Name the band that you'd least expect to deliver a Michael Jackson tribute. Metallica? Marilyn Manson? How about Coldplay? It was the latter that surprised the capacity crowd at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View on Monday with its tribute to the recently departed King of Pop, writes San Jose's Mercury News.
And the real shocker was how Coldplay went about it. Late in the set, the quartet moved from Shoreline's big main stage to a smaller platform, which probably measured no more than 6-by-6 feet, located at the rear of the reserved seats, near the lawn area. The players huddled together, acoustic instruments in hand, and vocalist Chris Martin announced that they were "going to go into a song that is far better than any song we could ever write."
A mandolin rang out, alongside two acoustic guitars, and the rhythm was instantly familiar, if not immediately identifiable. Then Martin uttered the first line of the song: "She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene... ." The crowd let forth a collective gasp, then a shriek, as 22,000 fans realized they were hearing an acoustic cover of Jackson's "Billie Jean."
It was a nice, unexpected moment — a "Thriller," if you will — in a show that lacked any other real surprises. In general, the evening consisted of just Coldplay being Coldplay; if you like the band, you would definitely have enjoyed the concert. Following the same game plan that it has used from the start, Coldplay spent roughly 100 minutes mixing radio-friendly pop songs and rock anthems with piano ballads and other softer material. Martin, the 32-year-old superstar who's married to actress Gwyneth Paltrow, was his usual self: earnest, personable, and seemingly aware of how lucky he is to be in the position to perform in front of thousands of fans on a nightly basis.
Coldplay isn't big on bells and whistles, which makes it a rare bird in the flock of the world's most popular bands. So it's no surprise that its current tour is a decidedly stripped-down affair. Even the two smaller performance platforms erected away from the main stage seemed mainly intended to break down the barrier between the band and the audience. The foursome — Martin, guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion — sounded strong and agile as it kicked opened the show with "Life in Technicolor" and "Violet Hill," two numbers from the 2008 album "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends."
Coldplay was generous with the hits early on. The third number was the showstopper "Clocks," a track from "A Rush of Blood to the Head" that won for Record of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards. It was followed by a passionate rendition of "Yellow," the megahit from Coldplay's debut, 2000's "Parachutes," that introduced the band to American listeners. Martin is a terrific pianist, but he's not the finest lyricist in the world. His skill in delivering his lines, however, is without question. His sincerity can be found in every sentence he utters, whether he's moaning through something akin to a love letter or reciting Michael Jackson in a weak falsetto. Actually, MJ cover wasn't the best song of the night — that title would go to the touching original composition "Fix You"— but it was the most important. By paying tribute to the King of Pop, Coldplay showed us yet another side to its already impressive equation: the ability to surprise an audience.
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Pictures of Coldplay at Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, CA (13th July 2009):