May 23rd 2009
Comcast Theater, Hartford CT
After releasing a hugely successful, Grammy winning album and touring the world non-stop for the past year, you would think Coldplay would be ready for a nice long vacation. However, the band did not become one of the world’s biggest by sitting on a beach in the Caribbean, and they won’t be doing that any time soon. Instead, they are spending their summer playing amphitheaters in cities that most do their best to avoid. One of those cities is Hartford, Connecticut, where Coldplay would continue their Viva La Vida tour at the Comcast Theater. While their live show hasn’t change much since I saw them on the first leg of the tour last summer, they amazed me once again, belting out their biggest hits along with a few new surprises in another memorable performance.
New Jersey native and Syracuse graduate Pete Y0rn opened the show with a sleep-educing forty minute set of dull ballads and soft rock numbers that were better suited for an elevator than a packed amphitheater. Yorn sauntered around the stage for most of the set, barely acknowledging the crowd and saying little between songs. The rest of his band looked even less interested, often blankly staring off into space while playing their instruments with as little enthusiasm as humanly possible. While Yorn’s songs have been featured in TV dramas such as House and in romantic comedies such as Me, Myself, and Irene, they simply didn’t come across well in this setting.
Thirty minutes after Yorn and company left the stage to a small smattering of applause, A semi-transparent black screen was lowered over the stage and the lights were dimmed. Lead singer Chris Martin led the rest of the band, guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, and drummer Will Champion out on stage. With sparkling torches held aloft, the band jogged to the drum set, extinguished the flames, and began the show with the customary opener, “Life In Technicolor.” After the screen dropped and the band was finally revealed, they segued into “Violet Hill,” which inspired the first giant sing along of the night. The setlist focused mainly on the band’s older hits, as well as a good deal of material from their latest full-length, Viva La Vida, and it’s follow up EP, Prospect’s March.
An early highlight of the set was the band’s first big hit “Yellow,” which featured an impressive laser show that stretched all the way to the lawn, as well as confetti-filled yellow balloons bouncing all over the venue. Another early highlight was the performance of “Fix You” from 2005’s X & Y. After jumping around the stage and working the crowd into a tizzy for most of the song, Martin simply sat at his piano and listened as the 13,000 in attendance sang the last chorus back to him in (not quite) perfect harmony.
After an upbeat performance of “Strawberry Swing,” the band ventured off stage and into the crowd, stopping at a small platform located in the center of the pavilion. The quartet has been doing this throughout their Viva La Vida tour, to the delight of those in the cheap(er) seats, who got an unexpectedly close view for these three songs. Without a drum set, the band presented “techno” versions of “God Put A Smile On Your Face” and “Talk.” Both sounded slightly awkward and didn’t live up to their full band versions, but they seemed to please the crowd nonetheless. Champion, Buckland, and Berryman then returned to the stage, leaving Martin alone on the platform with his piano. The lead singer announced that this would be the boring part of the set, and he instructed those in the audience who might be craving a hot dog to head to the concession stands. While few took him up on the offer, Martin’s rendition of “The Hardest Part” certainly wasn’t the highlight of the set. That would follow shortly.
As Martin made his way back through the crowd and a recorded version of the instrumental track “Postcards From Far Away” was played, an enormous bongo drum was rolled to the front of the stage, where Champion stood ready. Just as Martin made it back, the opening notes from “Viva La Vida” could be heard, and the crowd instantly roared its approval. As he would do all show, Martin bounced around the stage , getting up close and personal with as many fans as possible. He ended “Viva La Vida” singing the melody on his back, and the crowd ate it up. After performing “Lost!,” the band would once again leave the stage.
This time, Martin and Co. would venture even further from the elaborately designed set, making their way to a platform on the lawn, nearly causing a stampede of fans who had been lounging on blankets and folding chairs only minutes before. Martin would then string together a series of cheesy but humorous rhymes about Hartford and playing for the fans in the back, one of which went “When you’re depressed and sitting on your butt, come play a show in Connecticut.” The band would then perform “Green Eyes” from A Rush of Blood To the Head, as well as “Death Will Never Conquer,” a short folk-ish track the band released free on their website featuring Champion on lead vocals. Martin had introduced the drummer with a rhyme that sounded something like “Now you’re all in for a thrill, for here’s our drummer Will.” Is Martin preparing for a future career as a children’s novelist? I hope not.
After finishing their set on the lawn with a sing-along cover of Neil Diamond’s “I’m A Believer,” the band would take a short break before finally returning to the main stage. Here they would preform one of their most rocking tracks, Politik,” and then “Lovers In Japan.” The latter brought a blizzard-like storm of brightly colored confetti that nearly obscured the entire stage. After grabbing not only a Japanese umbrella but also an enormous dragon head costume (seriously), Martin would bring the song to and end and then end the set with “Death And All His Friends.”
After the band left the stage, the crowd began to sing the melody to “Viva La Vida,” and before long, the quartet returned to the stage to preform a two song encore. It began with “The Scientist” and then concluded with “Life in Technicolor II” from the Prospect’s March EP. Surprisingly, the crowd was as into this song as any the band had played, singing along as if the tune was their biggest single. Coldplay then took their bows and made their exit. As thousands of very satisfied fans did the same, they continued to sing the melody to “Viva La Vida,” and it could be heard on the concourse and even as the throngs made their way outside the venue and back to the parking lots. With this most likely being Coldplay’s last visit to Hartford for some time, it was obvious the band had left their mark with this performance. At the beginning of the show, Martin brought up the fact they were trying to make up for a sub-par showing during their last visit to the city. While they may not have given the “eight billion percent” effort the lead singer had promised, they certainly made their previous missteps seem like a very distant memory.
Life In Technicolor
In My Place
Glass Of Water
Cemeteries Of London
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (techno version, Pavilion)
Talk (techno version, Pavilion)
The Hardest Part (Pavilion)
Postcards From Far Away
Viva La Vida
Green Eyes (Lawn)
Death Will Never Conquer (Lawm)
I’m A Believer (Neil Diamond Cover, Lawn)
Viva La Vida (remix interlude)
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends
Life in Technicolor ii
I’ve always liked “Best Of” lists, but I’ve always had a lot of trouble compiling my own. In 2005, I made a list of the year’s 25 best records and gave a reason why for each. I’m not nearly that ambitious anymore, and I certainly didn’t hear 25 albums worthy of making such a list this year. That is why I’m going to present you with my Top Ten of 2008. I know, they are completely subjective and you might think all of these records such, but that’s ok, because everything on this list captured my imagination and reminded me why I still buy cds, at least for a little while. So here they are:
1) The Gaslight Anthem, The ’59 Sound. Simply an amazing record that captures the spirit of Bruce Springsteen, modern day punk, and everything in between.
2) Fall Out Boy, Folie a’ Deux. It’s hard to justify putting a band like Fall Out Boy on this list, but they’ve simply never let me down. Folie a’ Deux is pure genious.
3) The Matches, A Band in Hope. The most creative and original band I listen to somehow manages to “out-weird” their previous efforts.
4) Alkaline Trio, Agony and Irony. Openning track “Calling All Skeletons” is easily my favorite of the year. I listened to this record non-stop all summer.
5) The Academy Is… Fast Times At Barrington High. Never would I have though this band would make it’s way on to a list like this after their laughable last record, but Fast Times was the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the year.
6) Bayside, Shudder. Classic Bayside.
7) Jack’s Mannequin, The Glass Passenger. I still haven’t decide if I like this or their debut record better, but both are excellent.
8. Funeral For A Friend, Memory and Humanity. The band’s top-notch guitar and drum work is aided by pristine production and Matt Davies’ simple yet supurb song writing skills. This record is a huge step back in the right direction after 2007’s disapointing Tales Don’t Tell Themselves.
9) Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death And All Of His Friends. I never liked Coldplay in the past, but this record changed that instantly. It’s refreshing to see a band achieve the success that they deserve.
10) Valencia, We All Need A Reason To Believe. This is one of those records that, on the surface seems like another happy and upbeat pop-punk record, but on the surface turns out to be much darker.
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston
Monday August 4th, 2008
Yep, that title says it all. They were that good, and somehow made spending $120 to not sit all that close to the stage seem completely justified. From the laser show and confetti to the surprise mini-set they played at the top of section 10 and their terrific rendition of of “Death and All of His Friends” to end the show, there wasn’t a second of their 90 minute set that I wasn’t completely impressed by, to put it mildly.
Opening the show were two acts, a local band The Luxury, and hip-hop group Santogold. We missed most of the Luxury’s set, but did have the misfortune of sitting through Santogold’s half hour on stage, which wasn’t all that enjoyable. It was obvious that this nigh would belong entirely to Coldplay, undeniably one of the world’s biggest and most popular rock bands.
After a transparent black screen was lowered in front of the stage, the band walked out to a huge roar from the sold out Garden crowd and tore into an arena-worthy version of instrumental Viva La Vida album opener “Life in Technicolor.” From there, the screen lifted and it was on to “Violet Hill,” the song which, when I first heard it, made me step back and say “wow, this new Coldplay record is going to be amazing.” Throughout the entire show, Chris Martin jumped and shook his way around the stage, working up quite a sweat and making good use of the ramps which extended out from each side of the stage. After “Violet Hill,” a piano was wheeled out and the band played crowd-favorite “Clocks.”
The next two songs turned out to be, in my opinion, one of the huge highlights of the show, as the band played an enormous sing-along version of “In My Place,” which included Martin at one point walking to the edge of one of the ramps and simply admiring the thousands of people singing and swaying along in front of him. Then came “Viva La Vida,” which I think is pretty much one of the best songs ever. One of the great things about this show as the fact that every song seemed to leap off the stage and out of the huge speakers in a way they don’t on CD, and I was amazed at how arena-ready the band’s otherwise more mellow songs sounded in this setting.
Coldplay would then go on to play equally great renditions of “Yes,” “42,” “Fix You,” and “Strawberry Swing” before moving to a small stage set up at the end of the ramp at the right side of the stage. Here they would play acoustic-ish versions of “Chinese Sleep Chant” and “God Put A Smile On Your Face.” I would have rather seen a full electric version of the latter, but it was interesting to hear a different take on the song and it didn’t sound bad by any means.
The band would then return to the stage to play “Speed of Sound,” “Yellow,” and “Lost!” During this part of the set, a rather amazing visual display took place on a giant screen behind the band, at times showing images that related to the songs, and at other times showing live shots of the band. One camera angle I especially liked was the one mounted on the side of the keys on Martin’s piano. Also, live shots were somehow displayed on giant white balls hanging from the ceiling, another nice touch.
After “Lost!,” the band suddenly decided to run down one of the ramps and though the crowd assembled on the floor. They then ran up the aisle of the section where we were sitting, passing about ten feet away from us to the next section over, located toward the back of the first level of the arena. While this expectantly drove the crowd around us wild, the band went on to play an amazing version of “The Scientist” on a small platform about 30 feet from us. This was possibly one of the coolest things I’ve seen at a show (and it’s also pretty high up there on the list of coolest things I’ve seen, period). After Martin explained how useless attempting to play the harmonica was, the band played “Death Will Never Conquer,” with drummer Will Champion handling vocals and Martin on the useless harmonica.
While there wasn’t a great deal of between song banter from Martin, I was surprised by the fact that the things he did say were always amusing, and while many would consider them to be “rock gods” the band never seemed to take themselves too seriously, for Martin was often too busy making fun of himself or thanking so many people for coming out on a Monday night and missing Seinfeld reruns (Jerry Seinfeld, along with Tom Brady and Gwyneth Paltrow were apparently in attendance).
After their section 10 set, the band disappeared from view and readied for the encore while some type of political video played. I’m not really sure what it was about because I was still trying to catch my breath after all that excitement. The band then returned to stage and began the encore with “Politik” and then “Lovers In Japan.” This is where a huge amount of glowing confetti was dropped from the ceiling, always a welcome addition to any show. After this, the screen in at the back of the stage dropped to reveal a huge “Viva” backdrop, and the band broke into “Death and All of His Friends,” undeniably the perfect song to close both a record and a live show. Following the song, the band took their bows to a thunderous applause and left the stage, ending the North American leg of their “Viva La Vida” tour.
While Coldplay’s amazing performace made the night great, it was the crowd that made it so memorable. While I wasn’t around when the Celtics won the NBA championship in June, I’m guessing that the same level of euphoria was felt by the thousands of people streaming out of the Garden that night. A bunch of my friends were at the show, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so excited and so happy. The energy in the building before, during, and after the show was unbelievable, easily making this one of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever seen.
Life In Technicolor
In My Place
Viva La Vida
Chinese Sleep Chant (B-Stage)
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (B-Stage)
Speed Of Sound
The Scientist (Acoustic Set)
Death Will Never Conquer (Acoustic Set, Will on vocals)
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends