If you were born anytime after the mid-'80s, you may not realize just how massive the Police really were. In the late '70s and early '80s, this trio was not just big, or even huge, but monolithic. They ruled the airwaves, they ruled the sales charts, and they ruled this newfangled thing called MTV. Made up of drummer Stewart Copeland, guitarist Andy Sumner, and vocal/guitarist (and heartthrob) Sting, you couldn't turn your eyes or ears anywhere without bumping into their unique blend of rock, pop, and light reggae. Even more unusual for such a commercially popular outfit, they were just as adored critically -- the rare band that no one seemed to dislike. (Heck, even my mom owned their "Synchronicity" album!) The Police were indeed the biggest band in the universe, bar none.
So when it was announced a couple of years ago that the Police -- who called it quits in 1984 at the height of their chart success -- were reforming for one final farewell tour, pandemonium amongst '80s survivors ensued. Sure, the tweens may have shrugged their shoulders (Sting, who?) and the baby boomers might have become a bit too old to truly appreciate the reunion, but for those of us who remember frantically running home every day after school to plop in front of our MTV and (im)patiently wait for the umpteenth airing of "Wrapped Around Your Finger," this was truly a historic event. If only for the legendary stories of infighting and clashing egos among the band members (that reportedly led to the group's demise), this was a tour that even the diehards never expected to happen.
A couple of years and hundreds of millions in tour grosses later, the dust has settled on the Police's farewell jaunt and a true postmortem can be made. Although by the band's own admission the tour got off to a rocky start with some musical miscues at early show, after only a few weeks in they seemed to have polished off the rough edges. I saw the show a few months into the tour, and they were quite a sight to behold. Like three pieces of a musical jigsaw puzzle, they seemed to fit together perfectly. The band was tight, on target, and in groove, and they seemed to be having a great time together. If the re-interpretations of a few songs underwhelmed, this was still a reunion tour that paid suitable justice to the band's musical legacy without falling into mere jukebox nostalgia.
'The Police: Certifiable - Live in Buenos Aires' was recorded over two nights of the band's stop in the city, and the setlist of those two shows (which was pretty representative of the rest of the tour) certainly aimed to please. All of the expected classics are here, including "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," "King of Pain," my fave "Message in a Bottle," and of course the immortal "Roxanne." I wasn't so keen on all the versions -- particularly the blandly-delivered "The Truth Hits Everybody." (Other clunkers, like "The Bed's Too Big Without You," were dropped completely by the time the band hit Buenos Aires). The group also sounded bored to me with "Every Breath You Take," while punchier songs like "Synchronicity II" and show closer "Next to You" sounded a bit heftier and hard-hitting on record.
Visually, 'Certifiable' is a well-shot record of the tour. It is a well-staged show, if not overly-reliant on visual gimmicks and a big lightshow. The band members are the stars, and the stage is vast enough to let them run around but still small enough that it doesn't overwhelm the musicianship. The crowd is also upbeat and energetic, particularly on Sting-led sing-alongs of such songs as "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da." Though some cried foul at the $250 price tag for the best tickets at most shows (a justifiable complaint, particularly given the rough early shows), that only makes this Blu-ray an even better deal. If you missed the show live the first time around, or just want a keepsake of your experience, 'Certifiable' is a fine document of a historic tour by one of the biggest pop bands in history.
The setlist: 01. Message in a Bottle / 02. Synchronicity II / 03. Walking on the Moon / 04. Voices Inside My Head / 05. When the World Is Running Down / 06. Don't Stand So Close to Me / 07. Driven to Tears / 08. Hole in My Life / 09. Truth Hits Everybody / 10. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic / 11. Wrapped Around Your Finger / 12. De Do Do Do De Da Da Da / 13. Invisible Sun / 14. Walking in Your Footsteps / 15. Can't Stand Losing You / 16. Roxanne / 17. King of Pain / 18. So Lonely / 19. Every Breath You Take / 20. Next to You.
Universal Music Distribution presents 'Certifiable' in a wonderful 1080p/VC-1 encode (1.78:1). This is a vibrant, highly-detailed transfer, culled from a source shot entirely with HD cameras.
Colors are wonderfully rich and clean. Reds in particular -- often the hardest hue for video to reproduce -- look amazingly clear. Detail is excellent, with the image almost always boasting terrific depth and clarity. Close-ups in particular are stunning, as I could see every bit of sinewy muscle on Sting's sweat-covered body. Contrast holds tight with little of the blooming that can so often plague shot-on-HD material, and blacks are pitch perfect. I did notice some rare artifacts on fast-cut moments, which can result in slight pixelization and noise in darker areas of the picture. Otherwise, 'Certifiable' is one of the best-looking live music titles I've seen on Blu-ray.
There are two Dolby TrueHD audio mixes on 'Certifiable,' both 96kHz/24-bit: 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo. Both offer fantastic audio.
The three band members are wonderfully balanced and mixed. All blend without overpowering the other, and Sting's vocals are directed properly to the fronts but don't stand out or feel too "dry." Stewart Copeland's fantastic drumming demands demo quality low bass, and that's what we get here -- the subwoofer gets quite the workout. Dynamics are expansive, and neither too flat nor too bright. Surrounds are not incredibly active aside from crowd noise and some bleed of instruments, but that's OK. 'Certifiable' delivers quite a powerful TrueHD track.
UMD offers a nice selection of extras on 'Certifiable,' including a behind-the-scenes documentary and the entire concert in audio form. Video materials are presented in full 1080 HD. (I could find no subtitle options on the extras.)
'The Police: Certifiable -- Live in Buenos Aires' is a great souvenir of the band's farewell tour. It's a pretty mammoth spectacle of rhythm and sound -- this band is tight -- with a great lightshow and enthusiastic audience to boot. This Blu-ray is an excellent technical presentation, too, with great video and audio and a few worthwhile supplements. 'Certifiable' is a must-own for Police diehards, and well worth checking out for the casual fan, too.