In my life, “The Police” have been one of my most favorite bands. I’ve got every album they produced – including the really early punk stuff. But until recently, I really didn’t count Andy Summers as one of my guitar heroes. Sure, he was solid, he created some lasting licks (think: Message in a Bottle), but I never thought of him as someone whom I’d look to as a “Guitar God.” All that changed when I saw The Police in concert this past Wednesday, June 13, 2007.
When the announcement was made that The Police were coming to SF Bay Area a few months ago I was ecstatic! I immediately called my best friend Dave (another big Police fan) to see if he’d like to go to the concert. No way would our wives accompany us – it would be a guys’ night out; two guys who had missed the chance to see them over 20 years ago, and we were going, come hell or high water!
I anxiously waited for the day when the tickets were put on sale, and once they were, I snagged a couple of incredible seats though while a bit distant from the stage, were situated dead-center of the stage. On top of that, there would be a walkway in front of us, so we’d have a perfect, unimpeded view of the band. In fact, our seats were level with the stage! As I said, perfect, save for the distance. But in today’s multimedia world, we didn’t miss much with the big screens projecting constant, live video from the stage.
All right… I’ve talked about the seats. Let’s move on to the gist of this entry, shall we?
Never having seen Andy Summers perform, I had no idea just how incredible of a guitarist he is! As the night wore on, I became increasingly transfixed by his technique and utter mastery of the guitar. It’s really hard to describe, but the best description I can give of his guitar playing is that it’s a perfect economy in notes and timing. He plays nothing more or less than what is EXACTLY needed for a particular phrase. If he needs to play fill in with a lot of notes, he does it. If the phrase calls for long, bended notes, he does it, and his execution is PERFECT!
There’s no trickery, no flashiness in Andy Summers’ playing. Most of the time he stands on stage with a dour expression on his face – but as a musician myself, I know that he’s completely immersed in the music he plays. He doesn’t need to shred (though he demonstrated that he has the chops to do so), nor he does he feel a pressing need to jump around on stage. He just does his thing and he’s a complete wizard with his Strat. He makes that friggin’ thing sing!
Add to the fact that all three members of the band are dynamically comping against each other, and what you’ve got is an incredible sound. Some three-piece bands sound just like three-piece bands. The Police sound like there are a lot more instruments than a three-piece band, and Andy Summers is hugely responsible for that.
As I have about an hour to commute into work, still on a high from the concert, I set my iPod to play my Police collection this morning. The thing that really hit me as I listened, is that the recordings really didn’t do justice to how good of a guitar player Andy Summers is. Granted, he’s really tight in the studio, but after seeing him finally play live, I now know what kind of sound he’s capable of producing. And that’s the gist of this whole entry: Because he just quietly goes about doing his own thing, I think he’s totally overlooked as a master of the guitar. This author now believes he’s experienced true greatness.
Props to you, Andy Summers! You’ll always be on my list of “Guitar Gods!”