AUSTIN, Texas — For any English band, playing this Texas hipster mecca's long-running PBS music show "Austin City Limits" is a big checkmark on the rock-and-roll bucket list, writes VH1 in a review of yesterday's Austin City Limits Taping. Here is the rest of their review along with song excellent stage set photos from JimmyD on the forums...
Coldplay got their second hash mark on Thursday night, taping a 90-minute special edition of the 37-year-old show just 24 hours before they take the stage for a much bigger crowd just around the corner at Zilker Park as part of the three-day Austin City Limits festival. Like plugging in at New York's Radio City or Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, it's the kind of honor that most bands would kill for just once. Only this time, unlike their 2005 appearance, there was also some "Masterpiece Theater"-style acting involved, as they were taping a show intended to air on New Year's Eve. That time-travel twist required a bit of cold-weather thinking in the midst of one of the hottest summers in Lone Star State history...
As they've done all year at other festival appearances, the band mixed such crowd favorites as "The Scientist" with half a dozen new songs, including one singer Chris Martin said they just finished last month. (And, as they've been doing on this tour, this was all after they walked out to the theme from "Back to the Future"; see above time-travel reference.)
Martin started the night at the piano for the album's gentle coda, which segued right into the driving, triumphant "Hurts Like Heaven," during which the room filled with candy-colored laser blasts from a pair of neon target set pieces at the back of the stage. The new downtown 2,700-capacity "Limits" studio was decked out like a neon blacklight wonderland, with audience members handed paint-splashed T-shirts as they walked in, which were to be kept under wraps until a big reveal later in the show.
The band's gear was also colorized, with brightly hued chalk-like scribblings covering their amps, piano and drums. It's hard to describe the rush of watching a band that plays to tens of thousands on stages so tall you have to crane your neck to see them from the front row as they plug in and play just a few feet off the ground, easily within arm's reach. And if you thought "Yellow" sounded huge in a field with 30,000 of your closest friends, imagine what it's like when you can count the veins popping on Martin's forehead.
For the new, ripping, U2-esque "Major Minor," I took a trip up to the control room and watched as the show's director called out rapid-fire cues while watching a bank of 28 monitors. You can't get a better feel for the band's subtle, easy dynamic than watching isolated hi-def close-ups of all four members loping their way through "Lost!" and observing the unspoken internal rhythm that makes their shows so seamless. Drummer Will Champion cranked it up for "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face," whip-cracking his kit with abandon as if for a moment he thought he was in the Foo Fighters. Ever polite, Martin apologized for being so sweaty — joking that his profuse perspiration is the very thing keeping his band off "The Bachelor" — before he unwrapped the world debut of the final song they finished for their upcoming album Mylo Xyloto. He said the gentle ballad "Up in Flames" — which features a memorable falsetto chorus and hypnotic tick-tock rhythm — was completed just five weeks earlier, just in the nick of time to make the cut.
That tune moved into another new mellow one, the acoustic "Us Against the World," which Martin started over again after dropping a barrage of not-safe-for-PBS f-bombs following a guitar mishap. The second time he got it right, as Champion joined him in perfect harmony on the line "slow it down," with guitarist Jonny Buckland adding in some tasteful, sustained-note Morse code soloing. It wasn't quiet for long, though, as "Politik" exploded with driving drums and piano. By the time Martin tinkled out the first notes of "Viva La Vida" on the piano, the audience was already whoa-oh-oooh-ing along. As it cranked up, they were on their feet, ecstatically clapping and singing along as the song built to its familiar crescendo.
When the whoa-ooohs really kicked in, Martin jumped up on the drum riser and bounced on his toes, his arms held up like a triumphant prizefighter. With the crowd decked out in their paint-splashed T-shirts, Martin counted down to midnight, pretending it was cold outside, even though everyone in the chilly studio knew 85-degree nighttime swelter shortly awaited them. Confetti canons shot out paper butterflies and three screens covered the Day-Glo toys that descended for the new tune "Charlie Brown," whose final line, fittingly, is about glowing in the dark.
The set crashed to a close with another fresh track, the dark, funky "Paradise," which seems ripe for a beat-heavy remix (perhaps with a hip-hop break from pal Jay-Z?). The encore rolled out the driving 1-2-3 punch of the swelling "Clocks," slow-burn epic "Fix You" and recent uplifting single "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall," which had Martin pogoing along with, and for a brief moment in the middle of, the ecstatic audience.
It was one of those special nights when a band with a major arsenal finds a way to take its giant energy and squeeze it down into a much smaller space, without losing any of their arena-packing magic.
American Songwriter review:
For about 2,100 lucky Coldplay fans who got to attend the band’s Austin City Limits taping Thursday night, the weekend’s Austin City Limits Festival started a little early — and New Year’s Eve came way ahead of schedule. The capacity crowd at the long-running PBS show’s new shared taping/live performance venue, dubbed ACL Live at the Moody Theater, helped the band count down to midnight and ring in 2012, despite the Sept. 15 date and temps in the 90s. Turns out the show will air on Dec. 31, presumably near the midnight hour.
Even before that point, audience members hitting the three-day festival likely decided to head toward Kanye West’s set Friday night; no need for them to try viewing the Brit band from half a mile away after witnessing their tremendously energetic ACL performance. The show, now recording its 37th season (which kicks off October 1), even accommodated at least part of Coldplay’s stage set – which included the audience – during their taping, the band’s second ACL segment in six years. The graffiti that inspired Coldplay’s upcoming album, Mylo Xyloto (out Octber 25) morphed into the stage’s day-glo splatter motif, decorating lead singer Chris Martin’s upright piano, the drum riser and even the band’s guitars in amped-up pastel colors, and T-shirts with glow-in-the-dark symbols taken from the album art were given to floor-level audience members. After a kinetic “Viva La Vida,” fueled by drummer Will Champion’s center-stage tom-and tympani-pounding, and everywhere-at-once Chris Martin’s vocals, the T-shirts went on, the countdown began and confetti flew. Then a matching backdrop resembling a Rube Goldberg contraption (think OK Go’s video, only more primitive and still) came down.
By then, the band had run through half a dozen tunes from the new album (“Hurts Like Heaven,” ‘Major Minus,” “Charlie Brown” and the world debut of a beautifully falsetto-filled “Up in Flames” among them) as well as their biggest hits. With pants tucked into all-terrains that gave them a combat-booted look, the well-rehearsed foursome played tight arrangements of “Yellow,” “In My Place,” “Lost!,” “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face,” a sharp-edged “Violet Hill” and “The Scientist,” frequently evoking an only slightly less anthemic U2, right down to Jonny Buckland’s chiming, Edge-like guitarwork. "It means a lot to us to be playing ‘Austin City Limits’ for the second time,” a buff-looking Martin announced. “We play a lot of places where they never invite us back!” After complimenting the audience, then joking that they say that to all their TV audiences in an effort to pander for appreciation, he added, “It’s tough when you’re from England. Nobody likes you anyway. … Hope your Christmas was OK.”
Spinning, jumping from foot to foot like a boxer and careening from piano to mini-organ to acoustic and electric guitars, Martin stayed in motion, the band and crew moving seamlessly around him. Cursing as he forgot the words to a new song, “Us Against the World,” he and the band plowed on through, never losing momentum. With masterful, gorgeous renditions of “Clocks,” “Fix You” and the closer, “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” they reinforced the fact that even self-proclaimed geeks can “rule the world” – or at least, its greatest stages.
Photos of Coldplay (Phil Harvey, stage set) at the Austin City Limits Taping (15th September 2011):
Photo source: Jimmy Dushku (click to view more)
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