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Music Review

Police turn in arresting finish

In what was likely the band's last Bay State concert, Sting (left) and the Police played a 100-minute set of hits and album cuts Thursday night at the Comcast Center. In what was likely the band's last Bay State concert, Sting (left) and the Police played a 100-minute set of hits and album cuts Thursday night at the Comcast Center. (ROBERT E. KLEIN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / August 2, 2008

MANSFIELD - As the final note was still ringing in the ears of concertgoers, the video camera operator at the Comcast Center trained his lens on a roadie holding up a clear drum head with the words "That's All Folks!" written on it.

A few of the roughly 16,000 people walking out of the Police's final show in the Bay State may have been hopeful that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-enshrined group wouldn't make good on the promise to call it quits again, but chances are pretty good that bassist-frontman Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland, and guitarist Andy Summers will not be pulling the familiar farewell tour bait-and-switch. (The trio plans to end its tremendously successful 14-month reunion trek in six days with a benefit for public television at Madison Square Garden.)

Which is why it would be thrilling to report that they bid adieu in spectacularly mind-blowing fashion, playing past curfew and having to be dragged off the stage. They didn't.

But this is one of the most musically gifted groups in rock history, so they were pretty terrific playing a 100-minute set that hit peaks of magnificence and was never less than impeccably tasteful. While the show sometimes simmered instead of boiled over - notably on a muted "Don't Stand So Close to Me" and the flaccid-tempo "Roxanne" - the set list was a well-curated mix of hits and album cuts.

The tightly wound riff of "Message in a Bottle" got things rolling and the bubbling "Walking on the Moon" offered the first "ee-yo-yo" of many. Sting - sporting a sheer, bicep-hugging shirt and a scruffy beard - was in good spirits and voice, shying away from high notes in some songs but keening wildly in others and reminding that his elastic bass work was as distinctive as his howl.

Copeland was, as ever, a hive of activity, seemingly sprouting extra limbs to conjure the polyrhythms of "When the World Is Running Down. . ." and stretching back and forth between his elaborate percussion setup and his kit for "Wrapped Around Your Finger" and "King of Pain." Summers may have been less visibly animated, but the fire was alive in his inventive fretwork, especially on a wickedly piquant solo during "So Lonely."

The staging was minimal, with just a few nods to the "Ghost in the Machine" LED-light album cover and photos of children in war torn and poverty-stricken countries.

All too quickly the encores arrived and the band - with help from an adolescent, blond bass player who we're guessing belonged to Sting - signed off with "Next to You."

Elvis Costello and the Imposters opened with a varied 55-minute set that included tracks from his latest release "Momofuku" and tunes like "Watching the Detectives" that stretched back to that same fertile period in the mid-'70s that produced the headliners.

The Police

With Elvis Costello and the Imposters

At: the Comcast Center, Thursday

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