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Concert Review: Coldplay At The Gorge Ampitheater, George, WA, 7/11/09

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Say whatever you will about Coldplay. Plenty of folks already have, both here on Blogcritics and elsewhere. But rarely have I ever seen a band who works so hard to please an audience, and who obviously has such a great time doing it.

At one point during Coldplay's stop at the beautiful Gorge Amphitheater near the Columbia River in Eastern Washington this past Saturday, Chris Martin thanked the sold-out crowd for "giving us the best job in the world." Sure, it sounds like the sort of thing performers like Martin say to their audiences every night, but you really got the impression that he meant it.

Martin wore a shit-eating, schoolgirl's ear to ear grin for much of the night, and he also made several remarks about the natural beauty of the Gorge. He even ad-libbed a lyric at one point with the words "If you want to play the place that's the best, come to the Gorge Amphitheater in the Pacific Northwest."

Of course here in Seattle, we already knew that. Nestled high in a beautiful mountain desert surrounded by steep slopes overlooking the Columbia River, the Gorge has been Washington's worst kept secret as a favorite stop for touring musicians from Dave Matthews to Steely Dan for years now.

On this particular hot desert night, Coldplay responded to the picturesque setting—as well as a red hot crowd that seemed to know the words to every song they played, often breaking into impromptu sing-a-longs—with a powerful two hour set that was both energetic (and yes, I am talking about Coldplay here) and at least as far as these sorts of big rock shows go, very interactive.

About midway through, the band briefly disappeared from the stage, only to reappear on a platform, that as luck would have it, was literally five feet away from my seat in about Row 30. Seriously, these guys were so close during this mini-set that included "God Put A Smile On My Face" and "The Hardest Part" that I could actually see that guitarist Jon Buckland was very likely stoned (or at least that his eyes looked awful glassy).

Chris Martin was also in great humor during this portion of the show, introducing "The Hardest Part" as the "Phil Collins portion of the show…and this is called "Another Day In Paradise."

The band returned to the main stage for a powerful version of "Lost!" from the Viva La Vida album, with drummer Will Champion, in particular, earning his paycheck here. At this point, the band once again left the stage, reappearing on another small stage—only this time it was high up in the nosebleed section. An acoustic set there was highlighted by a tribute to Michael Jackson in the form of a cover of "Billie Jean." The crowd responded to this by singing the words right along with the band (as they did several times throughout the night).

There was also a part here where Chris Martin led the audience in one of those crowd waves you see at sports stadiums, only this time done with cellphones. Whether the "cell wave" was successful or not is debatable, but all those cellphones against the desert sky was still a striking visual.

Although a fair chunk of Coldplay's set was devoted to songs from Viva La Vida (and its companion E.P. Prospekts March), many of Coldplay's biggest hits were played very early in the set. Of these, "In My Place" and "Yellow" were textbook (the latter played with the prerequisite yellow balloons filling the air). Personally, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the band's inspired showing on "Clocks" though. This is a song that Coldplay have to be somewhat tired of playing every night, yet here they made it sound fresh as new by adding some new vocal nuances and a nice additional keyboard part near the end.

Over all, Coldplay really impressed me on this night.

They played their tails off, sounding so tight to my ears that I'm ready to go out on a limb here and say this is a band that could be right on the edge of becoming one of the truly great ones—if they haven't already done so. From the differing vantage points where they performed not one, but two mini-sets, to the free live CD they handed out to everyone at the end, Coldplay also seem to genuinely care about their fans.

I'm not afraid to admit that I was already a fan anyway. But you know what? These guys deserve a lot more respect than they get in some quarters.

It's time to stop dissing Coldplay.

Setlist:
Life In Technicolor
Violet Hill
Clocks
In My Place
Yellow
Glass Of Water
Cemeteries Of London
42
Fix You
Strawberry Swing
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (techno version)
Talk (techno version)
The Hardest Part (Chris piano)
Postcards From Far Away (piano instrumental)
Viva La Vida
Lost!
Green Eyes (acoustic)
Death Will Never Conquer (acoustic – Will vocals)
Billie Jean
Viva La Vida (remix interlude)
——
Politik
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends
——-
The Scientist
Life in Technicolor ii
The Escapist (outro)

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Dadwhotookhiskid

    So I went and I saw. Walked in ambivalent about them and walked out an impressed fan. The review nailed it.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I hope that your kid enjoyed it too Mr. Dad. After a day of gorgeous weather and great music though, reality set back in the next day when I arrived back home in Seattle and of course it was pouring down rain. Damn reality…

    -Glen

  • Patty

    I loved coldplay already but was completely blown away with there performance it was the best iv ever seen.

  • DeJ

    I was there and it was quite Awesome! Best concert experience I have had in my 42 years. The Venue is always amazing but this night was even more so.

  • whidbeywoman

    Had the exact same experience as Dadwhotookhiskid and agree the review was right on…I’m now a fan! Have attended 30+ shows at the Gorge and this ranks in the top five!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanks for all of the great comments everybody.

    This was the third time I’ve seen Coldplay myself, and hands down was the best show of the three. A perfect marriage of band, venue, crowd and great weather (at least when it cooled down as the sun went down) made for a great show.

    Hopefuly they’ll make this a permanent tour stop, rather than doing White River or the Key from now on.

    Thanks to all for the comments.

    -Glen

  • Brian

    I didn’t attend the Gorge show, but I was at the show the previous night at the Clark County Amphitheater in Ridgefield, WA. The setlist was very similar (perhaps the same), and they also did the acoustic Billie Jean cover and cellphone wave. Show was great, but the facility there is terrible. No comparison to the wonderful Gorge.