Coldplay perform new album A Head Full of Dreams, review: 'A feeling of optimism and a new beginning'

Expect something between the darker Viva La Vida and the club feel of Mylo Xyloto

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 04 December 2015 11:58
Coldplay's Chris Martin
Coldplay's Chris Martin

Coldplay are something of a British institution: however much you might be inclined to mock them for their perceived lack of cool, they're ingrained into our culture.

It’s bizarre to witness them in as intimate a setting as St. John’s Church in Hackney, in the knowledge that their January 2016 slot at Wembley Stadium sold out in minutes and prompted them to add another date.

Despite these humble dwellings, frontman Chris Martin is as enthusiastic as ever, if not more: the band seem thrilled to be performing to what is likely one of the smallest crowds they're had in over 15 years. He's said previously that Coldplay's seventh studio album A Head Full of Dreams was “written as a record to be performed live”.

It follows on from 2014’s Ghost Stories but ends up diverting down a different path altogether. Unlike the unbearable “Sky Full Of Stars” or affected “Midnight”, the latter of which came across as a Bon Iver parody, the tracks played from this latest offering feel fresh and vibrant – perhaps thanks to Norwegian production duo Stargate, along with regular band collaborator Rik Simpson.

What they appear to have achieved is something between the darker, more pensive mood heard on Viva La Vida and the club feel of Mylo Xyloto.

The disco tone - anthemic, slightly cheesy - is there in the album’s first single “Adventure of a Lifetime” – the video of which was filmed in Andy Serkis’ Imaginarium studio – and the album’s title track.

It's difficult not to think of Martin's split from Gwyneth Paltrow, whose voice can be heard among wafting electronics on A Head Full of Dreams’ “Everglow”.

Beyonce’s role on “Hymn For The Weekend” is limited to ad libs and a sparse intro. The song is a let-down on the record - bursting with lyrical clichés that occur when Martin - never a strong lyricist to begin with – becomes too self-indulgent (see: “Life is a drink/And love is a drug/Got me feeling drunk and high”).

The pair don’t have the same chemistry heard on Mylo Xyloto’s “Princess of China”, where Rihanna’s cool distance worked perfectly with Martin’s earnestness; the result on Head Full Of Dreams falls a little short of the latter's ambitions.

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But live this a different story, and it all becomes immensely clear as to why the band have such a formidable following.

The set is interspersed with crowd favourites; ”Paradise“ from 2011's Mylo Xyloto runs in to Ghost Stories' redeemer ”Magic” while ”Fix You“ is followed by ”Viva La Vida“.

Bassist Guy Berryman, drummer Will Champion and guitarist Jonny Buckland all put as much effort into their parts as they would for an arena but are far less mobile on stage, balancing out their frontman's overexhuberant mannerisms.

Martin is clearly looking to the future, he sings about the “change in the winds” and there's a general feeling of optimism tonight, of a new beginning, as though he can't wait to get started. Considering rumours that this may be the last outing for Coldplay for some time, it seems wise to appreciate what we've got.

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