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In Defense Of Coldplay

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After watching them blow up the Space Needle here in Seattle, I spent a quiet New Years Eve at home.

Channel surfing through the various network offerings ringing in the New Year — which included a surprisingly hot Kathy Griffin stripping down to her bra and panties in Times Square, with an aghast Anderson Cooper looking on over on CNN; and the Ryan Seacrest/Dick Clark crapfest on ABC — I finally settled on the Coldplay Austin City Limits concert on PBS.

Now, before you go shrieking in horror at the mention of Coldplay, let’s get something straight.

I like Coldplay.

The fact that this brings me considerable grief — both from my friends, and among some of my cohorts at Blogcritics — is really of little circumstance. The fact is, I think Coldplay are a very decent band, that gets nowhere the respect they deserve. That said, I also completely understand the criticism.

“Chick band?” Check.

Chris Martin’s whiny falsetto alone virtually guarantees this charge. In fact, one of the funniest things I have ever heard in my life, was listening to a three hour Tom Leykis radio show driving home from work one night, that was devoted to the sole subject of why any real man would never be caught dead at a Coldplay concert. Even though I had no choice but to agree with Leykis, I also couldn’t help but admit that I’m one of those ball-less guys who actually likes them.

Of course, on the other hand, I can think of few other bands out there plying their trade today, that draw as many beautiful single women to their concerts since the eighties heyday of Journey.

Food for thought, gentlemen?

But let’s get to the crux of the matter, which of course is the music. Tonight’s New Years Eve Austin City Limits concert on PBS was a perfect example of why Coldplay actually is a pretty great band — especially in a live setting.

First off, they’ve recorded some really great songs.

And in A Rush Of Blood To The Head, they also have one certifiably great album. The gorgeous ballad “The Scientist,” and especially “Clocks,” — which features the single catchiest piano-based riff of the past ten years — solidifies Rush Of Blood’s position as one of the best rock albums of the past decade on it’s own. And yes, rock it does.

Honestly, there isn’t a clunker in the bunch. Track for track, it’s a great album. Viva La Vida was also a damn decent record, especially that album’s standout track, “Lost.”

Of course, Coldplay have also made some less than stellar records. But even their lesser albums like X&Y and the current Mylo Xyloto, contain some great songs. On the former, Coldplay’s stab at the grandiosity of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the song “Fix You” particularly stands out, while on the current, largely underwhelming Mylo Xyloto, I still can’t help but be sucked in by the gorgeousness of “Paradise.”

But then there is Coldplay live, and this is where the band truly stands out. One of the things I most enjoyed about the three Coldplay concerts I’ve seen — and particularly the last one I saw on the tail end of the Viva La Vida tour at the Gorge in Eastern Washington — is the way they engage the audience.

Outside of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, I would be hard pressed to name any single rock and roll band today who captures a similarly communal feeling between audience and performer in concert.

The “whoa-ohs” exchanged between the guys onstage, and the folks in the crowd — and did I mention they draw some of the hottest looking girls you’ll find at a rock show anywhere these days? — just really leave you with this warm and fuzzy effect, once you leave the arena. Girls aside, and for you rocker dudes out there, it should also be noted that Will Champion just pounds the living crap out of his drums in concert.

But the other thing that needs to be mentioned here, is the fact that these seem to be genuinely nice guys. Current crop of “The” bands aside (Cage “The” Elephant, Foster “The” People, etc.), the idea of earnest rock bands, particularly at a time when average working people are really hurting, is a really welcome one right now.

From what I can tell, Coldplay is a band that wears their hearts mostly on their collective sleeve. Sure, they would love nothing more than to be U2 — especially since Brian Eno started producing their records.

Mylo Xyloto is not an album that has me rushing to buy tickets to Coldplay’s concert in Seattle this April (much as I like the one song, “Paradise”) either.

But watching them at home alone tonight on PBS beat the pants out of Gaga, Bieber, and the rest of the “New Years Rockin’ Eve” crap over on that other station.

Given the alternatives, Coldplay deserve a break.

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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.
  • Big T.

    Coldplay is such horible music. It’s just really weak wussy music. And then they ripped off Joe Satriani. That was the last straw. I wish someone would put them out of their misery.

  • Paul Pearson

    I’m not bowing at the feet of Coldplay, but I can’t dismiss them altogether either. They don’t quite deserve the venom that’s spat their way. I personally liked Xylo Myloto better than Vida La Viva as a whole. It’s more that I don’t see what’s so terribly inoffensive about them. I think reaction against them is more reflexive against their popularity than anything else (which, hate to say it Glen, is my argument against you for dissing Lady Gaga).

    I don’t think Coldplay is trying to be anything they aren’t, which counts for something.

  • Paul Pearson

    I meant, “I don’t see what’s so terribly OFFENSIVE”, not “inoffensive.” It’s a paid holiday tomorrow. I’m a little tipsy. I’m a fellow Blogcritic, what do you expect?

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    The worst thing about them is that they are seen as such a passionate and emotional band when they are actually really shallow and superficial. No wonder they apparently aspire to be U2, cos they are like that too.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    I am guessing U2, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, and even Phish top them for communal feelings.

    That unnaturally elongated picture reminds me of the Heart videos when they tried to hide Ann’s size in the late ’80s.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/gordon-hauptfleisch Gordon Hauptfleisch

    At the start of their career, spurred on by a positive review, I had purchased their first album, but was turned off by the offer of a free poster featuring the solitary and brooding intensity of Chris Martin (despite having read a profile insisting that Coldplay was a band, dammit, not a vehicle for the antics of Martin.) I was disappointed by the album, then went on to be less than enchanted by their songwriting methodology when Martin confessed that “Yellow” was used because the word sounds good and rhymes well.

    And I’ll concede that a TV concert isn’t quite a reasonable facsimile of a concert experience, but it might be telling that, in a performance I watched with the camera pointed almost exclusively at Martin, whining out of tune and playing the keyboard one-finger style, their stage show leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps they’ve improved over the years; I never gave them a second chance beyond the first impression – and am disinclined to do so – because they never showed they had the right instincts or musical smarts.

  • http://cinemasentries.com El Bicho

    wow, have suffered through the first 30 minutes of ACL and it’s terrible. So lightweight and forgettable

  • jaywee03

    i love coldplay but their music now is not the same as it was before.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    That’s a relief, because I think people would start to notice if they just kept releasing the same album over and over.