Coldplay LIVE!

Posted by AJ Harbison at 4:55 am

On Tuesday evening, I picked up my lovely fiancée for a surprise date; she knew we were going out but didn’t know where we were going. I took her to the Honda Center, and with a hint she guessed beforehand what we were doing: seeing Coldplay perform live!

As my loyal TLB readers know, I love Coldplay; they’re one of my favorite bands of all time, right up there with U2. I was stoked out of my mind to get tickets to a show of theirs, and I came in with high expectations, looking for my world to be rocked.

Ticketmaster hadn’t said this, but there were two opening acts. The first was Sleepercar, a band allegedly from West Texas whose lead singer had an English accent. Their style was generic rock blended with country elements–a pedal steel guitar and harmonica joined in periodically. It was an interesting contrast to Coldplay’s style, and while I understand the thought behind not wanting too much of the same style of music in one night, I bet a lot of the people who were at the show were not very fond of Sleepercar’s music. I didn’t hate it, but it certainly wasn’t worthy of a second listen to my ears.

The second opener was Jon Hopkins, an electronic musician slash DJ who contributed electronics to Viva La Vida, Coldplay’s latest album. He mixed along with a synced animation video by Vince Collins, who apparently has no personal website; Hopkins’ site indicates that the animation was from the 70s and 80s, and he got Collins’ permission to use it in his show. The animation was really trippy, very M.C. Escher-like (as Eleanor commented) in that the image would start as one thing and morph into another in a way that was very smooth yet discomfiting to the eye. Very interesting. I enjoyed his music, although the set went on a bit long for my tastes. Most likely a great deal of the crowd was more into electronic music than I was, because many fans of electronic music are also fans of Coldplay (like my roommate Mike) and vice versa, so that demographic of the audience probably loved it. Hopkins did lots of “whoosh” and electronic “swish” sorts of sound effects as he was mixing, and I thought they were a bit overdone. But I liked his choice of music, and I definitely enjoyed the transitions between songs. He often would bring in a new beat but keep elements of the previous song, and then build to a climax–and drop suddenly into nothing but the beat, and build back up into the fullness of the new song. It was a different type of musical experience for me, one I’m not very familiar with, but it was profitable.

And then Coldplay. I was very excited about this show, not least because I would get a chance to see one of my all-time favorite bands, but also because I’ve heard that this is the best tour they’ve ever done. Mike and I remarked to each other that it’s probably the best time in their career for a tour, because they’ll be playing a lot from my favorite CD X&Y but also a lot from Viva La Vida, which is similarly excellent. (I’ll include links to previous TLB posts about Coldplay at the end of this post.)

The show was incredible. I have to admit that I was just the slightest bit skeptical, because I’d heard a previous review of a friend who said they were disappointing in concert, and I’d seen them live on TV–perhaps on the Grammys–a few years ago, and they were terrible (Chris Martin, the lead singer, was probably drunk at the time). But this concert dispelled all my fears almost immediately. They started with “Life In Technicolor,” the song that opens Viva La Vida, beginning with the recorded electronics but then adding in all the band members, and then transitioned straight into “Violet Hill” (instead of transitioning straight into “Cemeteries Of London” as they do on the album). Chris Martin danced around the stage but never to the detriment of his singing, the whole band was full of energy, and the whole arena was rocking along.

Eleanor commented afterwards that it was one of the best performing arts shows she’s ever seen–and that says a lot coming from her, as she’s including classical performances, other concerts and her background and wide experience in musical theatre. I would have to agree. Everything about the show was excellent. Of course the music is good; the performances by each of the band members was terrific; Chris Martin’s interaction with the crowd was perfectly balanced, always adding to the show and excitement but never waxing too long; the lighting and stage design perfectly complemented the music; I could go on and on. But instead I’ll highlight a few things.

The lighting and stage design. Of course a show like this is going to have cool lighting effects: blinding lights for strong drum hits, lights sweeping over the audience during sing-along choruses, lasers. This show had all that. But the stage design was also very impressive. When they began, a digital curtain raised itself on the screen behind the stage, revealing the painting that serves as the cover art for the album; and at the end of the show, the curtain lowered back down over the word “VIVA.” There were also five spinning globes, suspended above the stage and out over the audience, that were used to display various images, patterns and views of the band. Very cool.

The musicians. I certainly didn’t doubt that the members of Coldplay were good musicians. But I didn’t know they were this good. Each of the four members of the band played at least three different instruments throughout the course of the night. There were multiple songs that featured Chris Martin playing piano, rather than just singing or playing guitar; a few of them required some stage rearranging after the song, and to cover for that he would play a minute or so of a classical piano piece. I think he even incorporated Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor into the outro of one of their songs. I was very impressed, again. The only mistake I heard was when he was playing the last few lines of one of the piano songs (I don’t remember which it was)–he came down on a clearly wrong chord, quickly said “Oh f—,” and kept going. The crowd went wild.

The crowd interaction. The whole show was very theatrical, as mentioned, and Chris Martin is a consummate showman. He danced around, he laid down on the stage, he rocked out on guitar, piano and harmonica. Several times during the night he substituted a lyric from a song with something about California, and the crowd loved that as well. His banter in between songs was very funny and added to rather than detracted from the show. And at one point, the whole band left the stage and walked over to a small enclave near the back of the arena, where they picked up two guitars, a mandolin and a harmonica, and proceeded to play an acoustic version of “The Scientist,” right in the middle of the audience. It was awesome and again the crowd went wild.

The music. Have I mentioned before how much I love Coldplay’s music? In addition to rocking everything they played, they played almost the entirety of Viva La Vida during the course of the night. The only songs they left out were “Yes” (although they did play the “Chinese Sleep Chant” by itself) and “Reign Of Love,” which I’m not very fond of anyway. The rest of the material was lots of X&Y and some of A Rush Of Blood To The Head; they only played one song from Parachutes, “Yellow,” which was the single encore. They began with “Life In Technicolor,” and they ended (before the encore) with “Death And All His Friends,” which
was the epic climax that it is on the album; after the encore, the recorded version of “The Escapist” played to finish out the night. It was basically a live performance of Viva La Vida, bookended with the recordings, with other songs thrown in the middle. Awesome.

The show was just incredible. I had to keep reminding myself that I was actually there, seeing Coldplay live. I paid lots of money for the tickets, but it was worth every penny and then some. Now all I have to do is see U2….

Click on the links below to read previous TLB posts about Coldplay and Viva La Vida:

Viva La Vida, Coldplay: First Impressions (my original review of the album)

Viva La Vida, Coldplay: Revisited (my further thoughts, and the intro to the week of song posts)

“Lost!”, Viva La Vida, Coldplay

“Death And All His Friends,” Viva La Vida, Coldplay

“Viva La Vida,” Viva La Vida, Coldplay

“Violet Hill,” Viva La Vida, Coldplay

“Cemeteries Of London,” Viva La Vida, Coldplay



  1. Gravatar

    Desha on 11.28.2008

    AWESOME! I’m so jealous. I would LOVE to see Coldplay live. They’re just amazing.

    I have some really good friends who are huge U2 fans (seen them a zillion times) and Coldplay fans, and they also said that it was probably the best show they’d ever seen.

    Lucky you! (Broke now, too, but worth it, I’m sure.)

  2. Gravatar

    AJ Harbison on 12.01.2008

    Hi Desha!
    Thanks for your comment! I could hardly believe that I actually got to see them live. They are amazing indeed.

    I’m really bitter because I have multiple friends who have seen U2 multiple times. I don’t understand how they get to see them more than once when I still haven’t seen them. So unfair. Maybe next time around!

    AJ Harbison

  3. Gravatar

    Ryan Maguire on 12.09.2008

    Glad that you got to see one of your favorite bands!

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