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live from New Jersey, the case for coldplay


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Coldplay, Continental Airlines Arena, aka The Meadowlands

25 March 2006


Last year, Jon Pareles wrote an article for the New York Times called “The Case Against Coldplay” where he called them “the most insufferable band of the decade.” Last night, I went to his neighborhood (northern New Jersey, to be exact) to witness the case for Coldplay.


While I never thought I’d share so much spiritual geography with teenage girls and emo rockers, it seems like that it’s exactly that kind of “guilt by association” that turns Mr. Parales sour. While he doesn’t like what Coldplay does, he clearly realizes that they’re good at it.


Witness this impeccable prose: “It's not for lack of skill. The band proffers melodies as imposing as Romanesque architecture, solid and symmetrical. Martin on keyboards, Jonny Buckland on guitar, Guy Berryman on bass and Will Champion on drums have mastered all the mechanics of pop songwriting, from the instrumental hook that announces nearly every song they've recorded to the reassurance of a chorus to the revitalizing contrast of a bridge. Their arrangements ascend and surge, measuring out the song's yearning and tension, cresting and easing back and then moving toward a chiming resolution. Coldplay is meticulously unified, and its songs have been rigorously cleared of anything that distracts from the musical drama.”


No, it’s the emo effect that gets this critic’s goat. It’s Chris Martin and his lyrics: “I hear a passive-aggressive blowhard, immoderately proud as he flaunts humility. ‘I feel low,’ he announces in the chorus of ‘Low,’ belied by the peak of a crescendo that couldn't be more triumphant about it.”


While it was an epic and eternal sound that sucked my brain on the first listen to “Clocks,” the spirit of the project kept me. Emotion truly pulled me to Coldplay and kept pulling me. My first emo band. In such an intensely miserable world, it’s this cozy component of Chris Martin’s sensibility that makes a Coldplay concert a kind of postmodern love-in. I still like my anger in folk, punk, and hip-hop, but sometimes such ranting can leave me cold. Coldplay makes me warm and wet. People of all ages, arms waving, hearts swelling, vocal chords wailing: we are in this fucking together, and we want more. Now, some people get that buzz at church or singing the Star Spangled Banner at football games. But for those of us unable to access too much religion or patriotism, we have rock and roll. And of those rare and bombastic and hokey enough to try transforming a hockey arena into a homey happenin’ hoedown, Coldplay has come to the top of their crowd and can draw the crowd.


Northern New Jersey is a kind of example of why modernity might have been a bad idea, an exurban unimpressive pavement monster. Just finding my hotel room and getting to the show were a chore. But once in the parking lot, with the Amstel Light and Dominican rum warming the hears of the hospitable tailgaters I happened upon, the beauty of the pre-concert communion shed my doubts about why I’d traveled so far again—just to see a band. While some of my friends are baffled by my devotion, my new friends were just impressed. They had the same infection as me and completely understood. The etymology of the word “fan” (from the root fanatic) is instructive here. I’m a fan in the true sense. Two nights of Coldplay equals my March madness. There’s more to say about last night, but it’s time to get ready for tonight, with Ashcroft onstage in less than two hours!!

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