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Jim Gable
The Police (Sting, Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland)
Writing Credits:

The Police: Certifiable is produced and directed by the award-winning Graying & Balding, Inc. team of Ann Kim and Jim Gable, whose film credits include the Rolling Stones, Sting, Keith Urban and Chris Botti.

The DVD set contains 2-DVD's and 2-CD's that include the following: a DVD with a 109-minute wide-screen concert presented in Dolby Surround and Stereo, as well as a DVD with a 50-minute bonus feature, "Better Than Therapy," directed by Jordan Copeland detailing The Police's historic reunion with exclusive behind-the-scenes interviews from the band and road crew, plus 2 photo galleries of The Police on tour; one shot by guitarist and photographer Andy Summers and one by photographer Danny Clinch.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Not Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 11/11/08

• “Better Than Therapy” Documentary
• Alternate Angle for Two Songs
• Two Photo Galleries
• Bonus Concert CDs
• Booklet


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Police: Certifiable (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 27, 2009)

Back in 2007, we found lots of big-name reunions, many of which seemed improbable prior to that year. 2007 brought back a David Lee Roth-led Van Halen, a one-off show from Led Zeppelin, and the most popular version of Genesis. The most starting return – and the most successful tour – came from the Police. (A Led Zep tour would’ve been off the charts, but that didn’t occur.)

For all intents and purposes, the Police died in 1984 when the Synchronicity tour ended. Oh, the band played a few concerts as part of 1986’s “Conspiracy of Hope” tour to benefit Amnesty International, and they managed some abortive studio sessions that year as well. These produced an alternate version of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and that was it. The Police – briefly the world’s most popular band – went the way of the do-do.

And it looked like it’d stay that way. The three members – singer/bassist Sting, drummer Stewart Copeland and guitarist Andy Summers – never much cared for each other, and Sting’s success as a solo artist meant he had little incentive to reunite. Summers and Copeland revealed an interest in a reborn Police over the years, but Sting stood in the way.

Why did Sting change his mind? He claims he did this because he wanted to take the path least expected by his fans, which is true; few expected the band to ever reunite. Cynics might opine that the state of Sting’s solo career played the biggest role, though. Sting hadn’t done too well with anything since 1999’s Brand New Day and needed something to boost his public profile. What better than a Police reunion?

Whatever the behind the scenes reason may be, the reunited Police did very well. In fact, the tour sold so nicely that it threatened never to end. The Police went on the road in the summer of 2007 and didn’t finish until their August 2008 finale at Madison Square Garden – their fifth concert at that hallowed venue.

Though I don’t count myself as a fanatical Police follower, I went to quite a few shows on this tour. I took in four during the summer 2007 leg, another four in the fall, and then the final four in summer 2008. I never intended to see the Police 12 times, but the spread-out schedule sucked me in and led me to probably twice as many concerts as I would’ve expected.

And I enjoyed them for the most part. On the negative side, the shows tended to be awfully predictable given the nature of the production. When I see a heavily choreographed production like a Madonna concert, I expect the same songs every night, and that’s fine with me. Sure, a little more variety would be nice; indeed, Madonna added an “audience request” segment to her 2008 show. Nonetheless, given the complex nature of a Madonna concert, it’s perfectly reasonable for the setlist to remain static.

With a three-piece band like the Police, though, there’s no reason the band couldn’t – and shouldn’t - shake up the set from night to night, especially when they played two shows in so many cities. Granted, the Police don’t have the deepest catalog in the world; they called it quits after five albums, so it’s not like they have the same depth of available tunes as someone like Springsteen.

Still, that’s no excuse. Bands with less rich catalogs still change things up from night to night, and Police should’ve done the same.

While the lack of musical variety disappointed me, I couldn’t complain about the quality of the performances. Overall, the Police sounded good. No, Sting didn’t sing all of the songs in the original register, but I think too many people focus on that subject too much. Sting’s vocals still worked just fine; I don’t feel they lost anything due to the lowered keys.

Musically, the Police could be hit or miss from night to night, but they usually provided solid performances. Happily, the official tour DVD explored here found them on a very good night. Certifiable comes from two December 2007 concerts at the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The show offers the same set I saw every night during the 2007 tours, with tunes from each of the band’s five albums.

From 1978’s Outlandos D’Amour, we locate “Hole in My Life”, “Truth Hits Everybody”, “Can’t Stand Losing You”, “Next to You”, “So Lonely” and “Roxanne”. 1979’s Regatta de Blanc provides “Message in a Bottle”, “Walking on the Moon” and the title tune, while 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta includes “Voices Inside My Head”, “When the World Is Running Down”, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, “Driven to Tears”, and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”.

Off of 1981’s Ghost in the Machine, we only get two tracks: “Invisible Sun” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”. Finally, 1983’s smash hit Synchronicity offers “Synchronicity II”, “Wrapped Around Your Finger”, “Walking In Your Footsteps”, “King of Pain” and “Every Breath You Take”.

Across the 12 Police concerts I saw, each member of the Police had a chance to shine. Some nights Sting fared the best, while others saw Stewart at the top of his game. If forced to pick a reunion tour MVP, though, I’d go with Andy. No one ever looked at the Police as a strong guitar band; while Summers gave the material a distinctive sound and has his moments, they weren’t an act that likely inspired teens to learn the guitar.

Summers did a lot to remedy that with his reunion performances, and that side of the shows comes to the fore in Certifiable. Andy gets the spotlight a lot of the time and makes the most of it. He throws out some really great work here and actively improves some songs that never did a lot for me. For instance, “Walking In Your Footsteps” seemed like a bit of a throwaway on Synchronicity, but its rendering here gives it a real kick in the behind. Andy conjures a devilish solo that proves wholly enchanting. He makes some odd choices for his “King of Pain” solo, but otherwise his playing really soars.

Sting and Copeland also play just fine. Indeed, Certifiable shows the band at the top of their reunion game. As I mentioned earlier, I saw quite a few ups and downs across my 12 shows, especially during the tour-ending 2008 concerts. They really seemed tired and ready to quit by that point, so mistakes abounded.

Certifiable finds the band at just the right point in the tour. By the time they got to Argentina, they’d been on the road long enough to have worked out various kinks, but they weren’t fed up with things at that point. This means they crank into higher gear much of the time, a factor likely emboldened by a typically manic South American audience. Sting has a major following in that part of the world, so the massive stadium crowd helps bolster the band’s energy level.

How does the concert translate visually to the TV screen? Acceptably well, though not in a spectacular manner. Director Jim Gable treats the material in a somewhat haphazard way. He presents the performance in a generally coherent manner, which isn’t difficult to do given the show’s simplicity; with only three musicians, it’s not hard to stay focused.

And that makes things easy for Gable, but I think he makes the show a little too busy. No, he doesn’t indulge in a dizzying series of quick-cuts, and he keeps visual gimmicks to a bare minimum. I just feel like there’s not much fluidity to the presentation; it often feels like something editing on the fly rather than a program cut together at a later time.

Nonetheless, I’ll take Gable’s work over the hyperactive editing and idiotic gimmicks endorsed by too many directors. Certifiable never becomes a fascinating concert presentation, but it delivers a reasonably effective view of the event. It also shines musically, so this is a worthwhile release.

By the way, be sure to stick with the program through the end credits. We find interview footage with the Police in which they discuss a dicey situation that occurred during a 1980 visit to Argentina. It’s a good story despite some silly embellishment from Copeland.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

The Police: Certifiable appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though erratic, the visuals usually satisfied.

Sharpness mostly seemed solid. Occasionally, wide shots came across as a little soft and ill defined. However, those examples appeared infrequently and did little to distract from the rest of the presentation, which usually looked concise and detailed. I detected no signs of edge enhancement, but occasional instances of shimmering and jagged edges crept into the presentation. Source flaws looked absent, and I saw no issues related to artifacting, noise, or other distractions.

Most of the color variation came from lighting; Andy’s red guitar was pretty much the only other vivid tone on display. The hues looked well developed and accurate. Even the thickest lighting remained distinctive and rich. Blacks were deep and dense, while low-light shots came across as clear and appropriately visible. Certifiable wasn’t the most attractive concert DVD I’ve seen, but it nonetheless seemed positive.

In terms of audio, Certifiable provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. As one expects from a concert presentation, the soundfield remained focused on the front, where they showed strong stereo imaging. Sting’s vocals appeared firmly set in the middle. The instruments were accurately located and they demonstrated nice breadth and delineation. I could distinguish the various instruments with ease, as they were placed in a natural and clear manner. They also blended together smoothly to create a forward soundstage that consistently created a real and involving setting.

As for the surrounds, they mostly featured crowd noise. They added a little reinforcement of the music, but not to a substantial degree. The track didn’t go from any “free-form” use of the surrounds such as the presentation of specific instrumentation there. The soundfield went with a pretty standard concert approach.

Audio quality was solid. Sting’s vocals worked fine, as they replicated the desired impressions well. The rest of the track also showed good clarity and a dynamic tone. The instruments remained crisp and vivid during the concert. Bass response was quite good, as the concert boasted consistently deep, rich low-end. Taken as a whole, the audio soared.

When we look at extras, not much appears on the main DVD. It includes alternate angles for “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and “King of Pain”. Both of these offer a spotlight on drummer Stewart Copeland. They don’t stick with only one camera, but they do concentrate on Stewart. It’s fun to follow his work on these two songs – both of which feature extensive percussion material in addition to standard drumming - though it’d be nice to get exclusive angles for Sting and Andy as well.

On DVD Two, the main attraction comes from a documentary called Better Than Therapy. In this 51-minute and 13-second program, we get comments from Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. We follow the path of the Police reunion from initial rehearsals through press events and the tour announcement. From there we follow more intensive rehearsals, opening night in Vancouver, and the progress of the tour.

Most bands would go out of their way to hide the bickering; the Police seem to revel in it. After all, a lot of the band’s legend revolves around how much the three members hate each other, and they know that. This occasionally makes me wonder how much of the sparring is real and how much is played up for the cameras, but I admit I don’t really care. The rehearsal scenes – and their requisite battles – offer fascinating viewing.

I most enjoy those aspects of “Therapy”, but most of it works quite well. We get a good picture of the tour and see various elements of the challenges that came along the way. “Therapy” sags a bit as it goes, but it usually remains pretty absorbing.

Two photo galleries also appear on DVD Two. Andy Summers provides one of these; it includes 21 shots of folks in Argentina and does nothing for me. The set from tour photographer Danny Clinch throws in 34 shots of the Police during their South American trip. It mixes tourist photos of the band along with concert elements and a couple of posed pics. It turns into a nice collection.

In addition to these DVD elements, Certifiable gives us two bonus CDs. These replicate the Buenos Aires concert in its entirety. That makes them a great addition; indeed, I expect I’ll listen to the CDs much more than I’ll watch the DVD.

Finally, the package presents a booklet. This 16-page component repeats Clinch’s photos already seen on DVD Two. That makes it less useful, but it’s a decent addition.

In an era chock full of big-name reunions, the Police stand as one of the most successful – both commercial and artistically. It’s too bad they didn’t use the opportunity to create some new music, but they still managed to present good performances over the year-plus they spent on the road.

Across the 12 shows I attended, I witnessed some definite ups and downs, but Certifiable finds the Police on one of their better nights. They sound very good, and the concert presentation offers an adequate view of their stage presence. The DVD gives us good picture, terrific audio, and a few interesting extras. I especially value the bonus CDs; the Police work better when heard than when seen, so I expect I’ll give the CDs a lot of attention. I heartily recommend this fine set to Police fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.8571 Stars Number of Votes: 7
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