November 9, 2008
Better Than: You’d Expect
Say what you will about Coldplay (and most folks do), but unlike a lot of so-called arena acts – nevermind their smaller setting counterparts – they’ve at least got sense enough to make a spectacle of themselves when they come to town.
Case in point: last night’s BankAtlantic sellout, which was perhaps the single most spectacular rock show to hit our stretch of the peninsula since the invention of the verilight.
Okay, so I hyperbolize. But when a band takes the time to thrill an audience with each and every component of their concert, hyperbole is the least I can do. I mean, live these guys go all the way and then some, from what they wear (think post-apocalyptic patriot) through the very air itself (a millions-strong Mylar butterfly drop). They have lights (from a rig that seemed positively anthropomorphic); they have camera (tracking the stage and beaming out on spheres and screen); and they have action, manic action (for that’s the only way to describe singer Chris Martin’s patented brand of mad dashing).
Mostly though, Coldplay has a vision -- a keen-eyed idea that big bands should put on big shows -- and last night that vision was realized.
Of course when the tracks that back your big idea all happen to be even bigger hits, well, the vision a lot easier to see. It also gets to be grandiose, and from the moment the scrim rose to reveal a mammoth backdrop of Delacroix’s classic "Liberty Leading the People" it was clear that this was to be an evening as grand and as sweeping as grandiose can go.
“Life in Technicolor” launched the aural assault, and charged mightily into huge versions of “Violet Hill,” “Clocks,” “In My Place” and “Speed of Sound,” each larger and more powerful than its predecessor. These are the kinda bright and shiny bombasts Coldplay is best at -- and which they made most famous -- and live they take on the size they deserve.
Three lesser known Viva La Vida tracks quickly followed (“Cemeteries of London,” “Chinese Sleep Chant” and “42”), and I forgot them the minute they ended. But then came the collective hush of “Fix You” and fifteen thousand hearts could be heard singing as one and I remembered the reason Coldplay was so successful in the first place -- they encompass everyone.
After the anthem had gone, the band swung the single “Strawberry Swing,” adjourned to one of the stage-side extensions for bass heavy versions of both “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” and “Talk,” and then left Martin alone at the piano to croon through “The Hardest Part,” which enabled them and us to brace for booming renditions of “Viva la Vida” and “Lost!”
But it was when Coldplay jumped stage, snaked swiftly down the side of the arena floor and set up in the theoretical cheap seats for “The Scientist” that the venue truly blew a fuse. In one fell swoop, the band proved its populism wasn’t just an angle, and that its populist appeal would never, ever be taken for granted. They came to play for all, and to give all a good night.
Yes, they followed that crowd-pleasing stunt with three more quiet roars (“Politik,” “Lovers in Japan” and “Death and All His Friends”), and it’s true that the fluttering of millions of multi-colored butterflies while the band played on transfixed everybody in attendance, but there still remained one move for Coldplay to make before they finally sealed the deal.
And that move of course was the very moving “Yellow.” Like the mega-hits for which this song seems to serve as a sort of blueprint, Coldplay’s first foray into chart-topping territory is not only anthem incarnate, it’s perhaps the only pop ditty in existence that can sway a swoon outta just about anyone. Last night was no exception, and a full house folded at last, full of big fun and utterly undone.
There’s nothing really revolutionary about Coldplay, despite the revolutionary trappings, and they know that as well as you do. Which means they’re completely at liberty to do what they set out to do from the get-go, and that is to write singalong songs and provide huge throngs a big night out every once in awhile. Is it gonna change the world? Of course not. But it might just cause a large part of the world to smile, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Personal Bias: I too sometimes have huge hopes and dreams.
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Random Detail: Chris Martin did not remain still for a single instant throughout the entire 99 minute show.
By the Way: The Coldplay Messenger offers up all kinds of goodies, from free tracks (for a limited time) to sneak peaks (of limitedly released clips). www.coldplay.com
-- John Hood