Could Coldplay be the next U2?
Both bands have lobbed a steady barrage of megahits at America from across the pond. A charismatic, socially conscious frontman leads each group. And they share a penchant for rock with an expansive scope and an emotive core.
When Coldplay performed last night (Tuesday) at Riverbend Music Center, the British group demonstrated its most striking similarity to its Irish predecessors: The ability to forge an intimate connection with individual members of a thousands-strong arena crowd.
Just like U2’s Bono, Chris Martin exudes an enigmatic yet approachable confidence. He gripped the crowd in his thrall from the minute he strode onstage to the final notes of the show’s finale, the current hit “Fix You.” At various points during the concert, Martin hopped on one foot, slowly pinwheeled across the stage and stood transfixed by his own pixilated image on the gigantic video screens that were the sparse set’s main ornamentation.
The screens, which flashed grainy images of the quartet as it performed, echoed the intentions of the countless fans snapping shots with their camera-equipped cell phones. Near the end of “The Scientist,” the four musicians aimed their own disposable cameras at the crowd, then tossed them out to fans.
The entire set flowed seamlessly from one skillfully orchestrated number to another. Standout numbers “Clocks” and “Everything’s Not Lost” soared into musical and emotional crescendoes, lifted by Martin’s pure vocals and pristine piano riffs.
Moments of subtlety interspersed the capital-R rock songs. The band members clustered near the stage’s edge for the acoustic “Til Kingdom Come,” a heartfelt ballad they wrote with hopes of performing it with Johnny Cash before he died. The gorgeous “Swallowed in the Sea” rang with a lullaby lilt.
Martin, who takes his well-crafted music just as seriously as Bono does, also possesses a wry sense of humor that keeps him from becoming a caricature of rock earnestness. During the group’s first U.S. hit, “Yellow,” a bevy of bright balloons bounced down onto the crowd.
“OK, the song isn’t going to finish until all those balloons are gone,” Martin said, then held tight to one sustained note. The resulting pop of bursting balloons mingled with the crowd’s laughter.