"Woh-o-wo-o, woh-o-wo-o." The unmistakable sound of the Police booms out across Tokyo Dome on Valentine's Day and the group are sending out a 'Message in a Bottle' to open the final night of their first tour of Japan in more than 25 years.
And the reply from the audience after a set lasting about an hour and three quarters was "welcome back."
For the most part, the Police didn't disappoint, though, having seen them in a muddy English outdoor venue called Milton Keynes Bowl 28 years ago, I was under no illusions that this performance was likely to match the intensity of the band's gigs in their heyday.
Sting wasn't very charismatic as a front man back then, and his lack of chat between songs proved that nothing much has changed in that department, while the lack of communication within the band on stage suggested that this is one reunion that is unlikely to be repeated.
The Police were always expert at banging out great pop music and kicking off with arguably their most popular number seemed a bit of a waste - I would have preferred it later in the set - but they maintained the momentum by following up with a powerful 'Synchronicity II'.
The three band members have all kept themselves busy over the years since they split. Sting's solo shows usually included a sprinkling of his old songs, so it was no surprise that his singing was well up to par for the most part while the bass parts on 'So Lonely' and 'Walking on the Moon' were as strong as ever and really rolled back the years.
Guitarist Andy Summers always came across as a man out of time 30 years ago and never seemed to fit in during the post-punk era. Decked out in a horrible multicolored shirt loud enough to be heard way up in the top tier of the Big Egg, he still comes across as an uncle who's been wheeled out to play at a family get-together, with his extended solo on 'So Lonely' symptomatic of the passage of time.
Stewart Copeland still looks like he'd rather be thrashing it out in a punk band in a sweaty club rather than slogging around the world's stadiums. His enthusiasm on the backdrop is infectious, though tonight's highlights were his use of the kettle drums and gongs on 'Wrapped Around Your Finger'.
Unfortunately, the Dome's notoriously poor acoustics tended to emphasize its cavernous proportions. The sound did improve during the second half of their set, but most of the time one was left wishing that the Police had followed the example of U2 and opted for the smaller Saitama Super Arena over more nights.
The band finished their set with the ever-popular 'Every Breath You Take', but older tracks such as 'Roxanne', highlight of the evening 'Can't Stand Losing You' and final encore 'Next To You' showed just how strong a debut album 'Outlandos d'Amour' was.
As the Police continue around the world, the message they left at Tokyo Dome was that the band are still capable of putting on a good show, even if it may lack some of the dynamism of old and it remains to be seen if they'll ever have the will to do it again.
© Daily Yomiuri by Stephen Taylor (Ticket from Sue Bett)