Live Review - Coldplay
The certainties that come with seeing Coldplay live are pretty simple.
One, you'll hear their biggest hits. Two, you'll be entertained. Tonight, unfortunately, their songs fell a little short. Which is not to say they were bad; they just didn't hit the raw emotion that is Coldplay at their very best. Perhaps the band has become so accustomed to relentless applause they've found less need to push themselves as live performers. Chris Martin is a showman for sure (his acrobatic work on the runways was playfully risky), but his performances were erratic singing wrong lyrics and misplaying his piano parts. While we certainly don't need note-perfect shows, we expect it from a band whose most popular songs are often their simplest.
Coldplay's strongest calling card has always been their earnestness and sensitivity expressed in their ability to write universally-resounding and moving rock anthems. Martin, however, has frequently failed to translate his ambition into his recent lyrics. 'Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends' provided some of their most ambitious work ('42', 'Yes'), but his lyrics were overtly simplistic, naive and for the most part, uninspired. Thankfully, the Viva La Vida tour has been elaborate and visually thrilling.
The show began spectacularly with the four members silhouetted by a veil of cloth to the beautiful rhythms of 'Life In Technicolor'. The uplifting instrumental marked a memorable start that was followed by a rocking 'Violet Hill' and a string of their greatest hits: 'Clocks', 'In My Place' and 'Yellow'. Striking shards of lighting thrilled the audience during a stunning performance of 'Clocks'.
'In My Place' is their strongest live track and never fails to reach great heights (the house lights were left on for most of the song), while 'Yellow' was, as expected, unleashed to a downpour of giant yellow balloons. During their performance of 'Fix You', Martin quipped that the crowd's collective singing at the song's end determined that Coldplay were bigger than U2 (no doubt a witty response to the recent debacle from Bono's tongue-in-cheek comments on Martin).
The most unusual performances of the night belonged to the techno versions of 'God Put A Smile Upon Your Face' and 'Talk'. While the band's desire to provide differing arrangements to certain songs was understandable, these techno versions made a mockery of the songs. Meanwhile, it was more than ironic to hear Martin introduce 'The Hardest Part' with 'You' might not like this song, but I'd like to play it for you anyway" (it's one of their worst songs), and the irony turned into unease as Martin had to replay the song twice and eventually delivered with a bonus extended piano solo.
Whilst the band's Melbourne shows in 2006 saw Martin run up into the stands, this tour saw the entire quartet play a three song set in between the lower and upper stands adjacent to the stage. It was an impressive demonstration of the quartet's loyalty to their fans, but the chosen performances for this special moment included unavoidably shortened versions of 'Speed Of Sound' and 'Green Eyes'. A unique moment came in their performance of 'Death Will Never Conquer', which saw drummer Will Champion on lead vocals (Martin joked that Champion was the real singer in the band).
Tonight's performance was entertaining, immense and inclusive, but it was difficult not to feel that a certain emotional tension and stirring reverence was missing.
It became all too celebratory and uplifting without much of a purposeful message or proceeding reflection. It would be a shame if Coldplay never proved their doubters wrong. They are, for now, pleasing their followers, sporadically impressing some and affirming their ongoing presence as arena-filling rockers.