Jay Z showed steely confidence while Chris Martin turned personal anxieties into communal prayers at the Coldplay gig at Old Trafford
For the opening night of Coldplay’s live return to the UK it was hard to know what was more incongruous: the cloudless blue Manchester sky or the booming rap music vibrating across the open pitch of Old Trafford. Denied a part in the Ashes, the cricket ground was perhaps determined to prove it was still a fine place for a celebration, just as American rapper Jay Z was determined to prove he could play to a crowd of 50,000 Coldplay fans, The Telegraph writes tonight. The latest on the Manchester concert, inlcuding a mini-review from Debs Wild, is at the Coldplay forum here onwards.
The street hustler from Brooklyn and the choirboy from Exeter may make an odd couple, but Shawn Carter and Chris Martin clearly have more in common than their glossy A-list wives. Both are ambitious, multi-grammy award winners with a strong belief in engaging in public debate and protecting their private lives.
Following a brief retirement, Carter, 39, has been revitalised by both his triumphant headline slot at Glastonbury last year and the election of America’s first black President. With a new album out this week, his mission now seems to be foreign diplomacy on a mass scale – proving that rap can triumph on any stage.
Looking like he could be the chippy grandson of Louis Armstrong, the statuesque, Basset-cheeked Carter had an instant magnetism on stage yet could still not overcome the major obstacle facing this style of music in a big stadium: you just can’t hear the fast flow of words and images that make up the rap bit. Cleverly, Carter didn’t labour the point – “I need to teach you the words,” he joked – but allowed the diversity of his grooves and beats, from the sledgehammer boom of his early hits to the more soulful, jazzy flow of his current work (played with style by his tight band), to envelop the audience. The only words that were discernible throughout were “bounce, bounce”, and the audience were happy to oblige, arms hooked-up in a diver’s stretch.
In contrast to the steely confidence of Carter, Chris Martin confessed later, in typically self-deprecating style, that the band had been nervous about returning to the UK after their year-long jaunt around the world. But as he also pointed out, “154 rehearsals”, as he called the Viva La Vida tour, had make them rather good as live performers. Every song was played with an impressive attack, with Will Champion pummelling the life out of his drums.
But it was Martin, surely the fittest man in pop — practically completing a decathlon with his sprinting, long-jumping and invisible javelin-throwing – who dominated the stage. Martin is a strange lead-man: geeky and gregarious, nervous and controlling, and yet it is this tension that elevates the often simply drawn mood sketches that make up most of Coldplay’s songs. With each number he turned personal anxieties into optimistic, communal prayers, and the audience were happy simply to raise their arms once again – not to bounce this time, but to be lifted up into a mass chorus of hope and into a moonlit sky filled with confetti butterflies and yellow balloons.
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Photos of Coldplay at LCCC, Old Trafford, Manchester (12 September 2009):
Pictures by busybeeburns
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