1977 when English musicians Sting and Summers connected with American drummer Copeland and began experimenting with a punk-energized, reggae-infused rock sound.

"If indeed a Police tour were to happen, that's one of the two or three dream tours out there that live-music fans are very stoked to see," said Ray Waddell, who covers the concert industry for Billboard. "You're talking about a group with a significant portion of their fans who were not of age to see them when they last toured."

Sting has said in recent years that he lamented not giving Police fans a proper send-off tour before launching his solo career in 1987, so few are surprised about the prospect of one more round of concerts.

Reunion tours by celebrated acts of yore have become common, and lucrative, as the record industry struggles to deliver a new generation of superstar performers with the potential for long-term careers.

"You don't have to look too far down the road at the number of musicians in their 50s and 60s ... to know that's not going to last forever," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert industry tracking magazine Pollstar.

This reunion is a hot prospect worldwide.

"The Police was that rare international phenomenon that could draw large crowds almost anywhere in the world," said Waddell. "And they were known for fantastic live performances.... It's a no-brainer that this would be one of the top tours of the year."

The big question is whether a tour would be a walk through the group's old repertoire or if Sting, Copeland and Summers hope to add to their legacy with new music and a new album to complement the tour.

"From talking to people in the industry and from all walks of life, people are very, very excited about this reunion," said Andrew Gyger, senior music product manager for Virgin Megastores.

That excitement would certainly translate into significant curiosity about any new music the group might come up with but wouldn't guarantee that the threesome could pick up where they left off 23 1/2 years ago, when their final studio album, "Synchronicity," topped the national sales chart for 17 weeks.

A new Police album, Gyger said, "would sell well initially just because of the name, but how well it would do beyond that would depend on the strength of the music and if there was a great single."

Because the group built a reputation for forward-thinking music and business practices, it is expected that this reunion will offer more than nostalgia.

"A band, speaking in general terms, likes to have new material to play, but the fans very much want to hear the classics," Billboard's Waddell said. In the case of the Police, "their original fans were pretty adventurous lot to begin with. So for a lot of them, new music would be nice.... But it's still the catalog most of them are going to want to hear."

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