A little over a decade ago, I saw Coldplay live for the first time. I actually went to the show for Grandaddy; The Sophtware Slump had just come out and they were touring with the buzzworthy young band from England. Coldplay’s Parachutes, already a hit with the press across the Atlantic, were now barely scraping into 120 Minutes regular rotation, and only hinting at a break into TRL canon. But Chris Martin was as chatty as ever, charmingly nervous but willing to play up the part of the big rock star. Multiple times he commented on the strangeness of the venue (they played Benaroya Hall of all places), and even once he said that this would be the perfect venue for a band much, much bigger than they were.
Fast forward to 2012. Coldplay is now playing soccer and football stadiums, with extravagant stage setups and enough set designers in tow to screw in many many fluorescent lightbulbs. Mylo Xyloto marks their fifth album and their fifth reimaging, this time as like a fluorescent, ravetastic version of Disney’s “Newsies.” They brought a piece of the city with them, a large graffiti mural emblazoned with inspirational tidbits and lyric snippet. And of course they have the Arena Rock Catwalk, so they can “come into the crowd” and “feel the audience’s energy.” Which they did. Multiple times.
Their set breezed by on a tight schedule, bouncing back and forth between earlier and later hits. All killer, no filler, as they say. Taking notes from the Flaming Lips’ live shows, Coldplay brought their toys: paint splattered balloons, a metric ton of M, X, and heart shaped confetti, fluorescent fish (?), lasers, spotlights, scaffolding, blacklights, you name it. Wristbands were distributed before the show which lit up in sequence to the music, giving the concert at the Key Arena the air of a soccer game. And by the feel of the crowd, our team was winning.
Speaking of sports, Chris Martin’s banter was very sports heavy. A shout out to the Seahawks during “Violet Hill“ and a song dedicated to the poor start of the Mariners (“Us Against The World“) had an audience of all ages eating out of the palm of his hand.
When you think about it objectively, it’s amazing that a band like Coldplay, spanning the years that they have, haven’t really made an egregious misstep in their careers. Every single one of their studio albums is a little better than average, with a healthy amount of truly memorable modern rock moments sprinkled amongst them. And they’ve never been afraid to grow, to reinvent, to change form and run with it. Kind of like Radiohead, but without the art school shackling or the moody estrangement. It was never meant to be more than fun.
But the question remains, does a band like Coldplay, inoffensive enough but never really groundbreaking, deserve a concert like this? As their albums go on, their sound becomes more and more bombastic, epic, arena. But even older tunes like “Warning Sign,” “In My Place,” and “Yellow,” sound larger than life, larger than they were back in 2001.
When Martin and company were playing Benaroya, I believe he didn’t think Coldplay were going to be the biggest band in the world. But I do believe he thought they’d get close.
PS Metronomy played too. They are a small, small band, rigidly English and not really worth noting. They played like they couldn’t wait to get away from the crowd.
Mylo Xyloto/Hurts Like Heaven
In My Place
Lovers in Japan
God Put A Smile On My Face
Princess of China
Up In Flames
Don’t Let It Break Your Heart
Viva La Vida
Us Against The World
Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall
Please enjoy a photo set by the lovely Alex Crick including Coldplay, Metronomy, and The Pierces.