45 Years Ago: The Police Play Their First U.S. Show
The Police played their first-ever concert in the U.S., with two late-night sets on Oct. 20, 1978, at New York City's famous CBGB.
Their debut album, Outlandos d'Amour, hadn't been released. The band – featuring singer and bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland – were also not yet the rich, world-famous rock stars they would eventually become.
They reportedly flew into the U.S. on budget tickets, carrying their instruments as luggage. Traveling from city to city on the rest of the tour involved a cramped Ford Econoline van.
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Still, Summers remembered getting a great reaction from the small crowd that first night. "No one there knows who we are, or have ever heard of us: We have to prove our worth, and knowing this makes us all the more determined to blow the audience away," Summer said in his book One Train Later.
He said the Police were "tired from the long plane trip, but somehow New York comes in off the street to fill us with adrenaline and we play a hard and edgy set that rivets the audience, who haven't heard anything like it before." Highlights included a rendition of "Be My Girl — Sally," a deep cut from their debut co-written by Sting and Summers.
'These Aren't Your Usual Punks'
Skeptical critics were won over, too. "They're from Britain – so big deal," Jim Green wrote for the Trouser Press. "And they all have bleached blond hair – swell. But jeez, if you listen – hey, this is hot stuff!"
By the time the Police concluded their first set, "the audience is on its feet and literally howling along with us," Summers said. "Despite the small numbers, it feels like a raging success." Green noted their heady combination of "straight-ahead super speed new wavery rock with slower reggae-oid sections, with great hooks out of classic Britrock tradition. These ain't your usual punks, or anything else for that matter."
Outlandos d'Amour went on to become a sizable hit, going platinum in both the U.K. and America. The Police were soon playing much, much larger venues.
"The first time I ever came to New York, we got into a car at the airport and the driver took us to the Bowery and a placed called CBGB," Sting recalled during a 1983 show at Shea Stadium. "After that, we played the Bottom Line, then the Ritz and the Palladium. When we came back again, we played Madison Square Garden – twice."
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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso
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