This review was originally posted on the Orange County Register's Soundcheck blog on Sunday, July 19, 2009.
There were few disappointments for the sold-out crowd that caught Coldplay’s impressive 1 hour, 45 minute show at Home Depot Center Saturday night, July 18, 2009.
Sure, the quartet ignored some of its best-known songs (“Speed of Sound” and “Square One” immediately come to mind), but with a set list featuring two dozen gems, it’s clear to this reviewer that Coldplay’s dazzling decade-long discography can no longer be revisited in a single concert.
From the group’s uplifting opener “Life in Technicolor” to the night-ending “Life In Technicolor ii,” the thing that struck me most is how singer-keyboardist Chris Martin, guitarist Jon Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion used a combination of technology, songs, physical presence and sheer determination to bring the audience deeper into the show.
(The Associated Press photo, by the way, is from the Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark earlier this month.)
As at other gigs earlier on this tour, there were dual ramps that stretched out onto the floor of the outdoor stadium, allowing the band to run out closer to the crowd from time to time. And, as before, all four of them set up shop at the end of one ramp for a short semi-acoustic set highlights by reworked versions of “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” and “Talk.”
Later, to the cheers of everyone I saw, Coldplay walked from the front of the venue to the back for several more strong acoustic numbers. After Champion sweetly sang his signature tune for this tour (the Irish-flavored “Death Will Never Conquer”), Martin got the audience to use their cell-phone lights to create an illuminated wave that rolled around the venue before launching into a stirring version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” He used his falsetto to winning effect for that tribute, while many in the crowd added well-known vocal parts from Jackson’s original recording into the mix.
Yet the most powerful moments, in terms of synergy between band and audience, were performances of Coldplay’s big hits. For as much as wow factor as there is in the sonic magic of lesser-known tracks like “Strawberry Swing,” “Cemeteries of London” and “Lost,” superstar acts like Coldplay unavoidably attracts plenty of casual fans who only know radio favorites — especially at one of the largest tour stops the British group has ever played.
So when they launch into staples like “Clocks” and “Yellow,” the crowd’s surging energy brings added vigor to the show. “Viva la Vida” in particular, with the band roaring at full force amidst white beams of light shining on them, was simply incredible.
And throughout the set all manner of props — large yellow balloons dropped on the crowd during “Yellow,” confetti shot out of cannons later in the night — were used in the service of songs, never with the concern of sacrificing the power of the music itself. All told, this mega-set reaffirmed that Coldplay -– along with U2 and Radiohead –- can lay claim to being among rock’s greatest live bands right now.
Although both of the evening’s opening acts were strong and added world-music flavor to the proceedings, the blind Malian duo Amadou & Mariam sounded better during their 45 minutes simply because their mix of musicians and dynamics were so good. By comparison, Kitty Daisy & Lewis are merely a young buzz band out of L.A. that used its set to showcase a Hootenanny-esque approach fusing rockabilly, blues, jazz and swing. But the trio closed its brief set with a fiery number, “Say You’ll Be Mine,” that featured impressive harmonies and top-notch Americana musicianship