Drummer Stewart Copeland brings 'Police Deranged for Orchestra' tour to the Genesee

By the summer of 1976, punk rock was starting to dominate the U.K. music scene, with The Sex Pistols performing an infamously influential club set in Manchester that June and New York's Ramones arriving for a pair of shows in London one month later.

Upon the start of 1977, The Police were beginning to find their footing in their earliest iteration, guitarist Andy Summers entering the fold that May. He'd soon replace original guitarist Henry Padovani, moving forward alongside singer/bassist Gordon Sumner (aka Sting) and drummer Stewart Copeland.

During their heyday, The Police were a staple in the suburbs, performing at the then Rosemont Horizon twice in 1982 and '84 before returning to Allstate Arena during a reunion run in 2008.

Copeland is heading back to the suburbs, bringing his “Police Deranged for Orchestra” show to Waukegan's Genesee Theatre on Friday, May 19.

“Rosemont. That's a gig that we played a bunch of times,” recalled the drummer during a phone conversation. “And I spent the last four years going back and forth to Evanston. I had a daughter at Northwestern. She graduated. Which is too bad. She loves coming to shows. But now I'll be back to play in Waukegan.”

The Police would quickly emerge as one of the most popular and influential acts of the 1980s, briskly evolving from the limiting nature of the punk scene to create some of the most inventive and infectious pop music of the decade, their recorded history encompassing only about four and a half years between the release of “Outlandos d'Amour” in November 1978 and their studio swan song “Synchronicity” in June 1983.

“Police Deranged” finds the drummer backed by guitarist Rusty Anderson (Paul McCartney), bassist Armand Sabal-Lecco (Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel), and vocalists Ashley Támar, Amy Keys and Carmel Helene, with the core sextet backed by a 50-piece orchestra provided by the Chicago Federation of Musicians.

While “Police Deranged for Orchestra” is now available for pre-order on CD and vinyl ahead of the physical and streaming release on June 23, the Genesee show marks Copeland's final scheduled U.S. concert of 2023 following performances in New York and California.

After “Synchronicity,” the drummer would find work in motion pictures, embarking upon a career scoring films that would come to span nearly 25 years.

Director Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 drama “Rumble Fish” came first, an experience that would force the drummer to expand his musical palette.

“That moment is a perfect example of how being an employee can teach you more than being an artist,” Copeland explained. “That's not me being an artist, that's me being a craftsman. But I learned so much through pursuing that craft, and having directors push me in different directions that, as an artist, I probably wouldn't have followed my instincts to,” he said. “Francis turning around and saying, 'We need strings,' was a very big moment. Because, long story short, I got some strings. And was enamored with not only the efficiency but also how beautiful they sound. And that took me into a decadeslong adventure with orchestra.”

As the group quickly progressed - Summers' harmonics and Copeland's percussion combining with Sting's growing penchant for songwriting and storytelling - the music of The Police began to take on a more and more cinematic feel, a concept that lends itself well to the fleshed out “Police Deranged” performances.

Besides performing in the "Police Deranged for Orchestra" show, drummer Stewart Copeland is also prepping for the October release of "Police Diaries." Courtesy of Doug Carter

On stage, Copeland and company deliver the hits. But some of the group's deeper cuts proved particularly inspiring too.

“I guess the sensation was that we were escaping from the vice-like grip of the London critics - for whom any transgression of the punk rules was a capital crime,” he said, noting the group's evolution. “Some songs, like 'Tea in the Sahara,' were not big, important Police songs in terms of being a hit or not. But I always liked that song. Just because it had such an atmosphere. And getting into it, both the lyric - which is very mysterious - and the harmony - which is all Andy doing his fabulous stuff with his voicings on the guitar - a song like that really revealed itself in an unexpected way. And also 'Murder By Numbers' was kind of a throwaway tune. But it's always been one of my favorites.”

Copeland is also prepping the October release of “Police Diaries,” a book featuring new commentary alongside excerpts from the drummer's personal journal written between 1976 and '79 amid the band's formative moments.

“There were a couple of surprises,” said Copeland of assembling the book. “One is how hard we worked and how bonded we were before we knew what music we were going to play. In fact, we were playing music that we knew we didn't want to play, which is punk music. But we had to play that. We had to be a punk band or else we wouldn't have been working at all. So, we did,” he said. “Remember, not only had Sting not written 'Roxanne,' 'Can't Stand Losing You' or 'Message in a Bottle,' yet, but he didn't know - and I didn't know, nobody knew - that he could write that stuff! That was just not on his radar to write pop songs of such power. But, without all of that, for some reason, we stuck together - starving, getting nowhere - for two years. Then Andy joined.”

Copeland continues to revisit The Police tastefully, masterfully finding ways to push the music forward despite the look back - and with great respect for his Police bandmates.

“In general, the main discovery about both of those two is how talented they are,” he said. “Andy joining - with his harmonic sophistication - just opened up possibilities for Sting to actually start writing songs that had interesting music,” Copeland said. “With Sting, I never listened to the lyrics. I was just banging away at the back of the stage. But getting into these songs, and working out the vocals and the vocal parts, I've had to realize - and don't tell him I said this - but he's kind of a genius with words and music,” the drummer said with a chuckle. “As I'm fond of telling anyone who will listen, all of this orchestra stuff, all of the arrangement stuff? It's my revenge.”

Stewart Copeland: “Police Deranged for Orchestra”

When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 19

Where: Genesee Theatre, Waukegan

Tickets: $39, $69, $89 at

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