Live in Japan 2008 (No Label)
Tokyo, Japan – February 13, 2008
Message In A Bottle (fade in [not really]), Message In A Bottle, Synchronicity II, Walking On The Moon, Voices Inside My Head/When The World Is Running Down, Don’t Stand So Close To Me, Driven To Tears, Hole In My Life, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Wrapped Around Your Finger, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da, Invisible Sun, Can’t Stand Losing You, Roxanne, King Of Pain, So Lonely, Every Breath You Take
Los Angeles, California – February 6, 1980
Don Kirshner Intro, Roxanne, Message In A Bottle, Can’t Stand Losing You, Next To You, Walking On The Moon, The Bed’s Too Big Without You, Deathwish
The no label DVD Live in Japan 2008 brings us 2 performances: the first is from 2008 during the reunion tour and was taken from a Japanese television broadcast; the second is from the Police’s 1980 appearance on the live music television show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The DVD comes in an attractive, if minimal glossy cardstock package. The front cover shows a close-up of Sting performing; the back cover is a group shot of the band about to take a bow following a concert. Both photos are from the reunion tour, though not from the concert on the DVD. The package is merely a sleeve, about the thickness of a double LP. It does not open; rather, a plastic DVD tray slides most (but not all) of the way out of the sleeve, granting access to the DVD.
All DVD menus are easy to navigate, and appear over the same clip of Can’t Stand Losing You from the Don Kirshner performance.
The reunion tour portion of the DVD is beautifully shot with multiple camera angles and close-ups of each member of the band. The picture is wonderfully clear; you can clearly see little details such as the police badge on Sting’s guitar strap, and Andy’s “O My God They Killed Kenny” guitar strap. The beginning of each song is accompanied by the song title in the lower right-hand portion of the screen and the logo “WOWOW” in the upper left-hand corner.
The reunion portion of the DVD starts with a very short segment consisting of shots of the arena, fans, and interviews with each band member. It then goes right into the start of the concert. Each of the shows on the reunion tour began in the same manner: a low, metallic tone plays, slowly increasing in pitch while, at the same time, Stewart rises from beneath the stage with his drum kit, playing the huge gong which stands behind him. Both the metallic tone and the gong increase to a climax, whereupon Stewart throws his mallet into the air, points at Andy (who has just entered from stage right), who hits the opening chords to Message In A Bottle. Finally, Sting enters from stage left a few bars into the song. The DVD states that it fades in with Message In A Bottle, but this is not correct. The entire song is here. In fact, this DVD shows precisely how the concert begins and where the introductory metallic tone comes from. I had assumed it was a recorded bit, perhaps created on a synthesizer. In fact, Sting creates this tone each show by crouching offstage and running one of his metal bracelets on the low (E) string of his bass from the neck to the body. By this point on the reunion tour (nearly a year in), the band is a well-oiled machine. They are very comfortable with the material (which they hadn’t played for 25 years) and with each other. All three members’ incredible musicianship is very much on display. Andy’s solos are really very nice, and Stewart continues to amaze with his mastery of all things percussion when he twice leaves his drum kit (during Wrapped Around Your Finger and King of Pain) to play the xylophone and all manner of cymbals, all at the same time. Stewart, Andy and Sting each can be seen really enjoying themselves, playing with and off of each other and the crowd. The band still has Synchronicity II and Walking In Your Footsteps in its setlist — songs they would drop towards the end of the tour. Walking In Your Footsteps (between Invisible Sun and Can’t Stand Losing You) and Next To You (the final encore) were played that night in Japan, but were not included in the television broadcast, so they are not included on the DVD. The editing is seamless, however, and their absence is not noticeable.
A couple of notes: while Sting is introducing Andy, Stewart can be seen in the background breaking his drumstick over his knee, and you can faintly hear it break. When Sting introduces Stewart, he shows the broken drumstick to the audience, then throws it. While the next song (Walking On The Moon) begins, a roadie can been seen retrieving the broken stick from the middle of the stage.
Excellent camera work is evident at the beginning of Don’t Stand So Close To Me with close-ups of Sting playing his floor keyboard with his feet. This is a shot we don’t normally get to see.
During King Of Pain, Sting actually sings the many-times-repeated line “It’s my soul up there.” This is quite unusual, as Sting normally does not sing this line live.
During the guitar solo in So Lonely, Sting stands next to Andy and can be seen urging Andy on, saying “more, more, more.” When he’s had enough, he can then be seen telling Andy “stop.”
The Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert portion of the DVD is not nearly as clear as the 2008 performance, but its good for a performance from 1980, and the closeups are pretty clear. The band plays seven songs from their first two albums. Although the crowd is very enthusiastic in their applause between songs, it seems they may not be huge Police fans. The crowd shots show only a few people moving or dancing to the music — most are standing completely still. By this time, the Police’s second album had been to number one in the UK. In the US, however, they still hadn’t broken through. There is a slightly strange effect on Sting’s vocals; it’s not bad, just different from what he usually sounded like in concert. This portion of the DVD presents a real nice contrast with the first portion from the reunion concert. The music sounds a lot more stripped down. Sting has a lot more hair and even some acne; he wears striped new wave jumpsuit. He also uses a pick to play his bass, whereas in 2008 he uses only his fingers. Stewart is wearing his trademark short shorts and t-shirt. Andy is dressed in black slacks, jacket and shirt, and looks a lot more svelte.
A couple of notes: it is clear Sting is not yet tired of Roxanne (the song is only a year old), and his bass line is very close to the song’s original reggae roots. There is a slight visual distortion during Roxanne. You can see all three members of the band singing during choruses; in 2008, don’t ever really see or hear Stewart singing. Sting sounds great in I Can’t Stand Losing You, and the whole band blisters through Next To You. During the concert, Andy makes a few minor but noticeable mistakes, particularly during Walking On The Moon. During this time, Stewart was in the habit of writing “fuck off” on his drum heads. Because this performance was broadcast on TV, we only get to see the drum which says “off,” and we don’t see the drum which says “fuck.” Before one of several edited-out commercials, the announcer humorously misidentifies the song when he says “and they’ll return next with This Bed’s Too Big Without You.” During The Bed’s Too Big Without You, we get to see Stewart play drums with one hand and a synthesizer with the other. Finally, Sting really dances around during Deathwish.
This DVD brings us two great performances which stand in wonderful contrast with one another, and it delivers them with first class picture quality. This DVD is definitely recommended.