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Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008
Hot tickets: Music
Special to The Japan Times
The Police's post-breakup legacy was mostly that of three towering egos jockeying for position; but if you've got it, you want to flaunt it. You also want to get paid for it, and old fans seem to be willing to raid their children's college funds to subsidize the band's high-priced reunion, which resulted in the most lucrative concert tour of 2007 by a long stretch.
Never as punk as some claimed, but not quite as conventional as most believed, The Police (pictured left) were first and foremost ambitious. All three members could really play, and when expatriate American drummer Stewart Copeland and schoolteacher/jazz bassist Gordon Sumner joined forces at an English jazz club in 1977 it was for the purpose of creating "progressive pop" — a term that, at the height of the British punk movement, was bold to say the least. But by replacing their guitarist with Andy Summers, already a seasoned pro who'd worked with The Animals, Kevin Ayers and even Neil Sedaka, Copeland and Sumner (who took the nickname Sting) were clearly shooting for something beyond the clubs.
Though he's now considered the safest bet in adult-oriented pop, at one point in the early '80s Sting was probably the most interesting Top 40 songwriter in Britain, not so much because he integrated reggae patterns into his songs without making them seem gratuitous, but because he made doing it sound so easy. That wouldn't have been possible without musicians who could play as well as Copeland and Summers did.
What people tend to forget — and audiences attending their reunion concerts are reminded of — is that live they could jam with the best of them, another talent that punks tend to denigrate.
Opening: Sting's kid's band.(P.B.)
Feb. 10, Kyocera Dome, Osaka; Feb. 13 (sold-out) and 14, 6:30 p.m., Tokyo Dome; ¥8,500-30,000 (tel.  993-717 for all shows)
Small, dark and almost compulsively creative, Björk channels a musical energy somewhere between the rock banshee pyrotechnics of Janis Joplin and the medieval, ethereal drone of Hildegard of Bingen. Her live show is likewise as otherworldly: High opera masquerading as a techno freakout with Björk's eccentric style on full display, visually and musically. Currently she is on a world tour with the usual cadre of DJs and VJs, but also an all-female brass section.
Her stage fashion might be described as thrift-shop glamorous, and she usually performs barefoot. Yet all is subsumed by her extraordinary voice, an instrument with the drama and power of a great opera diva.
Trained in classical music since the age of 11 (and heavily influenced by recently deceased avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen), the seriousness with which she approaches her art is leavened by her pixieish sense of play — which is to say that Björk may be intense, but she isn't difficult.
That Björk continues to grace the upper echelons of the charts says something hopeful about the public's listening tastes. Last year's "Volta," with contributions from Timbaland and Congolese group Konono #1, was a self-described "return to fun." Expect Björk to bring some of that with her to Japan. (S.T.)
Feb. 19, 22, Nippon Budokan, Tokyo (¥10,200; tel.  3477-5701); Feb. 25, Osaka-jo Hall (¥9,200, ¥10,200; tel.  6535-5569)
Early February will see a stampede of world-renowned conductors passing through Japan's concert halls: Valery Gergiev with the Mariinsky Opera; David Harding leading the Tokyo Philharmonic; and Myung-Whun Chung conducting the NHK Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. But the one who is generating the most buzz is Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly, who will perform with Germany's Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.
Originally known for his work in opera, Chailly has gradually moved into the orchestral repertoire. A 16-year stint as chief conductor of one of the world's finest orchestras, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Netherlands, is one of many high points in his career. He became the first non-Dutch conductor to assume the post, and while there, made his name as a fine conductor of Mahler and Bruckner, with much-lauded recordings of all of Mahler's symphonies and a number of Bruckner's.
Chailly will be bringing Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 and Mahler's Symphony No. 1 — music that demands to be heard live for its full effect — with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, where he has been musical director since 2005.
Also on the program will be Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 and Egmont Overture, as well as Berg's violin concerto with Austrian violinist Benjamin Schmid. (B.W.)
Feb. 1, Nagoya; Feb. 2, Yokosuka; Feb. 3, Kawasaki; Feb. 4, Toyama; Feb. 6-7, Tokyo; Feb. 8, Kyoto; Feb. 9, Miyazaki; ¥5,000-¥25,000 (tel.  06-9960)