|Lead singer Chris Martin of Coldplay performs at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Tuesday, April 17, 2012. Edmonton was the first stop on the band's North American tour. (QMI Agency/Amber Bracken)
EDMONTON - It’s flattering when a world famous band chooses Edmonton to launch a world tour. Either that or it’s “paid rehearsal” — because if they screw up in Edmonton, who cares?
The Coldplay concert Tuesday night was no place for such negativity. This was a happy, shiny offering of British pop-rock goodness of the highest order. We are blessed. There was little sign this band was ironing out its show for more prestigious gigs in Los Angeles or Prague or wherever.
Sure, singer Chris Martin screwed up the intro to God Put a Smile On My Face, but he glossed over it gracefully and from there was in fine, often ferocious form, spinning himself dizzy at every opportunity. The rest of the show was a slick display of pure Coldplay hit power. The band sounded great — spine-tingling and powerful when required, sensitive when called for (and they called for it a lot) and at times too perfect when you noticed there were lots of sounds coming from the stage with no live musicians creating them — just a little pet peeve of mine about allegedly live rock concerts, but no matter.
The show looked amazing, too. Bonus points were awarded before Coldplay even played a single note, having offered every one of the 14,500 fans at Rexall Place a free — free — electronic glowing wristband, remotely activated to light depending on the songs. Wow. Eat that, gouging glowstick merch-men at Selena Gomez concerts.
The sight of 14,000 glow-bands going off all at once in the brisk opening song Hurts Like Heaven was spectacular. Some fans demurred, perhaps fearing it to be a brain-controlling device: All Hail Coldplay. Too late. Resistance is futile.
As way of introduction, Martin shouted, “Is there anybody out there?!” — thrice, got the expected response (thrice) and led the band into the first of the massive power ballads of the evening, In My Place. Ba-bam! Confetti cannons blanketed everyone in the floor seats with paper snow. A little later, in Yellow — the second of the massive power ballads and the hit that launched the band’s career — 100 giant balloons floated down from the ceiling. All sang along, “I wrote a song for you, and all the things you do, and it was called Yellow.”
Twenty minutes in and the place looked like Cirque du Soleil had exploded.
This was basically a stadium show packed into an arena. Each song was a grand singalong anthem of U2-ian proportions, each ending was a potential show stopper, each musical climax was more dramatic than the last — right down to the impossibly sensitive last encore ballad, Fix You. All sang along, “I will try to fix you.” Not sure that’s a healthy emotion.
Here and there, Martin brought the energy level right down and sat behind his day-glo graffitied piano, as on the delicate not-so-power ballad Scientist and again during a centre stage interlude, but the band shifted back into its feel-good arena-rock anthems with ease. Later came the heavy hitters like Viva La Vida — which almost demands to be heard in an outdoor stadium. Likewise Clocks.
During the encore set, Martin acknowledged Edmonton being the launchpad of the tour, thanking the crowd for “cheering in all the right places and forgiving all the mistakes” — before promptly going off the rails in the Celtic strummer Us Against the World and having to start it over again. How ironic.
Expectations are high when it comes to the world famous band’s opening acts, too. Coldplay did not disappoint here. The Pierces, a band of New York sisters who sound like (young) Stevie Nicks to the power of two, impressed a very sparse crowd — where was everybody, in the parking lot getting lit up? — with its powerhouse neo-folk sound, superb vocals and songs about various kinds of self-destructive behaviour. Deadly combination.
To name the next act is to know them: Metronomy, the British electro-disco band whose crisp metronomic grooves gave a new wave-Brian Eno-Talking Heads-like shape to their unusual songs. Call it “new rave.” So weird, in fact, was this band that its more “conventional” songs — that is, songs that sounded like songs — came off as dull. They were at their best in zany arrangements, some completely instrumental — and some completely, jaw-droppingly off the wall — rich in squeaking, blooping, wheezing vintage synthesizers and chord changes not found in nature. There is no understanding the British. That’s part of why we love them so.
Four out of five Suns