Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Coldplay at Time Warner Cable Arena

Coldplay did its fans a big favor by holding Tuesday’s concert indoors at Time Warner Cable Arena during the hottest week in recent memory. That decision was probably dictated more by the glow-in-the-dark nature of the production than the temperature.

Ticket holders were each given a fabric wrist band with a small hard plastic box attached to it upon entry. When Coldplay hit the stage with the upbeat title track to its latest album “Mylo Xyloto” following sets by London-based rock band, Wolf Gang and Swedish dance pop star Robyn, those bracelets lit up the arena with over 17,000 tiny colored lights. It was one of many ways Coldplay pulled its audience into the festivities and made the crowd feel less like spectators and more a part of the show. Lasers danced through the air and circular screens, including a large LED screen that hung over the stage, displayed dancing lights and stage footage.

Coldplay looked like it just came from a paintball fight. By the number of glow-in-the-dark paint blobs on their loose fitting pants and casual t-shirts, it looked like Martin lost and bassist Guy Berryman won.

Will Champion’s resounding beat signaled “Mylo’s” next track “Hurts Like Heaven.” Confetti burst from cannons as the song’s chorus kicked in.

Coldplay’s use of electronic touches on “Mylo Xyloto” has been both criticized and embraced, but other current influences were on display during those newer tracks as guitarist Jonny Buckland’s intricate finger work echoed lesser known modern bands like instrumental act Explosions in the Sky. “Heaven” ended with Martin in a backbend on the stage, already glistening with sweat. He thanked the crowd and promised the best concert of their lives. While that is a tall order, Coldplay proved again that it’s a phenomenal live band.

The mood escalated as it reached back to 2002’s “In My Place.” That song with its familiar guitar intro was another example of Coldplay making beautiful often subdued albums that play well on radio, but in a live setting those songs become more dynamic and grander. “Major Minus,” “Lovers in Japan” and “The Scientist” followed as the group approached another peak with its earliest hit “Yellow.” Martin began the song quietly on his graffiti-covered piano tinkling against the hum of Buckland’s guitar. Martin switched to his acoustic as the anthem kicked in and yellow light cast over the crowd.

The band gathered at the end of the catwalk for three songs including the Rihanna-aided “Princess of China” (her vocals were piped in as she appeared on screen). It was probably the most electronic feeling segment with Champion clicking time on an electronic drum pad.

The group was off to the finish beginning with the familiar strains of “Viva La Vida.” Champion pummeled kettle drums and thrashed a big Liberty-style bell. That gave way to the Cure-like guitar work of “Charlie Brown” and the anthemic “Paradise,” which closed the set with a giant sing along.

The band appeared in the audience toward the back of the arena where it began its encore with “Us Against the World” and a partly acoustic version of “Speed of Sound” before running back to the stage. There they ended with the one-two-three punch of “Clocks,” the moving fan favorite “Fix You” (probably one of the most well written love songs in recent memory) and ended with the danceable single “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.”

While glowing bracelets would’ve betrayed anyone attempting an early exit, few dared. Coldplay gave little reason to scoot out early. As with its 2009 concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Coldplay embraced its audience and wouldn’t let it go.

“Thank you for the best job in the world,” Martin said before exiting the stage following “Paradise.” It is easy to imagine that his is just that.  

As for its reputation for booking stellar opening acts, Coldplay didn’t disappoint. Wolf Gang struggled through sound issues rarely seen on a tour of this size, but despite an unresponsive piano the quintet’s bouncy Euro rock and catchy single “The King and All His Men” (currently in rotation on Sirius/XM alternative stations) served it well as an opener.

With her daring fashion (she began her set in a ballooning silver skirt and “Thunderdome”-like vest), futuristic sound and original dance moves, Robyn can be a polarizing performer. She turned in a set that at times felt more club than arena. The robotic vocals of minimalist tracks like “We Dance to the Beat” and “Fembot” (which are probably the coldest songs on her fantastic electro-R&B 2010 dance album “Body Talk”) may have seemed an unusual introduction to those who weren’t familiar with her. She did deliver more popular singles such as 2005’s “Cobrastyle,” and the more current “Dancing on My Own,” “Indestructible” and “Girlfriend” which had girls in our row copping her dance moves and singing the lyrics long after she’d left the stage.

Check out The Observer's Coldplay photo gallery here.