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Coldplay live!

| July 30, 2008 | 0 Comments

United Center, Chicago
Wednesday, July 23, 2008


“I was there” means so much more when whatever’s happening isn’t choreographed. Coldplay’s constant reminder that they were recording Wednesday’s performance for a DVD completely hijacked any notion of spontaneity, leaving the impression the crowd was already watching the video.

Unlike, say, Green Day at Aragon in 1994, the cameras weren’t intrusive and frontman Chris Martin never addressed them directly — Coldplay Inc. remained at bay for an hour so the soft rockers could party uninterrupted. In some ways, Coldplay were a band at war with their reputation. Martin’s stardom defied symmetry with the drugged frontman on this summer’s lethargic Viva La Vida (Capitol); at United Center, he animated his delicate mien, intermittently injecting a “huh!” or “whoo!” between verses and prancing about in parody of his reputation as a nance. The band also contrived subtle rebellions against the album’s 18th-century, classicist artwork, unsheathing color-clashing lasers to carve up the arena in a neon prism.

“Life In Technicolor” and “Violet Hour” opened the show ominously, plodding out of the P.A. and exposing their penchant for U2-sized self-seriousness. A television and oversized light bulbs projected convex images of the stage action, dourly suggesting their ubiquity renders them as inconspicuous as static or lamps. Guitarist Jonny Buckland and bassist Guy Berryman were as lumps, though the manic Martin dutifully stretched the stage’s boundaries and reconstituted his awkward dance moves as poorly contained enthusiasm.

The sudden appearance of “Clocks” and “In My Place” provided a welcome rush of blood, and capped a mini-set that was refreshed with the band represented in “Ed Sullivan”-vision. Unfortunately, it also came time for more inclusions from their last two albums — a give-and-take catering to the filming — a tension defused by “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face” (rearranged with a recoiling guitar trick), “Speed Of Sound,” and the sublime “Viva La Vida.”

Throughout the evening, Martin had been cheaply sprinkling we-love-Chicagos and you’re-better-than-Tuesday’s-audience platitudes, yet self-effacingly enough to add to his goofy charm. But he hit bottom with “Yellow” – — he bargained with it, and the cameras would never go away afterwards.

The mega-hit arrived only with the agreement that the United Center wouldn’t give them shit for playing “Lost!” twice, back-to-back (perhaps for use in a music video to promote the DVD? It was never explained). Martin previewed this encroachment by toying with his “Yellow” coda, pausing to cut and re-edit, and dicing up momentum. After the first “Lost!,” he begged, “Even if you hate Coldplay, we’d like you to give your all on this one.” (Any Blackhawks fans must have wondered “why not pipe in crowd noise, like Bill Wirtz used to?”) Chicago obeyed, and was rewarded with two songs (“The Scientist” and a country-folk, Will Champion-sung “Death Will Never Conquer”) performed from the ramp to section 108. But knowing cameras were rolling, however, evicted the moment’s unpredictability.

The significance is Coldplay, a band who have risen on a projected humility and intimacy, produced a howler, and coldly so. Anyone whose debut Coldplay concert was Wednesday can only produce one, honest answer when asked if they’ve seen the band live before: “Yes, but only on television.”

Steve Forstneger

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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