Reading Festival 24th – 26th August 1979
This was my 8th visit to Reading. The line-up was a predictable mix of new wave and heavy rock. It was also a year of line-up changes. Two of the main bands who were billed to play: Thin Lizzy and The Ramones did not appear. Thin Lizzy pulled out at a few days notice due to Gary Moore’s departure from the band. Lizzy were replaced by Scorpions and The Ramones by Nils Lofgren. Both of these changes were major disappointments. The weather wasn’t bad and the event was well-attended, but didn’t sell out. My recollections of the weekend are below:
Friday line-up: Bite the Pillow, The Jags, Punishment of Luxury, Doll by Doll, The Cure, Wilko Johnson, Motorhead, The Tourists, The Police.
Friday was the “new wave” day. I watched all of the bands from Punilux onwards. Highlights were The Cure who impressed me even though the only song I had heard before was “Killing an Arab”, and Wilko and Motorhead, both acts going down a storm with the crowd, who preferred their rock heavier and more traditional. The Police were riding on the crest of a wave of success, and were amazing, Sting had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and the entire field sang along to the hits. It was great to witness a band at their peak.
The Police setlist: Deathwish; Next To You; So Lonely; Truth Hits Everybody; Walking On The Moon; Hole In My Life; Fall Out; Message In A Bottle; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; Peanuts; Roxanne; Can’t Stand Losing You; Landlord; Born In The 60s
Saturday line-up: Root Boy Slim; Fame; The Yachts; Little Bo Bitch (not sure that they played?); The Movies; Bram Tchaikovsky; Gillan; Steve Hackett; Cheap Trick; Inner Circle; Scorpions
We spent much of Saturday enjoying the delights of local hostelries and didn’t venture into the arena until later in the day. To be honest, looking at the line-up now, it was pretty uninspiring. We made it into the festival for Gillan onwards. Gillan seemed to play everywhere at the time, and were always good fun. I’d seen them so many times that I was getting to know the new songs, but I also always looked forward to hearing Purple classics, which they did including ‘Smoke on the Water”. Steve Hackett played “I Know What I Like” which prompted a mass crowd singalong. The highlight was Cheap Trick with crazy antics from Rick Nielson and an exquisite performance by Robin Zander. A video of their performance that night is on YouTube. You can find “I Want You To Want Me” here, a bit rough, but still amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTLEYcO2VnE
For the encore Cheap Trick were joined onstage by Dave Edmunds and Bad Company guitarist Mick Ralphs for a rendition of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. Classic 😄
Inner Circle’s reggae rhythms went down well. Scorpions were great (I really liked “Loving You Sunday Morning” at the time), but we were disappointed that we weren’t seeing Lizzy who had become a Reading favourite and were massive at the time.
Sunday line-up: The Cobbers; Terra Nova; Speedometers; Zaine Griff; Wild Horses; The Members; Molly Hatchett; Climax Blues Band; Nils Lofgren; Peter Gabriel; Whitesnake.
Sunday highlights for me were The Members who were in the charts with “Sounds of the Suburbs” and got a mixed reaction from the crowds with some people liking them, and others lobbing cans, and Peter Gabriel who started with “Biko” and played classic solo tracks like “Moribund The Burgermeister”, “Solsbury Hill” and “Here Comes The Flood”. Phil Collins joined Gabriel for the end of his set for “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”. Whitesnake closed the evening and were worthy headliners (although they weren’t billed as so, with Peter Gabriel and non-showers The Ramones having shared top billing in the pre-festival publicity). They started with an amazing new song “Walking in the Shadow of the Blues” which set the tone for the evening. Ian Paice had just joined on drums and Whitesnake now had three former Purple members (Coverdale, Lord and Paice).
Whitesnake setlist: Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues; Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City; Steal Away; Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick; Mistreated; Soldier Of Fortune; Love Hunter; Breakdown; Whitesnake Boogie.
An enjoyable Reading weekend, if not one of the strongest line-ups.
Archive for the ‘Police’ Category
The Police Gateshead Stadium 1982
Support Acts: U2, The Beat, Gang Of Four, Lords Of The New Church.
Sting: “Seven years ago I left this town and I said I would make it. It’s nice to come back and make you part of the success.”
Another one day event headlined by The Police. This one was local to me (no three hour drive home; great 🙂 ). The weather was ok, dull but no major rain problems. Attendance was estimated at around 12,000; well below the capacity, and there was lots of empty space in the stadium. The Police were good, but for me and most of he crowd, the revelation of the day was U2. I had seen U2 a few times before this gig, and thought they were good, but it was at this Gateshead gig that I realised just how powerful a U2 performance could be. Bono was simply sensational; his singing, passion, energy and performance were amazing. He climbed all over the lighting towers and had the entire crowd on his side by the end of their set. The Police found it hard to follow U2, and Sting wasn’t in a particularly good mood; but after a slow start, all those hits got the crowd singing along. The standard Police three piece line-up was augmented by a brass section for this show.
From reviews of the time:
“U2 took advantage of the day’s upswing to reinforce the numerous claims made on their behalf to be ‘the next big thing’. Currently cooped up in the country getting their third album together, they exploded with a barrage of pent-up energy that no amount of pastoral activity can fulfil. “(Sounds)
“The Police were totally predictable. Coming on over a tape to ecstatic applause from the half empty stadium, Sting yodelled and changed basses for every other song in sight …. I can’t say that they played badly – they’re much too professional and slick for that – but their many hits were trotted out with a lack of excitement which suggests that their days as a group may be numbered [interesting comment in hindsight]….The audience loved it – but then at £8.30 a time they could hardly afford not to could they? ” (Record Mirror)
U2 setlist: Gloria; I Threw A Brick; A Day Without Me; An Cat Dubh; Into The Heart; Rejoice; Electric Co; I Will Follow; Out Of Control. Encore(s): A Celebration; 11 O’Clock Tick Tock; The Ocean
The Police setlist: Message In A Bottle; Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic; Walking On The Moon; Spirits In The Material World; Hungry For You; When The World Is Running Down; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; De do do do, De da da da; Demolition Man; Shadows In The Rain; Driven To Tears; Bring On The Night; One World (Not Three); Invisible Sun (with Bono); Roxanne; Don’t Stand So Close To Me; Can’t Stand Losing You; Regatta de Blanc; Be My Girl; Can’t Stand Losing You; So Lonely
The Police Milton Keynes Bowl 26th July 1980
Rockatta De Bowl
Support Acts: UB40; Squeeze; Tom Robinson’s Sector 27; Skafish
DJs: John Peel (who else) and Jerry Floyd
Not one of the best one day festival events that I’ve attended, but by no means the worst. It’s a long drive from the North East to Milton Keynes, and it seemed an even long drive back after standing all day getting soaked….
I went with a car load of mates; we had all recently discovered the Police and were quite big fans at the time, having seen them several times in Newcastle. This was the first big concert at the Milton Keynes Bowl, and it was organised by the same people that ran the Reading Festival. The Bowl is, as the name suggests, a natural round amphitheatre; “the site was a former clay-pit…filled in and raised to form an amphitheatre using sub-soil excavated by the many new developments in the area and it has a maximum capacity of 65,000. The arena is open-air grassland, without seats.” (Wikipedia). It was by no means full for the Police concert; reports suggest that around 25,000 people attended. There had been a lot of rain in the days leading up to the event and as a result, the bowl was a bit of a quagmire…. The line-up was interesting. I don’t recall whether or not we arrived in time to catch Tom Robinson and his new band Sector 27. I do remember SkaFace who were greeted by a hail of cans, and retreated after a few songs, the singer’s face was quite badly cut. Squeeze were good, as always; they can’t be anything other than good with those catchy pop songs like “Up The Junction”, and great hooks. UB40 were a big hit, with their reggae rhythms drifting around the bowl. There was then a long wait before The Police hit the stage, during which it poured down. The weather and the wait put a damper on things, and I remember that the Police were good, but I couldn’t really get into it for two reasons; first I was soaked (no tents or anywhere else to hide from the rain) and secondly I knew that I had a long four hour drive home. Sting had a pretty classy looking new upright bass (was it hanging from the roof on a wire? Or did I just imagine that?) and he led us all through lots of Yo Yo Yo..ing which started to annoy me after too long….
Some reviews from the time:
“The show by The Police in the hitherto rock and roll backwater of Milton Keynes, proved that there are still few greater thrills available anywhere than to witness a group playing at the absolute peak of its prowess and confidence… One is always astonished at any show The Police perform, by the remarkable power they manage to create with the basic line-up of bass, guitar and drums…” (Evening Standard)
“…they showed a move towards a more varied and mainstream approach, while retaining more than a hint of the white reggae style.” (The Guardian)
“They achieved a better overall sound with three musicians than anyone else did with eight… The white reggae beat was certainly conducive to the festival atmosphere, and the tribal chants brought out the football supporter in all of us.” (Sounds)
Police setlist: Voices Inside My Head; Don’t Stand So Close to Me; Walking on the Moon; Deathwish; Fall Out; Bring on the Night; De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da; Truth Hits Everybody; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; Driven to Tears; When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around; Message in a Bottle; Roxanne; Can’t Stand Losing You; Reggatta de Blanc; Next to You; So Lonely
The Police Newcastle City Hall 28 April 1980 9.15 (late) show
By 1980 The Police were one of the biggest bands in the world. In 1979 they had released their second album, Reggatta de Blanc, which topped the British charts for four weeks and included the UK number-one singles “Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon”. They headlined the first night of the Reading Festival in 1979, and, along with Thin Lizzy, were the highlight of the August Bank holiday weekend. So when Sting and Co returned to Newcastle in 1980 it was as triumphant heroes. They announced two shows at the City Hall, and early and late show on 28th April. Tickets went on sale by postal application only and the shows were massively over subscribed.
I managed to get tickets for both shows, and Marie and I went along to the late show, having passed on the tickets to the earlier show to friends. We had great seats right down the front. Anticipation for the gigs was high, and The Police put on a great high energy show, to a rapturous reception from the home crowd. This was the last time I was to see The Police in a small venue. Other gigs from here on were massive outdoor shows at Milton Keynes Bowl and Gateshead Stadium.
Setlist: Next to You; So Lonely; Walking on the Moon; Hole in My Life; Truth Hits Everybody; Bring on the Night; Driven to Tears; The Bed’s Too Big Without You; Message in a Bottle; Roxanne; Can’t Stand Losing You
The Police Newcastle Mayfair 14 June 1979
The next time I saw The Police was at Newcastle Mayfair. By then they had hit the charts with Can’t Stand Losing You, So Lonely and Roxanne, and had built up a strong following. They were on the brink of the mega-stardom which was to follow, starting later that year when they hit No 1 in the UK with Message in a Bottle and Walking on the Moon. I was spoilt for choice this night. Dire Straits were playing the City Hall, and The Police at the Mayfair. Which gig to go to? Well I tried to go to both, as I often did in those days. So my mate and I saw Dire Straits at the City Hall, and then raced down to the Mayfair for the Police. I’ve already written about the Dire Straits gig which was sold out and great; this was the first time they had played the City Hall and it was at the time of Sultans of Swing. For once the timings worked. We arrived at the Mayfair in time for the Police’s set having missed support acts The Cramps and Bobby Henry. The Mayfair was packed, and the Police were just great. Sting was on top form and was getting heavily into his Yo..Yo..Yo.. reggae cum jazz / scat singing at the time. It was very clear that this band was much more than a punk band, and were a great pop act. I always found it strange going into a gig late. Its like arriving at a party where everyone has been drinking all night and you come along sober. When we entered the Mayfair it was packed, hot, sweaty and the Police were just coming on stage. Sting was wearing his boiler suit, Andy was chopping out some great guitar rhythms and Stewart was at the back pounding away on his drums. A great night. The next time I saw the Police was when they returned to play two triumphant shows at the City Hall.
I’d seen Sting several times in Last Exit and the Newcastle Big Band, and knew that he had gone down to London with Last Exit. The next thing I heard was that he had formed a punk band called the Police and was supporting an American punk singer called Cherry Vanilla who was touring the UK. The first chance to see this pairing was at a gig at Middlesbrough Rock Garden in early 1977. Cherry had been David Bowie’s USA publicist, and relocated to London in 1976. The set up for the tour was the Police as support act, with Sting and Stewart Copeland also playing in Cherry’s band. The Police line-up at the time was Sting on bass and vocals, Stewart Copeland on drums, and Henry Padovani on guitar. I remember thinking it a strange set-up. Here was the drummer from the prog-rock band Curved Air, a jazz bass player and an unknown guitarist supporting an American new wave singer. It didn’t seem that authentic at the time compared to other punk and new wave acts. I’d always been impressed by Sting in Last Exit, liked Curved Air, and was interested in the punk scene, and hence wanted to see Cherry Vanilla, so Marie and I went to the gig at the Rock Garden, which was on 12 March 1977. As it happened Cherry Vanilla didn’t turn up for some reason, and the Police headlined that night. Their set was pretty straight ahead punk as far as I can recall. The only recored output from that period was the single Fall Out. Their set at the time include Grand Hotel, which was a Last Exit song and Clouds in Venice, which was written by Stewart Copeland and his then wife Sonja Kristina (from Curved-Air). I recall the music as fast-paced typical 1977 speed punk. The Cherry Vanilla / Police pairing appeared at Newcastle Polytechnic on 6 May 1977. and Marie and I went along again. This time Cherry Vanilla did perform with Sting and Stewart in her band, the Police played their own short set, and the evening was opened by local band Penetration who were starting to gig around the region at the time. I was a big fan of Penetration and although their songs were just forming at the time, they were the highlight of that night for me.
Before Sting formed the Police and started his journey on the road to mega-stardom, he could be found playing jazz-rock in a small upstairs room in a pub in Gosforth. The pub was the Gosforth Hotel, and the band was called Last Exit. Last Exit consisted on Sting on bass and vocals, drummer Ronnie Pearson, guitarists John Hedley and keyboardist Gerry Richardson. They existed for a couple of years in the mid-70s, and made quite a name for themselves playing around the Newcastle Area. They had a residency at the Gosforth Hotel, and also often played in the bar of the University Theatre (now the Playhouse). I saw them in both venues, and have strong memories of a couple of great gigs at the Gosforth Hotel. I went along with Marie, having read about Last Exit in the local press, and a write-up in Sounds. I also remember hearing a set they recorded for local radio. The room where they played was pretty small, and on the occasions we went to see them, the audience was quite small. The material was very jazzy with some great guitar work, and Sting’s vocals stood out. Their set included some early versions of songs which would later be recorded by the Police including “The Bed’s Too Big Without You”. Last Exit released a single in 1975, “Whispering Voices” and in 1977, they moved to London to look for greater success. However, after a few gigs most of the band returned to Newcastle, leaving Sting in the capital to pursue fame and fortune, which he was soon, of course, to find. I also saw Sting perform a few times as bass player in the Newcastle Big Band which was a large jazz band of around 20 musicians who played saxophones, trumpets, trombones, etc. They had a residency on Sunday lunchtimes in the bar of the University theatre, and I went through a few lunchtimes to catch their set. A very rare locally pressed lp exists of the band which was recorded in 1971 and features them playing standards such as Macarthur Park and Hey Jude. Sting was very recognisable in those days, and was always wearing his trademark striped sweater from which his name came. Marie and I would often spot him at gigs at Newcastle Poly Students Union in the mid 70s.