Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Coldplay Live: A Review

Several weeks ago, my wife and I attended a Coldplay concert in Atlanta. Normally I would not feel the need to review a concert but since this marks the first time that I have shelled out more than $100 for a show, I could not help myself. I will split this into three categories:
The Opening Act

Our pre-Coldplay entertainment was Robyn, the Swedish pop sensation responsible for the 1997 single “Do You Know (What It Takes).” Her set began with a series of atonal beeps and seizure-inducing light effects obviously meant to disorient anyone unlucky enough to be negotiating the dimply-lit stairs with a plate of nachos. Robyn then began chanting either “beware the beat” or “prepare the mesquite” whilst enthusiastically resurrecting late 90’s dance moves. She was accompanied by four musicians (identifiable by their matching white jumpsuits and looks of disinterest) valiantly trying to make the case that they could not be replaced by an iPod.

Even more perplexing was the fact that she required two drummers, despite the fact that they spent the majority of the set playing the same percussion patterns. Presumably this was a safety mechanism in case one of them spotted a better career opportunity mid-set. The pinnacle of the performance was Robyn’s decision to cover “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay. Now I have seen a lot of shows in my time, but it takes some Epcot-sized cojones to reinterpret the hit-single of the band you are opening for twenty minutes before they play it. Personally, I am disappointed she did not just go ahead and perform their entire set so I could plan my restroom trips in advance. This was all very underwhelming for an artist who received a Swedish Grammy for Best Live Performance (that must have been a tough break for Yngwie Malmsteen).

The Audience

Like it or not, the success of every live performance rests largely on the shoulders of the spectators. Most artists will admit that the ambiance of the crowd is one of the most important factors in a memorable evening. That being said, Coldplay’s audience was a patchwork quilt of middle-to-upper class Caucasian lineage. I doubt you could throw a latte without hitting someone who had dined at Chick-Fil-A within the past lunar cycle. This might also explain the anemic security. At the door, an octogenarian asked me what I had in my pockets and then took my word for it. When I saw Black Sabbath I was almost de-loused at the door. 

Demographics aside, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves albeit in different ways. There were a pair of teenage girls in front of us who remained seated the entire show while taking pictures with their iPhones. (On a side note, we would all appreciate it if you could turn off auto-flash on your cell-phone camera; by the seventh attempt you should be able to infer that the LED does not possess the range necessary to obtain a close-up of Chris Martin from section Z in the maintenance balcony.)

A bearded young gentleman in the section below us felt compelled to initiate jumping jacks. Another young woman assumed the role of the “pointer,” a person who emphatically points at the lead singer during important lyrical enunciation.  My wife sings and dances while I prefer the lame nonchalance of the foot-tap / head-bob combo.

The Band

Coldplay put on quite a show. The band was solid, Martin’s vocals were spot-on and they crammed every song I had hoped to hear into the one hour and forty-five minute set. Aside from a rather impressive laser show, confetti cannons, and generously proportioned screens, the band also incorporated electronic wristbands that were distributed at the door. These represented a variety of colors and were activated in conjunction with different parts of the show creating a stunning visual.

The only real misfire was the deployment of inflatable “symbols” at different points along the arena balcony. These dirigibles were phosphorescent and came in the shape of butterflies, stars and the like (although I am pretty sure the one closest to us was “Helping Hand” from the Hamburger Helper commercials) and were either defective or being handled by undertrained staff. I say this because ours kept listing toward the handicapped seating area and the Pokemon by row F simply deflated and doubled over the safety rail giving the unfortunate appearance that it was vomiting on row E.

All in all, I have to say it was worth the money. Coldplay is an incredible talented group of musicians whose performance can justify their ticket price. However, if they wish to discontinue the armada of psychedelic lawn decoration and knock $10 off admission I do not think it would hurt their cause.

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