Coldplay, The O2, London
Coldplay capped a great year by inviting 20,000 adoring fans to join the singing
Sunday 21 December 2008
I guess if you've played every mega-bowl on the planet, the O2 arena must feel a bit pokey.
Maybe that's why Coldplay treated their concert last Tuesday at the old Millennium Dome like a Christmas knees-up down the pub (with 20,000 mates, that is). And even though Chris Martin can get right up some people's noses, you can forgive them a bit of fun at the end of yet another bumper year. Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends set a new record for the most downloaded album ever; picked up a clutch of Grammy nominations; and, recently, a copyright infringement (you know you're doing well when the lawsuits start flying your way).
Busy boys, then, and they certainly seemed in a hurry for the show's first hour. "Clocks", "Speed of Life", "In My Place", among other hits, simply sped by. As for "Yellow", the band's breakthrough hit, even they recognised that this needed some novelty value eight years after it first had us weeping into our Chardonnay – giant coloured space hoppers were released into the arena, they floated beguilingly above only to explode, spilling luminous confetti everywhere.
It was the sort of distraction that Coldplay hardly need, though. The band know exactly what makes their adoring audience tick, and meticulously craft each tender melody or stirring coda for maximum emotional impact. Time and again, bittersweet passages signalled soaring choruses that even Scrooge might warm to, and when the heart-wrenching organ piped in on "Fix You", thousands sighed en masse.
By the song's end there were dozens around me in tears. As the audience relaxed, so did Martin. He's no Stevie Wonder, and was happy to casually prompt the crowd to help him with some of the higher notes. Often, he dropped a phrase, letting the audience finish it for him. In most singers, this would be irritating, but somehow he got away with it. In fact, I totally fell for Martin on Tuesday.
He bounced all over the stage like Pinocchio with a guitar, limbs everywhere. When he collapsed in exhaustion, you half expected to see him yanked back up like a marionette. But his affability comes from the fact that he is not afraid to stumble about and crash into guitarist Johnny Buckland with a smile. It may all be part of the performance, along with his apologies to us for rambling on, but it's a part that the audience appreciates doesn't need rehearsing and they cheer him to the pre-stressed steel rafters for it.
Behind Martin, drummer Will Champion and bassist Guy Berryman provided a lithe platform for the guitarist Buckland , who switched smoothly between intricate melodies and stadium-chewing riffs. Sadly, quieter moments, such as "Strawberry Swing", fared less well in the cavernous O2, but these were few. As Coldplay's No 1 single "Viva la Vida" gave way to new single "Lost", the crowd more or less took over.
A brief section on a secondary stage didn't quite work, with the band segueing "God Put a Smile On My Face" into "Talk" before anybody realised what was going on. Much more successful was a foray into the rear seats of the O2, where, surrounded by the wide-eyed faithful, all four members of the band played an acoustic and affecting "Green Eyes". But before anyone forgot this was an end-of-term party, Simon Pegg joined in on harmonica for a loose, bobble-hatted blast through "Jingle Bells".
As the crowd spilled out into the icy Greenwich air, fans began singing impromptu versions of "Viva la Vida", like me, sweetly satisfied. The band returns in September with a string of shows at Wembley Stadium, with no less than Jay-Z for support. Soon, perhaps even that giant venue may be too small for them.
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