CALGARY - When Coldplay released its debut album Parachutes in 2000, critics shrugged the band off as yet another poor man's U2. Even with the ridiculously huge sales of its 2002 follow-up A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay was derided by many as wussy pop music for girls, writes the Calgary Sun.
But almost a decade after its breakthrough, the British four-piece has proven itself as a credible U2 contemporary. In fact, with its fourth and latest release, Viva La Vida, the group inches even closer to snatching the biggest band in the world crown away from the Irish legends.
Last night at the Saddledome, Chris Martin and Co. proved they are worthy successors to that crown with a spectacular two-hour show. Coldplay has been blasted for being boring and pompous. But that certainly wasn't the impression the 14,000-strong audience got as the group tore through their biggest hits and more memorable album tracks. Confident? Yes. Pompous? Definitely not.
The live version of Coldplay isn't altogether different from the recorded one, but there is a distinctively muscular quality about the band in a concert setting that is often missing from its albums. Guitarist Jonny Buckland's already beefy hooks sounded absolutely massive and surprisingly aggressive while drummer Will Champion pounded the skins with rhythmic ferocity.
Bassist Guy Berryman kept the band grounded with his seamless bass playing and singer Martin lifted them up with his emotive melodies and towering falsetto. Coldplay's sonic intensity was matched by a playful demeanour. Martin can sometimes come across as pretentious and ill-humoured, particularly when confronted by unwanted media. But last night, the singer was charming, funny and genial.
The concert wouldn't have been nearly as good if Martin didn't put his entire body and soul into it. Clad in a sort of hand-made Les Mis revolutionary military jacket and black pants, Martin made his hard work look effortless, regularly switching from sensitive piano man to all-out strutting rock star.
There were several sublime moments during Coldplay's gig but an early highlight was the fiery Viva La Vida single Violet Hill, which kicked off the evening with a bang. Nothing beats a good sing-along chorus and Coldplay doesn't disappoint. When they weren't cheering, Coldplay's legion of fans piped up to join Martin during In My Place, Fix You and Yellow among many others.
The concert was a long time coming for local fans as Coldplay postponed its original Calgary date more than a year ago citing production problems. Whether that was the real reason behind rescheduling the concert, who knows. It doesn't matter now because the show's production quality was simply fantastic.
A huge coloured ball hung from the rafters near the back of the 'Dome, projecting images from the stage and a spectacular laser show was unleashed during the band's Grammy-winning song, Clocks. With all its artsy flourishes, passionate lyricism and subtle arrangements, Coldplay proves arena rock can be a sophisticated affair. The same attention Coldplay gives to its live performance is also given to its opening bands. You couldn't have asked for two better, or more fitting, support acts than Howling Bells and Snow Patrol.
Howling Bells were first up and even though the venue wasn't even half full yet, singer Juanita Stein worked the stage as if she was in front of 50,000 people. Her sweet vocals were reminiscent of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval if she had smoked and drank since the age of 15. The Australian group's hypnotic and atmospheric tunes brought back memories of English shoegazing bands such as Curve and to a lesser extent My Bloody Valentine.
Snow Patrol has also had a tough time gaining critical respect. Sure, the band has written its fair share of sappy rock ballads -- Chasing Cars and Run come to mind -- but last night the Belfast band showed it could give Coldplay a serious run for its money. Like Coldplay, Snow Patrol is louder and more dynamic on stage than on CD and they were in top form last night. In many ways Snow Patrol was just as entertaining as Coldplay. Nathan Connolly's soaring guitar riffs filled the venue while singer Gary Lightbody filled the stage with his flailing body parts and enormous charisma.
Coldplay at Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary, Canada (17th June 2009):
Pictures: steamen genius
Coldplay-shaped puppets in Calgary:
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