Coldplay may very well be the biggest rock band in the world right now, with the best-selling album of 2008 and a tour that’s criss-crossing the globe. At the same time, they may be the least "rock" rock band in the world, writes the Winnipeg Free Press.
You’d likely be hard-pressed to pick the unassuming members out of a crowd (unless singer Chris Martin had glamorous wife Gwyneth Paltrow on his arm) and even their recent stab at rock-star flamboyance — wearing colourful Seargent Pepper-style jackets — is a pale imitation of provocateurs past.
So some trepidation was attached to the London band’s first visit to Winnipeg. Charity donations, vegetarianism and all-around niceness are well and good, but a good concert experience demands a little excess. Sex and drugs might be passé, but a rock ‘n’ roll attitude is still a requirement.
It was clear any fears of a navel-gazing performance were misplaced. At 9:05 p.m, the band bounded onto the dark stage brandishing sparklers for opener Life in Technicolor, which was literally larger than life, as backlighting projected the band members’ giant shadows onto a scrim in front of the stage, which was lifted as they swang into a thunderous version of Violet Hill from their latest album, Viva La Vida.
Martin, sporting a curly mop of hair and what looked like a homemade Obama armband over the aformentioned motley military garb, skipped around the stage, playfully using its entire area, which included two arms that extended into the crowd.
And it wasn’t just the banks of lasers spraying the audience or cool orb-shaped videoscreens or super-clever video effects that had the requisite rock attitude. Coldplay is a band that’s often accused of being overly sensitive — an act that girls gush over, but men disdain — but you wouldn’t know it from Will Champion’s aggressive drumming or Guy Berryman’s relentless bass, which pumped the familiar chiming into to mega-hit Clocks into a thumping anthem.
Subtlety went out the window — quite happily — with the band’s first hit, Yellow, from debut Parachutes, as yellow lights bathed the audience and huge yellow balloons filled the arena, releasing sprays of confetti as they burst. Then came a rousing version of 42, with Martin switching to keyboards for the bookending sections. The band then achieved real intimacy on the pensive Fix You — so much so that it was almost disappointing when the inevitable kick-into-overdrive arrived (hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of sensitivity).
Chamberlain went nuts on the timpani drums for the gloriously grandiose Viva La Vida, and the audience joined him, swaying and singing along at the top of their lungs
Martin has a sort of genius for lyrics that sound portentous but skirt being really meaningful, which allows listeners to attach their own meaning to them — that facility was evident as the crowd practically raised the humidity level in the arena from tearing up as they mouthed the refrain to Lost!: "Just because I’m losing, doesn’t mean I’m lost."
And just when it seemed there wasn’t going to be another intimate moment, all four members were led through the crowd to a tiny stage set amid the riser seats, for an acoustic version of Green Eyes and a whimsical (if calculated) little off-the-cuff song making reference to Winnipeggers’ love of the Jets. Then the lights were turned down so Martin could orchestrate a cellphone-light "wave", which looked like a magically organized bunch of fireflies.
At one point early in the show, Martin apologized for cancelling a previously scheduled local show. "We need to have 121 rehearsals before we dare to play in Winnipeg," he joked. And by the end, their hearts seemed so much in it, we almost believed him.
Howling Bells, a moody rock quartet from Sydney, Australia led by powerhouse vocalist Juanita Stein, opened the show, followed by Scottish act Snow Patrol, longtime Coldplay kindred spirits who amped up their sweet indie rock to suit the arena setting. Gangly singer Gary Lightbody turned on the charm, his big, pure voice keeping up with the magnified guitars on tracks including Hands Open, Run and Chasing Cars.
Coldplay at the MTS Centre, Winnipeg (15th June 2009:
Pictures by jiggajayd @ Flickr