Liverpool Confidential's Jonathan Schofield had a good sing-along to classic tunes during Coldplay’s gig at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. “Billie Jean is not my lover,” we caterwauled, “she's just a girl who claims that I am the one. But the kid is not my son.”
Given the lyric was from the late Michael Jackson this was an eminently believable statement. More believable than nice Mr Chris Martin ever going for anybody called Billie Jean. “La, la, la, la. People always told me be careful of what you do. And don't go around breaking young girls' hearts,” we crooned drawing in the words as though they carried the wisdom of ages. “Do you think they could go back to playing Coldplay songs?” someone behind me asked. “You’d hope so,” her friend replied, and then sang, “But the kid is not my son.”
Coldplay were full of little tricks. For the ‘Billie Jean’ cover, and Michael Jackson tribute, they’d come right into the heart of the 55k crowd for an intimate acoustic set. Earlier front man Chris Martin had said: “We know you had to miss the X-Factor tonight so we thought we’d stage our own version.” He got us to sing the chorus of the band’s first hit, ‘Yellow’.
After we’d tried our best, a clip of Simon Cowell appeared, edited in such a way as to judge our performance. “It was horrific,” the God-sized Cowell, said, “everything, even the hair”. We sang again, until of course, Cowell declared: “I thought that was bloody fantastic.”
This was a gig as a variety act. It was Ant and Dec for a mixed age crowd ranging from eight to eighty. Martin even got us to do a Mexican wave with our mobile phones illuminating the starry, perfect, Old Trafford night with a tide of tiny lights. As for tunes the group played much of the latest album Vida la Vida, and a selection of tracks from the older albums with the standout moment being the aforementioned ‘Yellow’. Or maybe ‘Fix You’.
Yet there was something awkward about the evening. Coldplay’s music, lyrically, and the way it’s put together, is self-consciously serious, filled with melancholy - a bit art-college without being quite ‘cool’ enough to achieve it.
Yet here was Martin having a right old josh with the crowd but not in a clever way, which might have suited the music, but more like Dermot O’Leary on X-Factor. There was a disconnect. One of the best gigs I’ve seen at Old Trafford was on Morrissey’s ‘You are the Quarry’ tour when the singer’s sharp asides had matched his recorded persona perfectly. Morrissey’s lyrics might often be maudlin but they are slyly funny too.
It didn’t help that my own personal backing track to this was provided by a drunken Paddy McGuiness sound-alike who was having an affair with his mobile phone. “I’m up ‘ere. Look up ‘ere,” he bellowed. “No the bloody, what’s it called, up in the thingy, Pavilion, that’s it. I’ll wave. Can you see me I’m wavin’? Wavin’. Can you not see me, I’m bloody wavin’?”
He was right about one thing. We were in the Pavilion of the Cricket Club in the top tier with a fine view of the stage and Coldplay’s cracking light and video show. We were there as part of a hospitality package which included a good meal and good company. Given the type of band, and their well-to-do CV, it didn’t feel too remiss to favour comfort over the pitch-side view. Yea, I know prawn sandwiches and all that.
As for the support acts Jay-Z was apparently very good. He surprised everybody, by jumping off and on stage early, in about twenty-five minutes, so being late we missed him. Our fault I know. At least, I thought, he’ll do a couple of tunes with Coldplay during their set. He didn’t, despite his collaboration on a recorded version of ‘Lost’. Then again this is a review of Coldplay.
So to sum up the headliners provided an impressive evening’s entertainment but not a stirring one. The group were professional, the crowd willing, the venue great, and the weather obliging, but the hairs on the back of the neck never rose. Still as I left I was humming a tune. Something always sticks in the mind from every gig.
After two hours of Coldplay I was humming ‘Billie Jean’.
The latest discussion on the Manchester concert is at the Coldplay forum here onwards.
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Photos of Coldplay at LCCC, Old Trafford, Manchester (12 September 2009):
Pictures by busybeeburns
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