On Sunday, January 20, 1980, The Police began its North American winter tour with a concert in Buffalo, New York in the Clark Gym on the University at Buffalo’s South Campus.
The Police, already popular in the UK at the time, were labeled as “one of the bands to watch in the Eighties” in the United States.
A decent crowd saw the band put on a good show although drummer Stewart Copeland expressed disappointment with the U.B. fans wishing they were a British audience. “They’re louder, and they dance more.” (see “The Police” Spectrum Newspaper, 25 January 1980)
The Police would return to Buffalo, New York on February 22, 1984 as one of the most popular bands in the world playing in front of 17,000 frenzied fans at the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. By the end of the decade, The Police were ranked the #1 most played band on U.S. radio in the 1980’s.
The Police/XTC photos are part of the Prominent Visitors to Buffalo digital collection and come from the University Archives. This collection chronicles many of the politicians, musicians and activists that visited Buffalo in the past 50 years. Documentation from the University Archives includes photographs, coverage of events from the UB Spectrum student newspaper, and related ephemera.
The Police with XTC at the Clark Gym on January 20, 1980
by Pat Carrington
The Police opened their show last Sunday night in Clark Gym with a frantic rocker called “Next to You.” But it was their next number, “So Lonely,” that was more indicative of the style that has made them very well known in such a short time, that earned them status as “one of the bands to watch in the Eighties” – a pop-flavored reggae group.
Bass guitarist/vocalist Sting’s voice is at its best when he’s singing reggae music. When he sings rock and roll, he sounds just like dozens of other vocalists. With the more soulful reggae, however, his voice gains a lilt and its high, clear tones are used. To someone familiar only with the Police cuts that receive airplay, this white reggae sound identifies the group.
After the show, when I asked drummer Stewart Copeland if he thought the group had in tended to “bring reggae to America,” I was surprised to see him look surprised at the question. “No, not at all. We just do something that turns us on. It feels natural- it’s something we’ve always done. We were surprised that no one else was doing it, actually. Of course, you hear a lot more of it in England. It’s part of the culture there.” (Reggae is primarily Jamaican music, and the reggae music played around London stems from the Jamaican roots of the city’s black population).
“What I like particularly about reggae is that you can experiment with it. I can take something that’s basically reggae (that is, until I get into it, because I change everything when I get into it) and do something different with it. It’s not like, say, jazz. Everything you can do with jazz has been done already.”
Though the Police may have eased into reggae as a style, they now do songs that are very intentionally Jamaican in flavor. The most obvious example of this occurred during their first encore Sunday. In the midst of a bopping-good “Can’t Stand Losing You,” Sting slowed the tempo to sing “Day-O, getting the audience to join in: ‘daylight come and me wan’ go home” . .. it added a nice touch, but since it was a cover song, it could hardly have been something that just crept into their music.
The Police is comprised of Andy Summers on guitar, Copeland and Sting. Their sound was quite intricate for a trio, owing to each member’s skill in playing their respective instrument. The acoustics in Clark Hall, amazingly enough, were excellent with the aid of an echo effect, Sting’s voice resounded through the packed hall, alternately silvery and mystical.
Summers was intent on his music, rarely crossing the stage. Sting was the showman, boogieing with his bass, exuding “Mod” good looks and a happy charisma. At times, particularly during snatches of “Bo Diddley,” when instrumental backing was minimal, Sting wove a spell With his singing that hypnotized the audience.
But the people were never too hypnotized to wake up and dance. Where I was standing, jammed in the midst of the crowd a few feet from the stage, it became impossible to make any notes due to the bouncing up and down of everyone near me (not to mention my own movements). Copeland, though, expressed disappointment with the audience: “I wish it had been a British audience. They’re louder, and they dance more. They think less about the words, the nuances, than Americans do, but – well, they pogo over there, you know.” When asked if he really preferred that people didn’t listen to the words, he admitted that “each side has its good points.” In response to a Police quote from a recent magazine that “we can play a small club in the middle of nowhere if we want,” Copeland said that Clark was “just about the right size.”
The audience seemed to be somewhat confused about the identity of the Police. There were punked-out people present, dressed outrageously, complete with safety pins and cheap sunglasses. One screamed, “I was a punk before you were!” There’s very little that can be called punk in either the music or the persona of the Police, however, so if the people were attempting to dress for the occasion, they were a bit off. Many folks just sat in the stands, unwilling to participate, waiting to be entertained. The band performed that function admirably, but would have preferred some feedback in the form of dance.
Generally, live renditions of Police material were more expanded than their album versions, containing extended instrumental jams. This was especially the case with reggae tunes. “Truth Hits Everybody” was slowed down considerably, making it easier to understand the words (but harder to dance). The jams sounded so good that they never became boring, and Copeland put so much feeling into his drumming that he was in pain later. As far as the crowd was concerned, they showed by their spirited encore calls that it was worth it.
— Prodigal Sun / The Spectrum, January 25, 1980