Coldplay at Xcel Energy Center, 8/10/12
Far more captivating than Chris Martin himself are his captivated fans. At every turn during Friday's packed Coldplay show at Xcel Energy Center, the singer/guitarist/pianist told a entranced audience what to do. "Everyone raise your hands up," "Sing with me," and just motioning for people to clap along, and this crowd did exactly that with zero hesitation. Not only was this hockey arena filled with boundless energy, but the band and their pitchman Martin were selling their songs to be the biggest in the world.
The show took plenty from Coldplay's fifth album, Mylo Xyloto -- both in terms of song material and stage aesthetics. Its cover art looks like it's been smeared with fluorescent paint by graffiti artists who are thorough enough not to leave a single spot unsplattered. Thus, Martin's upright piano looked like this, and early cannon blasts of brightly colored confetti served to color every other surface in the place.
In this place, the upbeat "God Put a Smile On Your Face" can incite deafening screams just through Martin's ad-libbed reference to "where the Mississippi flows," and at the outset of "Clocks," saying that they were going to party like it was 1999 might almost have you believe it. For his part, an undeniably goofy Martin sold every song with the maximum amount of stage antics -- throwing his flailing body up into the air, tossing his guitar even higher, rolling endlessly through the piles of confetti on the catwalk, falsetto-izing, and hunching intently over his piano when a softer moment came along. All of this was captured on several giant, circular monitors hanging from the ceiling.
Showing that EDM has infiltrated even the Coldplay sphere, a mystifying display came towards the end of the band's set. Bracelets with a chip that could turn on the LED lights embedded inside, which were handed out as attendees filed in, were turned on to reveal a stadium sprinkled with colors. (Could these bracelets have mind-controlling powers?)
It was far more uniform than glow sticks, but still impressive for "Charlie Brown" and the giant singalong of "Paradise." This was one of many moments that could've been a part of the London Olympics' opening or closing ceremonies, and will certainly be copied.
For the encore, Martin, guitarist Jonny Buckland, drummer Will Champion, and bassist Guy Berryman set up a makeshift stage in the crowd. It was pretty ballsy for them to play "Speed of Sound" and "Clocks" back-to-back at this juncture since they're so genetically similar, but with all of the pomp and excitement of the band parading back down to the main stage, this passed with no protests. An especially cloying "Fix You" and the motivational "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall" (that title still gets me) wrapped it up in a fashion that reached for the stars that Bono so carefully aligned once U2 arguably created this template for a stadium rock experience that's anthemic at every turn, and never cuts with a sharp edge. Coldplay aren't necessarily the biggest (or the best), but it was easy to believe it for a couple hours.
The Crowd: This was a group of the happiest people you'd ever hope to see at a concert. Let's just say that a couple a few rows in front of me were taking this graffiti utopia as an invitation for an extended bout of straddling, dry-humping, and feel-copping that had a couple security guards nearby focused on making sure that none of the body parts being fondled were exposed.
Personal Bias: "Violet Hill" and "Fix You" show the two extremes of the Coldplay experience, and that's why they're among the only songs of theirs I can listen to on the reg.