Let me preface the following by saying this was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable concert experience which I’m glad I got the privilege to be a part of. That’s why I feel compelled to write a concert review, which I rarely do. Also, the audience response and overall appreciation of this great artist who’s contributed so much to the world of music was heartwarming and wonderful to share in.
That being said, my parents trained my ear and musical understanding from an early age to be astute and necessarily in tune both literally and metaphorically – which is a good thing and a bad thing. It brings me great enjoyment in life, but there are times I’d rather be oblivious. Some cringe-worthy moments last night were impossible to ignore, and I’ll review the bad with the good.
The concept of an original band member – especially the drummer – reimagining and arranging popular songs by The Police into rock/orchestra pieces intrigued me, and it was definitely an experiment of epic proportions – with mixed results.
I think his arrangements were OK, sometimes ingenious, and often interesting ‘takes’ on the songs. ‘Roxanne’ was a high moment, for sure.
As a commenter on You Tube pointed out, use of more harmonics rather than so many notes in unison would have been a plus. Or as I expressed to my concert companion, it was missing the power of using the full orchestra as one instrument instead of a bunch of separate instruments and sounds. Several points became a cacophony rather than a blend which the listener could follow either rhythmically or melodically, let alone both together.
I wished several times that I could listen to a studio recording of the arrangements mixed to balance the snippets of genius I could almost hear, with the parts I could hear, instead of struggling to make it out ‘live.’
It takes immense skill and experience to wield orchestrated harmonics, dynamics and balance, which is why there are relatively few well-known symphonic composers throughout time. So no shade on Stewart Copeland for missing the highest mark.
His version of ‘Message in a Bottle’ brought back that visceral feeling of music with an entirely new sound and direction that the original gave me the first time I heard the song in the early ’80’s. I heard it on the radio while swimming in my roommate’s parent’s pool at night in North Vancouver B.C., looking out off the hillside at the city lights over the water. The difference in sound was so remarkable to me that I got out of the pool and hurried into the kitchen to find out what the song was before it was over. Copeland’s version reimagined and reminded me of that moment – so big success there. Well done!
My only true disappointment was ‘Walking in Their Footsteps.’ The original is so unusual, and it’s very ethereal for me. Sadly, I didn’t get that feeling at all from his redo, though – to be fair – I think I couldn’t hear what he intended. It was muddy, and perhaps if the arrangement had been pared down to less instrumentation at once, or controlled by mixing at various volumes, it may have been successful. But for me that arrangement was an epic fail, live in Seattle.
Without a doubt, I admire Stewart Copeland for taking the chance, fulfilling his dream, and continuing on as the experimental musician that The Police always were as a group. It’s difficult to continue to innovate in life. Very admirable, and I absolutely loved his spirit and spending time with him and his creative work.