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Concert Review: Coldplay (Dallas/Houston 7/21-7/22)

July 25, 2009

41 Chris Piano

The very first time I listened to Coldplay was in December 2005 and coincidentally enough, it was at a simulcast of their taping of Austin City Limits.  At the time, my husband became privy to the knowledge that Michael Stipe was going to be making a guest appearance during Coldplay’s set and worked quickly to secure us two tickets to the spare seating that had been set up in a nearby auditorium on the UT campus (the demand for tickets was so high, they filled up the ACL studio and the entire auditorium).  It’s funny to think about now, but I couldn’t have cared in the least that Coldplay was going to perform; I literally only wanted to see Michael Stipe.  I owned no Coldplay albums and was really only familiar with “Clocks” from the radio and “Speed of Sound” from its video.  I vividly remembered reading an interview with Chris Martin from years earlier before the release of A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), where he claimed that he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to write anything as good as “Yellow” ever again.  That being during my grunge rock phase, I thought it was one of the most ridiculous things I’d ever heard.  How much things can change…

My husband and I got set up with the free beers they use to lubricate the audience for ACL and waited for the show to begin.  Coldplay started their set and pretty much immediately, we were both won over.  What they show on television now is only a fraction of what they played that night; they played a full concert, nearly two hours of music, hitting a variety of songs from their three albums that had been released up to that point.  I remember Chris being very charming; he was talkative, funny, and smart, and engaging with the small studio audience, wandering off the stage to high-five mayor Will Wynn much to the chagrin of the cameramen attempting to follow him.  Of course, the highlight for me was when Michael Stipe came out and they played “In The Sun” and “Nightswimming”, but I specifically remember Coldplay’s performances of “Clocks” and “Talk” as well.  After the final encore, Chris came back out and played “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” solo on the piano and that sealed the deal.  I was thoroughly impressed.

I had seen Coldplay twice since then, once during the X&Y tour in early 2006, and once last year in November at the onset of the Viva tour.  While both of those concerts were great, I was in no way prepared for how far they have come as a band in concert in the past eight months, and was blown away by the sheer spectacle of the show in both Dallas and Houston last week.  It was a rare treat to see a huge band in a relatively small outdoor arena, and Coldplay goes to extremes to make sure all of the audience feels included.  The main stage itself is impressive with the “magic balls” that project light and distorted images, their amazing laser light shows, and intricate backdrops, but the band also makes two trips off stage.  First they play some techno-d up and highly danceable versions of “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face” and “Talk”, followed by Chris on piano playing “Trouble” in Dallas during an impromptu setlist change, and then “The Hardest Part” in Houston.  During their second trip into the audience, even closer to the lawn this time, they play a fun and jaunty acoustic set that includes drummer Will Champion singing on “Death Will Never Conquer” while Chris and guitarist Jonny Buckland dance merrily, and a crack version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” where Chris hits some killer falsetto notes and Jonny and Will provide excellent guitar riffs.

In Dallas, we were lucky enough to be at the front of the pit, so we really got to see some of the inner workings of the show and it’s clear that Coldplay works very hard at their jobs.  From the very second the concert starts, with the dancing roadie and “Blue Danube” intro, the show is dramatic, finding the band coming out in silhoutte behind a screen waving sparklers before starting the first number, the instrumental version of “Life in Technicolor”.  The set is two hours long, and it’s nearly non-stop, with only two short breaks, and the setlist itself is full of their most interesting tracks, enormous crowd-pleasers and rock numbers alike.  Every member of the band is a key to the puzzle; we got to witness the knowing eye contacts and silent cues they’d give each other and it’s totally gratifying to see that they’re in synch like clockwork.  Will drums like a machine, literally carrying the beat and turning out unbelievable performances during “Viva la Vida” and “Politik”, bassist Guy Berryman is steady and self-assured on his instrument, and Jonny completely rocks out during songs like “42” and makes guitar lines like the one in “Strawberry Swing” look effortless and easy.

As a frontman, Chris is confident and affable; he comes across as down-to-earth and genuinely absorbed in entertaining the audience.  His voice for both shows was in top form, transitioning between high and low notes smoothly.  His musical skills are also highly admirable, especially his piano playing, which has become more classically influenced over the years with lovely numbers like “Postcards From Far Away”.  He switches back and forth between piano, guitar, and manning the mic throughout the show, and does it all with boundless energy; running, jumping, and dancing, and whether it’s goofy or inspired, it’s always captivating.

36 Chris Finger

Despite sitting in the back of the left side of the arena in Houston, I actually thought the Houston show was marginally better than the Dallas one.  The crowd seemed to be a lot more lively in Houston, and the band responded well to that.  All told, there isn’t much the band could do to improve; they’re performing at their absolute best each night, and that combined with all the other fantastic elements of their show – witty stage banter, falling neon butterflies, confetti filled yellow balloons, and silly fun like the orchestrated cell phone wave – make Coldplay’s concerts immensely exhilarating.

My long anecdote at the intro is the beginning of the story of how Coldplay became one of my all-time favorite bands.  But that night was also sort of an important turning point for me musically.  I was stuck in this weird in-between stage of musical taste; I’d been all Bob Marley’d out during college, and yet, I hadn’t discovered any new music for years because I hated the radio.  I rarely ever listened to music at all.  Seeing Coldplay live the first time reinvigorated my interest and passion for music; they’re are a huge part of the reason why I’ve gone so far as to have a music blog.  Seeing them in Dallas and Houston during this tour was just icing on the cake.

Enjoy some more of my Dallas pictures here:

Coldplay – Dallas (7/21)

More to come later and hopefully, video too.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. seanningham permalink*
    July 25, 2009 5:04 pm

    Great recap of a great show. You forgot to mention Guy’s saucy little dance, though! He keeps the beat while keeping it sassy, and you have to respect that.

  2. Starfish42 permalink
    July 25, 2009 9:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing your blog about Coldplay. One point to which I can relate is how the band seems to “grab” people, and once captured, they become completely enthralled by them. I used to watch them when they were on TV, usually in music videos, stare at Chris and remember noticing that he patted his heart, from which he seemed to purposely focus his energy. I was impressed at his sincerity and have never seen any other singer do this. I used to be able to walk away from them, until Viva La Vida, when I was “grabbed”, never to return again to my former state of indifference. Coldplay’s music has been a part of my daily life now, and their music lightens my life with a feeling of joy and love. Coldplay seems to be able to turn those who gaze upon them into devotees, powerless to Chris Martin’s intelligence and overwhelming charisma.

  3. Jenflor permalink
    July 31, 2009 1:55 am

    Great review! I was at both shows as well (also PIT in Dallas and on the lawn in Houston) and I agree that the Houston show was a *bit* better. And I think the word “exhilarating” is the perfect word to describe the feeling created by the show. Just fantastic. I really wish more people would be more open-minded about Coldplay… almost everyone would be won over! 🙂

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