The Police are in town this week. They played the Garden Wednesday and return there tonight, before heading to The Meadowlands of New Jersey (which is technically still “in town.” Jeez, no wonder kids are failing geography these days).
To commemorate the band’s return to NY, Loge13 presents another entry in the “Shea Rocks” series.
The Police played Shea Stadium 24 years ago this month, on August 18, 1983.
Opening for The Police were Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, who were huge at the time, and REM, who certainly weren’t.
In fact, REM was so un-huge, they didn’t even get a mention on the ticket (see above). Nevertheless, REM opened 6 shows for the Police that summer. The month before, they had been on tour opening for The Replacements (the greatest band to never play Shea Stadium).
Ten days after playing Shea, REM’s first album “Murmur” came out, essentially inventing college radio and birthing a generation of moody, sneaker-staring English majors.
REM’s Shea setlist:
1,000,000 / Catapult / Pilgrimage / Radio Free Europe / Carnival Of Sorts (Boxcars)
As for the Police, by all accounts they were good that night. And broke some records along the way. Sting nodded to history during the show, saying, “We'd like to thank the Beatles for lending us their stadium,'' near the end of the concert.
The NYT reviewed the show thusly:
The group topped the Shea Stadium attendance figures for the Beatles and everyone else on Thursday night because a way was found to pack in 70,000 people for a sold-out performance.
It is a good sign that the Police can draw so many people and satisfy them, because the band's music works radical changes on what rock- arena audiences came to expect in the 1970's. The band's songs are light, not ponderous; introspective rather than aggressive; syncopated, not stomping, and more clever than simple-minded. Sting's lyrics even drop names like Nabokov and Scylla and Charybdis.
What makes the Police stand out among performing bands is that it never bothers to imitate its records. The trio couldn't if it tried, since band members overdub extra instruments in the recording studio. So it goes to the other extreme, revamping every song in a gleeful whirl of improvisation. The Police is one of the few rock bands - along with the Rolling Stones, the Talking Heads and the Grateful Dead - that is willing to shake up its arrangements nightly.
The Police's set seemed all the more innovative since it followed Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, which is the same old arena rock with a gender change. The group, minus video blowups, stomped out its own hard- rock songs and cover versions of 1960's hits while Miss Jett - who was virtually microscopic from the bleachers - hopped up and down and waved her arms. The music crunched and thudded in appropriate places, but it came across as an old routine.
For other Rockin' Shea updates, also check out:
Sheaved Heads: The Clash Rock Shea
The Who At Shea
The Rutles at Che Stadium
Shea Funk Railroad
Shea Stadium: National Treasure
The Beatles At Shea