There's no escaping Joe the Plumber these days. Not even at a rock 'n' roll show.
Less than a week after you-know-who found himself at the center of the final presidential debate, the non-licensed tradesman from Holland, Ohio, was mentioned indirectly a couple of times when the British quartet Coldplay performed Tuesday night at The Q. "You live in the most important state . . . at the moment," frontman Chris Martin told concertgoers, referring to Ohio's pivotal role in the upcoming election. "You also have, according to the news, some of the best plumbers in the world," Martin couldn't resist adding.
The charismatic singer and his bandmates -- guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion (decked out in their finest psychedelic military regalia, to a man) -- didn't shy away from serious topics in their songs. "Violet Hill," "Cemeteries of London," the transcendent "42" (a soul-searcher in three movements) and other selections from Coldplay's latest album, "Viva La Vida," broached life-and-death matters. Yet these guys (all in their early 30s) managed to keep the mood not only light, but even uplifiting at times.
During "Lovers in Japan," thousands of Day-Glo paper butterflies fluttered down from the rafters. It made for a magical spectacle.
The concert originally had been scheduled for July. It was pushed back when Coldplay postponed the start of its North American tour because of unspecified production issues. Martin apologized for any inconvenience.
Better late than never, an eye-popping light show complemented the band's arena-rocking anthems and super-sized ballads. Martin & Co. often were backlit, content to be silhouettes while their fans got to bask in the bright lights instead.
Curtains hid lots of empty seats in the upper reaches of the venue, filled to only three-fourths capacity, tops. What the audience lacked in numbers, it made up for with unbridled enthusiasm. The sing-along at the end of "Fix You" was especially heartwarming.
"For a Tuesday night, you people are on incredible form," Martin remarked.
He wasn't too shabby himself. "The Hardest Part" showcased his versatile pipes, with low-register verses giving way to a breathtaking falsetto refrain. When he wasn't concentrating on playing guitar or piano, Martin cavorted on two runways jutting into the crowd.
The whole band relocated to a rear corner of the arena to deliver stripped-down renditions of "The Scientist" and "Death Will Never Conquer." Champion ably handled lead vocals on the latter song, while Martin tooted a harmonica.
Coldplay brought the 90-minute performance to a feel-good close by revisiting its 2000 breakthrough hit, "Yellow."
Despite the occasional Joe the Plumber joke, Martin avoided overt political commentary. Or maybe the impassioned chorus of "Politik" was his message to voters: "Open up your eyes!" he sang, over and over.
SET LIST: "Life in Technicolor," "Violet Hill," "Clocks," "In My Place," "Speed of Sound," "Cemeteries of London," "Chinese Sleep Chant," "42," "Fix You," "Strawberry Swing," "God Put a Smile upon Your Face/Let's Talk," "The Hardest Part," "Postcards from Far Away," "Viva La Vida," "Lost!," "The Scientist," "Death Will Never Conquer"
ENCORE: "Politik," "Lovers in Japan," "Death and All His Friends," "Yellow"
More on this review here onwards.