The Police: Around the World Restored & Expanded captures the future multi-platinum, megastar act right as the band was turning the corner from playing to slightly-interested dozens during its earliest days to rapturous responses by thousands at each tour stop. The documentary follows Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland on an international tour of six continents in 1979 and 1980, appearing at venues that weren’t regular stops for Western rock acts. With a setlist that focuses heavily on the trio’s first two albums – and brief tastes of its third, Zenyatta Mondatta – the material relies on the band members’ striking mix of melody, sonic textures, punk energy and willingness to stretch out a tune in a skillful use of tension-and-release.
Interspersed with the concert segments are the members’ offstage travels that vary from taking a bullet train and challenging a sumo wrestler in Japan, walking through the markets in Hong Kong and meeting the female promoters in India as well as stops in Australia, Egypt, Greece, France, South America and the United States.
The film is best viewed as a behind-the-scenes representation of a band having the chutzpah to book gigs at irregular stops with occasional clips of the members’ offstage improv skits and (tour-weary) crankiness rather than a deep exploration of an act on the cusp of major success. The attempt at set pieces such as the sumo wrestling or the Copeland brothers arguing are time-wasting indulgences while seeing the musicians interact with enthusiastic fans or shopkeepers and dignitaries sheds more illuminating light on their personalities. Still, the nearly 90-minute running time of Around the World flies by as The Police jet from one country to another.
A bonus to the Restored & Expanded edition comes in the form of four full performances from that tour — “Walking on the Moon,” “Next to You,” “Message in a Bottle” and “Born in the 50’s” – that were featured in edited versions in the documentary. A bigger thrill comes in the accompanying CD (or LP pressed on silver vinyl) that features 12 tracks — nearly one hour of performances — from the tour that display The Police in all its reggae-rock-improv-hybrid glory.