Some bands just know. They know they’re good. There’s no need to shout about it because every note they play shows you.
Coldplay kicked off their Australian tour with two shows in Perth at the weekend carrying the attitude of kings. They weren’t remotely arrogant, simply owning an undeniable understanding that they wear the rock’n’roll crown and put on a mighty show to prove it.
Coldplay couldn’t have found better backing singers if they tried — the all-ages massed Perth choir of 18,000 was impressive and didn’t let up all night. Whether you were cuddling your sweetheart, rode in on a Harley, were there with your family, were one of the beautiful people or looked like a surf-hippie, everyone united effortlessly and every song received ecstatic approval.
Decoder Ring warmed up an already expectant room but Mercury Rev gave us a glimpse of the magnificence awaiting. The five Americans were a perfect precursor with their atmospheric and moody rock which shares much in common with cult heroes The Flaming Lips. Holes, People Are So Unpredictable and Opus 40 were part of a set which very calmly grabbed you by the throat, but it was their closing cover of Talking Head’s Once In A Lifetime which was sinister and very cool.
As a frontman, Coldplay's Chris Martin is fascinating to watch. Like Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue, he doesn’t overtly play the sexy card but there’s something utterly beguiling about both of them. Their lack of predatory sexuality naturally draws you in to become part of this delicate and complex musical fabric.
Coldplay worked hard for more than two dozen songs and the audience repaid the love. The four never sat still and presented one of the most creative shows I have seen with a rock-pop set list which spanned style, emotion, differing delivery and genre-hopping, much like their multi-million selling Viva La Vida.
The highlights were numerous from the military beat of Violet Hill to the beautiful Clocks, a signature song which owns that unquantifiable something which just makes you love it. Yellow, accompanied by yellow balloons, sent the crowd wild and they were no less willing for Strawberry Swing, Lost, Politik, Fix You, Lovers In Japan and 42 which included Martin’s self-confessed Mariah Carey vocal moment.
Their new album’s title track, Viva La Vida, was the pinnacle of it all. Waking us from the softness of The Hardest Part, the kettle drums pounded in an anthemic and exhilarating celebration.
It’s hard to be loud and soft at the same time, but Coldplay have mastered the nuance. Volume can be loud, music can be aggressive without turning into hard rock and somehow the message can be sweet and poignant.
Their shabby revolution chic outfits were a nod to the new regime as the band left the main stage twice to play amid the audience, the second time up in the gods with acoustic guitars and harmonica. The first song didn’t work so well but Speed Of Sound sounded like an original demo before young drummer Will Champion played national steel for a quick country-infused I’m A Believer.
They came back for an encore — The Scientist and the second half of Life In Technicolor — which didn’t quite end the show with a rush of blood to the head like Viva La Vida had produced, but there was still plenty of energy to carry it through.
An almost touchable frisson pinged through the crowd as the venue emptied. It’s like everyone felt they were covered with stars and took that back into the world with them, if only for a little while.
It was impossible not be impressed by this spirited and uplifting show. As the most powerful band in rock’n’roll today, Coldplay defied gloom and gave us a little more of what we all really need: hope. Viva La Vida indeed.
Read more on the Perth round-up at the Coldplay Live forum here