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.
Life In Technicolor
In My Place
Glass Of Water
Cemeteries Of London
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
Green Eyes (acoustic)
Death Will Never Conquer (acoustic – Will vocals)
Viva La Vida (remix interlude)
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends
Life in Technicolor ii
The Escapist (outro)