Coldplay just might be the hardest-working live band of the past decade – at least of the arena variety.
They want you to have fun, to sink into their often-elegant pop-rock and feel the emotion seeping out of Chris Martin’s furrowed brow.
They want you to cheer with delight at the showers of confetti whooshed in the air and nod approvingly at their neon-graffiti stage backdrop, thinking, “Huh, that actually looks really awesome.”
They hope you walk out of the venue thinking they’re fine musicians, but also casually cool guys, the type you’d want to have a drink with to discuss politics or movies or baby names.
And guess what? They succeed at every attempt.
It hasn’t been quite a year since Coldplay last played Atlanta, headlining the return of Music Midtown in Piedmont Park last fall and performing for about 40,000 people. But Monday’s gig at Philips Arena was a SRO sellout, so clearly there is demand for the music of Martin, Jonny Buckland (guitar), Will Champion (drummer-plus-piano-plus-guitar) and Guy Berryman (bass).
This tour behind “Mylo Xyloto” launched last fall overseas, played a few U.S. dates in April, then returned here about two weeks ago.
Some of the two-hour show was precise and choreographed, such as the parts with the inventive light-up bracelets handed out to fans as they entered the arena. But even the scripted parts felt natural.
Most bands wait until the end of a show to wow the audience with interactive effects, but not Coldplay.
As soon as the quartet kicked off the concert with “Hurts Like Heaven,” the multi-colored bracelets flickered like stained-glass windows come to life, creating an awe-inspiring glow.
Immediately after “Heaven,” Martin folded his lanky frame over the keyboard of his upright piano for “In My Place” and within seconds, giant blowers sent thousands of pieces of confetti in the font of the letters from “Mylo Xyloto” into the air.
Martin, in all his springy goofiness, pogo-ed down the catwalk extending from the stage, grinning like a schoolboy on summer break under the falling paper.
The band might have brought an arsenal of toys, but the music never felt secondary to the visual distractions.
Coldplay is a band like U2 is a band. Take away one member and the magic is gone. But there is also a de facto leader and Martin, while not as dynamic as Bono, handles the role with quiet charm and grace.
“Thank you for going through all of the crap you have to go through to come to a concert,” he told the crowd early in the show.
Their reward was watching him spar with Buckland like a matador and bull on the rougher-edged “Major Minus” and hear Martin’s lovely swoop of a voice hit all the right notes in “The Scientist.”
Coldplay’s best songs fit the “memorable” category because they’re so melodic, they ache (talking about you, “Lovers in Japan”).
A few times during the show, the band stripped to those essentials, gathering at the end of the catwalk for a four-song set including “Princess of China” (Rihanna appeared via video) and “Warning Signs.” Later in the show, Martin and his guitar crammed into a tiny loge section in the back of the arena to croon “Us Against the World,” during which he was joined, one by one, by his mates, with Champion providing some honeyed harmonies.
When the singer was handed a cowboy hat, he plopped it on his head, grinned and said with his usual self-deprecation, “Is this a Jon Bon Jovi hat? I can’t pull it off.”
Those quiet times will be highlights for some, but it’s hard to discount the swell of joy in the venue as the crowd heartily sang the “whoa-oh-oh”’s of the majestic “Viva La Vida”; the riveting swirls of red lights that perfectly accompanied Champion’s throbbing backbeat and the tense piano that frame “Clocks”; and the gorgeous, church-like “Fix You,” which Martin intro’d with a few lines of “Georgia on My Mind.”
What’s most impressive about Coldplay is that the band doesn’t make presenting an entertaining, captivating live show look easy, because it isn’t. Martin’s shirt was soaked with sweat after the first 15 minutes and his mock exhaustion collapse at the end of “Viva” probably contained a hint of reality.
Over the years, their live shows have escalated from standard stand-on-stage-and-sing presentations to this, a polished, yet authentic, blowout.
When can we expect the stadium dates?
(Check out more photos from last night’s show.)
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene