“Whenever you’re ready Mr. Copeland” says Charlie, the production manager, as two crew members hold aside the giant gong, creating just enough space for me to slither onto my percussion stage, which is still down in its pit. I leap on board but my foot catches something and I sprawl into the arena in a jumble as the little stage starts to rise into view. Never mind. The audience is screaming with anticipation as I collect myself in the dark and start to warm, up the gong with a few gentle taps. But I’m overdoing it. It’s resonating and reaching it’s crescendo before the stage has fully reached its position. Sort of like a premature ejaculation. There’s nothing for it so I take a big swing for the big hit. Problem is, I’m just fractionally too far away and the beater misses the sweet spot and the big pompous opening to the show is a damp squib. Never mind.
I stride manfully to my drums. Andy has started the opening guitar riff to MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and the crowd is going nuts. Problem is, I missed hearing him start. Is he on the first time around or the second? I look over at Sting and he’s not much help, his cue is me – and I’m lost. Never mind. “Crack!” on the snare and I’m in, so Sting starts singing. Problem is, he heard my crack as two in the bar, but it was actually four – so we are half a bar out of sync with each other. Andy is in Idaho.
Well we are professionals so we soon get sorted, but the groove is eluding us. We crash through MESSAGE and then go strait into SYNCHRONICITY. But there is just something wrong. We just can’t get on the good foot. We shamble through the song and hit the big ending. Last night Sting did a big leap for the cut-off hit, and he makes the same move tonight, but he gets the footwork just a little bit wrong and doesn’t quite achieve lift-off. The mighty Sting momentarily looks like a petulant pansy instead of the god of rock. Never Mind. Next song is going to be great…
But it isn’t. We get to the end of the first verse and I snap into the chorus groove – and Sting doesn’t. He’s still in the verse. We’ll have to listen to the tapes tomorrow to see who screwed up, but we are so off kilter that Sting counts us in to begin the song again. This is ubeLIEVably lame. We are the mighty Police and we are totally at sea.
And so it goes, for song after song. All I can think about is how Dietmar is going to string us up. In rehearsal this afternoon we changed the keys of EVERY LITTLE THING and DON’T STAND SO CLOSE so needless to say Andy and Sting are now on-stage in front of twenty thousand fans playing avant-garde twelve-tone hodgepodges of both tunes. Lost, lost, lost. I also changed my part for DON’T STAND and it’s actually working quite well but there is a dissonant noise coming from my two colleagues. In WALKING/FOOTSTEPS, I worked out a cool rhythm change for the rock-a-billy guitar solo, but now I make a complete hash of it – by playing it in the wrong part of the song. It’s not sounding so cool.
It usually takes about four or five shows in a tour before you get to the disaster gig. But we’re The Police so we are a little ahead of schedule. It’s only the second show (not counting the fan gig – 4,000 people doesn’t count as a gig in the Police scale of things).
When we meet up back-stage for the first time after the set and before the encores, we fall into each other’s arms laughing hysterically. Above our heads, the crowd is making so much noise that we can’t talk. We just shake our heads ruefully and head back up the stairs to the stage. Funny thing is, we are enjoying ourselves anyway. Screw it, it’s only music. What are you gonna do? But maybe it’s time to get out of Vancouver…