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    Toronto review 4: Coldplay Don't Need Experimenting

    magicball7.jpgIt's been over a year since Coldplay released Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends. They've toured it endlessly and tirelessly since, and returned to Toronto for the second time in a year (they played Toronto's Air Canada Centre on the same day last year) on Thursday night at the Rogers Centre to play one more time before they take a break and begin thinking about their next record, writes Chart Attack.


    First, the crowd were treated to the sounds of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, an R&B trio of '50s sensibilities. Their skiffle and early rock 'n' roll sounds were a bit out of place on a bill that featured bands that play atmospheric pop rock, but it was refreshing nonetheless, especially their covers of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" and Canned Heat's "Goin' Up The Country."


    Elbow's Coldplay soundalike mopey pop was a jarring contrast. On record, Elbow are positively snoozeworthy, but live they're more explosive. Their set was entirely comprised of songs from last year's Mercury Music Prize-winning The Seldom Seen Kid. Then again, anything can sound explosive in a stadium with a sound system that's designed for 50,000 people. Oh, Manchester, so much to answer for…

    When Coldplay took the stage, it seemed as if the audience was in for a repeat of last year's gig at the Air Canada Centre. The band began their set behind the same translucent black screen and played the exact same four songs they began with at that gig. An "uh-oh" moment was had when Chris Martin seemed to be having trouble hitting the notes on "Violet Hill" and had to sing much lower than he does on record.


    Calling Coldplay competent performers is a moot point — it's a tired cliché, but they're the world's biggest band now, so performing has become pretty effortless for them. The songs from Viva La Vida sounded much better than last time they were here, and they've clearly have become accustomed to performing them.


    But there's often the danger of becoming a little too comfortable. Martin at times seemed a caricature of himself, and even flew through the air behind guitarist Jonny Buckland on one of the stage's wings during "In My Place" — just as he had last time. Fortunately, Martin and company are so damn earnest that it will never come across as completely disingenuous or rehearsed, even if it kind of looks that way.


    Thankfully, the setlist became different when the first chords of "Yellow" rang out. "Glass Of Water" from the Prospekt's March EP also helped change things up.


    By "42" it became very clear that Coldplay's attempts at "experimentation" on Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends don't exactly translate the best live. Martin attempted three times to get the crowd to sing along to the chorus, and they weren't having it. Hilariously, the roof nearly came off the Rogers Centre when Coldplay launched into "Fix You" next.


    Luckily, Coldplay knew enough to leave "Yes," the dreadful, seven-minute Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine soundalike (half of it is a hidden track dubbed "Chinese Sleep Chant") out of the mix this time. Unfortunately, they once again ruined "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face" by changing the key and adding horrible electronic drums and distorted, tremoloed guitar onto it, just as they did last year. The crowd's response wasn't all that enthusiastic.


    From there, it was onto "Viva La Vida." It's also probably telling that this track, Coldplay's biggest hit to date, and their most straightforward song on the album, got the loudest singalong of the night.


    This handily demonstrated that Coldplay are at their best when they don't try to play at being something they're not and stick to what they're known for: writing anthemic pop songs and arena rock with great hooks. The Joe Satriani business aside, "Viva La Vida" is a truly great song because it keeps things simple: the hook is one word — "Waaaa-ohhhh" — and it doesn't try and sound like a poor version of Radiohead, The Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine or anything else the guys drool over in their record collections.


    Martin went on record last year as saying Coldplay purposely attempted to write songs that sounded like the aforementioned bands. Experimentation is all well and good, but it should come naturally. When you attempt to sound like someone else, it comes across as stilted. Maybe that's why "Viva La Vida" will always get a bigger singalong than "42."


    Martin repeatedly stated throughout the rest of the set this would be Coldplay's last show in Toronto for "a few years." Presumably, they'll take some time off and then begin working on their fifth album.


    At this point, Coldplay are like the child in second grade that tries really hard to be like the cool kid and always falls short and gets mocked because they're a little bit different. Hopefully Martin and company will realize that their fans don't need — or want — them to be U2, Radiohead or anyone else.


    Source: Chart Attack


    Pictures of Coldplay at Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON (30th July 2009):












    Pictures by Christopher Liando @ flickr




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