Spectacle: Elvis Costello with the Police (Episode 6)

[7 January 2009]

By Zeth Lundy

The day before their supposed Final Show Ever at Madison Square Garden on August 7, 2008 (a hyped-up moment to cap the already hyped-up Improbable Reunion Tour), the Police recorded an appearance on Spectacle: Elvis Costello With… (airing Wednesdays at 9pm EST/PST on the Sundance Channel). Costello strives to get at the crux of the group’s musical chemistry through individual interviews with Andy Summers, Stuart Copeland, and Sting, but the episode ultimately revolves around their tenuous relationship, breakup, reformation, and second breakup.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—in fact, it allows for a bit of Sting’s ego humor to elicit some laughs (when Costello asks him if he could hear the “kind things” his bandmates had been saying about him, Sting replies, “Yes, my lawyer and I were listening to it”), not to mention Copeland’s own ego humor, which is aggressive where Sting is mock-hurt (“I have the biggest gong in the world,” Copeland brags, “but I don’t need it!”). Once the three Police are brought on-stage together at the episode’s half-way point, however, any sort of engaging discussion is overridden by half-serious oneupmanship and catty digs.

“We don’t do passive-aggressive,” Copeland says.

“We go straight to the aggressive,” Sting responds, and then, when asked to name his favorite Police song, explains that it’s a tie between Summers’ “Mother” and Copeland’s “Miss Gradenko”. Zing!

Before things get entertainingly out of control, Costello is able to talk about Charles Mingus with Summers, Arabic music with Copeland, and the origins of “Roxanne” with Sting. (There just happens to be a guitar nearby, which Sting picks up to demonstrate the song’s languid beginnings.) Costello and Sting perform John Dowland’s 16th-century ballad “Flow My Tears”, with Sting on lute, which will undoubtedly provide more firepower for those looking to chastise the duo’s willingness to make themselves targets for chastisement.

The episode wraps up with a somewhat-awkward-but-mostly-cool jam that combines the Police and Costello’s Imposters into a double trio of sorts. They merge Costello’s “Watching the Detectives” with the Police’s “Walking on the Moon” (which caused me to imagine Sting as the Imposters’ bassist in a moment of drool-inducing fantasy), and close with Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”, which boils all talents down to the most elemental of forces.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/68686-spectacle-elvis-costello-with-the-police-episode-6/