Coldplay Delivers in the Usual Way

By in January 2, 2013 • Filed in: Reviews

Near the end of its allotted time at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday night, Coldplay offered up “Fix You,” a vow of encouragement about as earnest and ingenuous as its title suggests. The song opens like a processional hymn and stays in that realm awhile before tipping decisively toward rock grandeur: a cue for Chris Martin, the voice and face and soul of the band, to shrug off any lingering scrap of pensiveness or decorum.

He did so in a very Chris Martin way, swiveling from his neon-graffiti-scrawled upright piano and bounding down the catwalk that jutted onto the arena floor. A few strides in, he threw his lanky body into the air — chest forward, head back, arms splayed — and deftly crumpled as he landed, rolling back into a somersault. He called to mind a jack-in-the-box or some other spring-loaded toy, blithely singular in purpose.

You could say much the same for the show, an elaborate and efficient production clearly meant to provide one dopamine hit after another. There were LED wristbands that went aglow in coordinated bursts, making each concertgoer a part of the arena’s lighting design; there were blizzards of pastel confetti, cut into custom shapes; there were dozens of beach balls bouncing along the crowd. All within the first few songs. (The full-tilt laser display was yet to come.)

Coldplay grossed more than $170 million on tour in 2012 — only Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Roger Waters did better — so it’s no surprise that the operation suggests a behemoth. Still, had you spent even a little time with “Coldplay: Live 2012” (Capitol), an immersive new concert film and album, you would have known what to expect here, almost at the cellular level.

Mr. Martin did deviate from a corporate standard of consistency every now and again, mainly to assure the crowd that this show would be every bit as special as the scheduled New Year’s Eve double bill with Jay-Z. That claim might have seemed a little less preposterous, had the band not taken to the stage after its customary fanfare: recordings of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems,” followed by a healthy stretch of Alan Silvestri’s score for “Back to the Future.” Under the circumstances, it was a cruel tease.

But in most other respects, the band was straightforward in its service. Coldplay has never had much use for the unruly or unpredictable: sturdiness is its business. And there was never a moment in this show when Mr. Martin or his band mates — the lead guitarist Jonny Buckland, the bassist Guy Berryman, the drummer Will Champion — seemed less than fully committed. The songs did their work too, inner parts whirring in sync, with Mr. Martin drifting between piano and acoustic or electric guitars.

Reassurance and communion are major themes in those songs, which helps explain why so many of their best moments involve wordless lyrics: your ohhs and whoas and oohs. Whether employed as structural elements or transitional devices, they fulfill a core function in the Coldplay sound, a function often more fundamental than lyrics. (No accident that this music resonates with large crowds, in Brooklyn as in Barcelona.)

The set list drew generously from “Mylo Xyloto” (Capitol), Coldplay’s 2011 studio album, which came with a fanciful concept but only moderate pretensions, and a dose of electronics that managed not to engulf the band’s sound. Among the newer songs, “Paradise” was fastidious and sweeping here, and “Princess of China” fell predictably short, given that Rihanna, the song’s guest duet partner, appeared only in video footage. “Up in Flames,” played at the end of the catwalk, was spare and touching.

In a similar vein, the encore began with an acoustic “Us Against the World,” played from a perch in the crowd, with Mr. Martin exuding his approachable hospitality. It was a looser and less obviously plotted portion of the show, which made it refreshing — though hardly truer to the spirit of the band. [Source]

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