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    St Paul Review: A chilly start, then Coldplay was hot

    magicball7.jpgColdplay still hasn’t found what it’s looking for. The biggest rock band of the ’00s, the British quartet aspires to be as big as U2, reports Star Tribune.


    But the group’s sold-out concert Friday at Xcel Energy Center was like one step forward and two steps back. The show wasn’t as consistently exciting as Coldplay’s first Twin Cities arena concert in 2003 nor as visually dazzling as the group’s 2005 effort.


    Friday’s 95-minute concert lacked momentum, urgency and depth. The key culprit was the pacing. For the first 45 minutes, Coldplay subjected 16,153 fans to 10 pretty but stiflingly similar medium-tempo tunes. The redundancy in tempo, texture and dynamics — not to mention the largely unimaginative light show (playing “Speed of Sound” in the dark was not dramatic, it was dunderheaded) — leaves a listener comfortably numb. But in arenas, we want our rock to be transcendent, cathartic and just plain fun.

    When Coldplay started to mix things up, it became clear that Chris Martin and company could be big-time contenders someday.


    The turning point was “God Put a Smile upon Your Face,” recast as a throbbing techno tune that was warm and fresh compared to Coldplay’s surfeit of shimmering, sonically pristine songs.


    Then left alone on a piano on a runway extending from the stage, Martin apologized for having postponed this concert, originally set for July. (“We would have been absolutely [bleep],” he said. “We weren’t even ready.”). After finally showing some emotion in conversation, he broke into the heartfelt “The Hardest Part,” a straightforward piano pop piece.


    Martin, 31, rejoined his bandmates for “Viva La Vida,” this year’s buoyant hit that on Friday was as rousing as a Barack Obama victory song. The singer danced joyously as the band, driven by Will Champion’s pounding timpani, played a simple song (for a change) devoid of Coldplay’s usual atmospherics. The crowd sang along festively — “oh — oh, oh, oh” — like it was a Bon Jovi concert. The perfect followup was “Lost,” with a primal beat that evoked Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.”


    Finally, for two consecutive songs, Coldplay had turned into a rock band with a sense of urgency and excitement, living up to its long-held desire to inspire.


    Having completely won over the audience, Coldplay could take even bolder steps. So the four guys literally walked through the crowd, climbed up into the cheap(er) seats in the bowl end of the arena, and sang two acoustic tunes, including the hit “The Scientist.”


    After returning to the stage, Coldplay carried on with vigor and vitality. They flexed their rock ’n’ roll muscle on “Politik” (though Martin, who had been blatantly political on past tours, made no political statements this time) and partied on “Lovers in Japan” as day-glo tissue-paper butterflies descended from the rafters, creating a visual spectacle not unlike the Republican National Convention did in the same building earlier this fall.


    By then, Coldplay and the thrilled crowd had finally found its magical moment.


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