Few acts these days could sell out two shows at Vancouver's Rogers Arena, but Coldplay, easily one of the hottest in the world, boasts cross-generational appeal. (Not to mention sweeping choruses that inspire loud sing-alongs – always the mark of a collective good time.)
The U.K. band has sold in the order of 55 million records and is sitting with another new hit album in Mylo Xyloto. Frontman Chris Martin promised Friday night's crowd that they'd give "119 per cent," and the band delivered on that rather random promise with a visually compelling and dynamic 90-minute performance.
The production was all about clever tricks and crowd-pleasing spectacles. One of the most impressive of these was the multicoloured LED light wristbands handed out to fans upon arrival. The radio-controlled lights lit up in dramatic unison once the band launched into the new album's title track, and they were used throughout, turning the room into a giant Lite-Brite and the audience into part of the production.
Coldplay works hard, plays solidly, writes lovely, magnanimous songs with big, joyous melodies, and understands its audience, which means they are not above playing older hits, this time including In My Place, Yellow, The Scientist, Viva La Vida, Fix You, alongside invigorating, chest-walloping renditions of new tracks like Paradise and Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, the fittingly dramatic show closer. And while Martin might not be the most natural performer, he makes the most of what he's got.
Only a truly skilled showman can successfully play to a big room, and navel-gazing behaviour just doesn't do. While Mick Jagger plays to the very back of the hall with the campy moves of a drag queen doing Tina Turner, Martin, who is superbly fit, opts for the utilitarian moves of a calisthenics instructor. If he'd dropped and given us 100 push-ups, it would not have been out of place.
The band – including guitarist Jonny Buckland, drummer Will Champion and bass player Guy Berryman – generously moved between the main stage and a B-stage connected by a catwalk. Martin covered all of it thoroughly, frequently praising the crowd, and stopping to catch a red bra thrown to him from a clearly diehard fan. In an effort to reach everybody, the foursome even squeezed into a row at the rear of the room during the encore for a rendition of Us Against the World.
Like its predecessor, U2, the band is not one to be accused of subtlety, which is a good thing in an arena, where the sound will never be fantastic, and the group will always be a speck to at least half the audience. And so, being literal wins out against nuance. On Clocks, Martin sang "Tides that I tried to swim against," and made a swimming motion across the top of his piano. When a song was particularly inspirational, he'd fall to his knees, and then to the floor, in an act that at times came dangerously close to self-parody.
As the show went on, giant balls bounced among the crowd, the band's clothes glowed with drabs of fluorescent paint and a piano rose from the B-stage on cue. We were covered with giant confetti, and dazzled by Spirographs, red lasers and overhead clouds of swirling colour. On the Rihanna duet, Princess of China, a projection of the Barbadian songstress appeared onscreen, while Martin, his T-shirt drenched, rocked the hell out of his piano seat and, voice breaking, sang his part.
By show's end, he triumphantly collected his trademark jacket and bowed to the cheering audience, clearly pleased with their reaction. And he'd earned it.
Coldplay's current tour will take it to Toronto on July 23-24 and to Montreal July 26-27 ( coldplay.com).
- At Rogers Arena
- In Vancouver on Friday
Special to The Globe and Mail