The Police – Live In Concert Oakland 1983 (4Reel 2009-002)

Live in Concert Oakland, CA (4Reel 2009-002)

Oakland, CA – September 10, 1983

Voices Inside My Head, Synchronicity I, Synchronicity II, Walking In Your Footsteps, Message In A Bottle, Walking On The Moon, O My God, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Wrapped Around Your Finger, Tea In The Sahara, Spirits In The Material World, Hole In My Life/Hit The Road Jack, One World, King Of Pain, Don’t Stand So Close To Me, Murder By Numbers, Every Breath You Take, Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You/Jamaica Farewell

In June 2009, a new video from the Synchronicity Tour, not previously known to exist, surfaced on a Police community message board.  This is that video:  a pro-shot, near complete record of the September 10, 1983 concert in Oakland.  The source of the recording is not known, though reportedly a number of concerts from around that time were surriptitously recorded directly from the Oakland house video system.  It is not known whether 4Reel obtained the master, or used one of the free trade copies to make this DVD.

The DVD comes in a cardboard digipack.  The menu is bare-bones but easy to navigate.  Curiously, after finishing play, the DVD does not return to the menu, but stops.  The video quality is good; the audio is generally very good.  The camerwork is generally very good as well, with some time devoted to each member (unfortunately, there is very little of Stewart playing his myriad cymbols when he leaves his drum kit), and almost no time devoted to the backup singers (thankfully).

The DVD starts with only audio and a black screen with a running time code at the bottom of the screen.  The time code remains on the screen for the entire concert, which I found periodically distracting.  The video kicks in after Sting cries “Let’s go!” to kickstart Synchronicity I.  After ripping through no. I the band roars right into Synchronicity II, with a focus on Stewart drumming and Andy switching from a 12 string to his normal 6.

As someone offstage starts a drum machine for the intro to Walking In Your Footsteps, Sting displayes his Jungian influence:  “There’s no such thing as coincidence.  No!”  He then breaks out his mega Pan flute (much larger than the one he used during the reunion tour).  There are a couple of moments of audible static during Sting’s flute playing.  Sting doesn’t react, so it may be from the recording and not from the concert.

Throughout the concert, Sting takes his left (fret) hand off of his bass when he plays an open note.  This was a lazy habit Sting would soon abandon.  He switches to an upright electric bass for Walking On The Moon.  Before starting the song, Sting asks the crowd where they are from:  “I always  like to find out where people’s partisan alliegances are.  Who’s from Oakland? (roar) Who’s from San Franciso? (roar)  Whos’ from Berkeley? (roar) Whos’ from Los Angeles (boo) Oh I see!  I see!  You don’t like Los Angeles, eh?  Interesting that.  We played there a few days ago for one reason only — in order to compare them with you (roar) There’s a catch though, they were very, very good, which means only one thing — you have to be better!  A hell of a lot better!”  Sting then instructs the crowd to turn around and look at the moon before launching into the song.  After the first stanza of Walking On The Moon, Sting comments on the Apollo space program:  “Did once; cost too much money.”  Sting stops playing and launches into the call and response “eyooo eyo yo yo” too soon, and he appears to catch Andy and Stewart off guard, for the song momentarily sputters.

In Wrapped Around Your Finger, some of the percussion appears to have been done offstage, in contrast to the reunion tour, where it was clear Stewart was doing it.  The song nicely segues directly into Tea In The Sahara, which contains nice shots of Stewart’s synchopated percussion accents and Andy playing harmonics.

Before Hole In My Life, Sting says:  “This is a very, uh, very old song.  It’s about six years old, can you imagine that?”  He then holds up part of his jacket and says:  “It’s like this jacket.  Do you like my jacket?”  To which the crowd roars in blind adoration, causing Sting to laugh, mostly to himself.  If you listen closely, however, you can hear Stewart answer the question by saying:  “It sucks.”  Sting introduces the song:  “This is called there’s a hole in my life.  There’s a hole in my jacket too.  Oh yes, there’s a part here just for you.  Exactly tailor made for you!’

Between Hole In My Life and One World, the time counter skips ahead from 50 min 23 sec to 55 min 59 sec.  The reason for this may be that the band reportedly showed a video of images from the conflict in Northern Ireland during the song Invisible Sun, and therefore there would not have been a video feed of the band’s performance of this song.

Before King Of Pain, Sting tells the crowd “After this next song we’re going to go and have a tea break, then we’re going to come back and play for ages.” Sting proceeds to have a complete brain fart during the song.  He forgets the lyric “there’s a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall” and momentarily stands frozen in front of the microphone looking totally lost.  After the song ends, Sting says “See you in a minute,” and looks exasperatedly at the ceiling.  The audio then goes silent, but the video continues and shows band coming off stage, going into a tent, and playing with stovepipe hats and a tea set.  Andy puts on a fedora and picks up the tea pot to pour a drink, but realizes the pot is actually empty.  Sting then takes off his shirt.  Andy (silently) says “cheers” and drinks from a dixie cup (with his pinkie extended).  Stewart then enters the frame, slowly rising in front of the camera.  Playing for the camera, Sting proceeds to pull the tablecloth out from under the tea set, and actually manages to keep most of the set on the table.  Sting then holds up his digital watch, complete with calculator (it is 1983 after all), to the camera, as if to say its time to get back on stage.  The audio comes back on when the band actually reaches the stage.

Before Murder By Numbers, Sting says:  “You know, the first time we played in this …  bay area, is that right? … there weren’t as many people as this.  No sir!  I think we played at Davis College was the first time we were here.  We played in somebody’s common room.  There were about maybe 50 people.  And now we’re here!”  The crowd roars and again Sting can only chuckle, before saying, ironically, “This song is about the cynical manipulation of large numbers of people.   Does happen!” 

During Roxanne, there are several nice shots of the crowd, all jumping with their arms in the air.  Sting appears to get stuck on a “Roxanne” and starts scatting.  After the song ends, Sting says goodnight and the time counter jumps ahead about two minutes before band comes back out. 

Sting says “Alright, before we play some more I’m going to have a little quiz.  What’s this?”  He plays Bonanza theme.  The crowd roars, Sting says “what?” and you can hear the crowd yell back “Bonanza!”  Sting then says “Right.  What’s this?” and he starts playing the intro to Can’t Stand Losing You.  Sting answers his own question by saying “Well?…  It’s the national anthem of course!”

During the Regatta De Blanc interlude, Sting starts shouting at someone off stage (sound? lights?) “Hello, Nick.  Nice one Nick.  Oh dear.”  The interlude is then extended as Sting apparently leaves the stage for a minute (to yell at Nick?).

After the Jamaican Farewell (modified for San Francisco), Sting says:  “You know what I said before about Los Angeles?  The point is this.  What if … what if we make so much noise here tonight that the noise went up in the air, and south, and pissed everybody off in Los Angeles? (roar) Yeah!  Wouldn’t that be great? (roar) Save it, save it!  So we’re going to try it.  You’ve got a nice bowl shape so we get lots of projection up in the air, all the way down to that awful place full of smog.  Just do as I do.”  Sting then leads the crowd in a call and response of “yeoooooo”.   Afterwards, Sting says:  “Well, what do you think?  I think that was worth a tremor on the fault line.  Only joking!  Only joking!”

Sting then introduces the band.  He starts with Andy, then he says:  “I’d like you to thank our backing vocalists….  All these girls are my sisters.  My father was very adventurous.  On the drums, Stewart Copeland.  He’s my sister as well.”

As they near the end of the song, Andy starts jumping and doing scissor kicks near Sting.  He then runs over and kicks Sting in the rear before running back to his microphone.  Sting then abandons his microphone and plays an audibly wrong note while running over behind Andy to kick him in the rear.  Both boys have smiles on their faces.  Andy then comes behind Sting and sticks his leg out between Sting’s legs (mimicking his member?), which only makes Sting smile more.  A thinly-veiled contest of egos or harmless horseplay?  Probably a bit of both.  The band leaves the stage after the song, then the DVD abruptly stops.  The Police would normally have played So Lonely as their final encore; if they did it that night, it is not captured here.

In conclusion, this DVD was fun to watch.  The band was in good form and even better spirits.  I recommend this DVD. 

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