When Prince played the Arena a few years ago, people walking in were delighted to be handed a copy of his new album, "Musicology." Coldplay isn't going that far, but the band will be passing out free copies of a nine-track live album that it very well could have been selling at Wal-Mart, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today in a preview to Saturday's show at the Post-Gazette Pavilion. Here is their article:
Why the gift? "This last year we enjoyed playing live more than we ever have," says guitarist Jonny Buckland. "It was the most fun and we were feeling like we've been playing better than we ever have. We feel like the crowds have been better than ever as well, in terms of how much people sing along and how much energy they bring. So we felt that we wanted to record that and we thought, well, 'Let's make a record of that and give it away.' It seems like the right thing to do. It was no more considered than that."
The tour that brings Coldplay to Pittsburgh for the opener of the Post-Gazette Pavilion season is an extension of the Viva La Vida tour that started last June and already has thrilled fans across the United States, Europe and Australia.
"Viva," the band's fourth album, was another bona fide success for Coldplay, debuting at No. 1 on the charts and winning the Grammy for Best Rock Album. It even won acclaim from critics, something for which Coldplay has had mixed results. Most were on board with "Parachutes" and "A Rush of Blood to the Head," but Coldplay started to lose people with the paler "X&Y." Imagine the critic for The New York Times declaring you "the most insufferable band of the decade."
"You read some of it," Buckland says of the criticism. "You try not to read it but somehow you're drawn to it like a moth to the flame. I think you try to take positive things out of the bad press. I think it's good in a way to examine what's good and what isn't. I think sometimes critics have a really good point about what you're doing, and whether it could be better. Sometimes you feel like they're wrong. Other times, they're really right and that's probably when it hurts the most. You have to change it, so it's probably useful. As far as good press goes, I think you almost don't register it. It's the bad press that sticks with you, unfortunately."
Coldplay has had to get used to comparisons to either Radiohead or U2 or a combination of both in every story about the band. "I really don't mind them at all," Buckland says. "At first, we felt a bit limited by [the comparisons] maybe. I don't really get that upset about them. I can see their influence in some of our songs, but not everything. They haven't accused us of plagiarism," he adds with a nervous laugh.
Buckland refers to charges by guitar wiz Joe Satriani that the song "Viva La Vida" copped a melody from his instrumental "If I Could Fly."
"There isn't a lot I can say, other than, these things take an interminably long time to deal with," Buckland notes. On the morning of the interview, a new wrinkle develops with folk-rocker Cat Stevens saying he actually used the melody before that, during his epic "Foreigner Suite."
"I just did an interview about 20 minutes ago and that was the first someone told me about it," Buckland says. "But I don't know anything about it.
"Are we being sued?" he says sheepishly. Then he adds, "Well, we can't have copied both of them."
When it's pointed out that this happens quite often, usually behind the scenes, when bands get this successful, Buckland says, "Yeah, it's perhaps no coincidence that it is our most played song."
On the bright side, Coldplay surely has money to burn after the popularity of "Viva La Vida" and a tour of venues much bigger than the Palumbo Center, where it first played in Pittsburgh. Back then, singer Chris Martin would hang close to his keyboard. Now the shows are more animated to play to the last row.
"The bigger the place you play the bigger you have to make it," Buckland says. "Now we try to play all around the arena, play out to the audience to try to make it feel a bit more intimate. If you sit in the back of a giant venue, you feel like you haven't been to anything."
One of the byproducts of amping up the live show for bigger venues is the tendency for acts, such as U2 or Bruce Springsteen, to write bigger songs, sometimes losing the intimacy. "I suppose it can happen," Buckland says. "I think often when you come straight off tour and go into the studio, it takes a few months for it to get out of your system. I think you stop purely thinking about playing live in large places. At first when you get in the studio you feel like everything you do should get a round of applause. You go in with a big ego. It takes a while for that to get displaced."
Coldplay won't be going back into the studio until after the tour, but to hold people over until the next record, it did release an EP called "Prospekt's March," which contains a few songs, like the rocker "Glass of Water," that might turn up in concert.
"There were a lot of arguments about why that didn't make the record," he says. "The EP itself is made up of songs from the 'Viva' sessions, but for some reason or another we didn't feel like they fit. We really did like the songs, but we wanted to keep it short and make it a complete thing, so some things had to go. I think we felt with 'X&Y,' we probably made a slightly too long record. We didn't want to make that mistake again and we were willing to sacrifice those songs we thought were good to make the album better."
Writing and recording a new album these days is a bit more complicated than it was back when the band formed as students in 1998, as the members have moved on to family life. Buckland says it has changed the band dynamic, in some good ways.
"I'd say we're a lot more kind to each other. At times when we were a lot younger we could be quite cruel to each other -- you know, demanding -- whereas now we're a bit more accepting of people's little foibles and idiosyncrasies. We're more accepting of each other, a bit nicer."
With: Pete Yorn.
Where: Post-Gazette Pavilion.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $35-$97.50; 877-598-8703.
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