When established rock groups tour in support of a new album, they typically give their fans a fairly brief taste of their fresh tracks, maybe four or five songs. Not Coldplay.
The Grammy-winning British band – led by the lovably manic Chris Martin – dazzled a sold-out AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami on Friday night as part of its “Mylo Zyloto” tour by performing all but two of the album’s 11 songs. And why not? The new material from the group’s fifth album uniformly stands up to Coldplay favorites, especially live. The fist-pumping anthems “Charlie Brown,” “Princess of China” (with vocals by Rihanna mixed in on the video screens), “Paradise” and the closing “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” are instant classics, sure to be a part of Coldplay shows for years to come, and all whipped the adoring crowd into a frenzy.
But as well-received as the recent songs were, the older ones provided most of the emotional spark. The heart-wrenching piano ballad “The Scientist” had everyone howling along to the chorus’ lyric “Nobody said it was easy”; Martin performed a tender version of “Warning Sign” on a piano that rose from the end of the runway in the middle of the arena floor; the bracing “Viva la Vida” was as compelling as ever, with its ending “Oh-oh-OH-oh-ohhhh-oh” chant that’s reminiscent of happy football hooligans celebrating a victory over a pint; and the gripping “Fix You” showed Martin at his best, with his falsetto strong and pure at the beginning, and his stage-roaming showmanship on full display at its cathartic end.
Other highlights included the riveting “Clocks,” with Martin flailing dangerously on his piano seat, and “Yellow” and “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” rearranged to open in mellow fashion before exploding into their full glory. As the band strives to involve the entire crowd, Martin appeared in an aisle toward the back of the arena with an acoustic guitar to sing the swaying new ballad “Us Against the World,” and then the rest of the band surfaced – with a piano, even – to bang out a low-key version of “Speed of Sound.” On his way back to the main stage, Martin ran up into the crowd to lay a big kiss on his wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who proceeded to blush furiously.
More clever gimmicks also helped amp up the party atmosphere. Each concertgoer upon entry was given a colored wristband, which lighted up automatically during the racing opener, “Hurts Like Heaven,” creating a sea of red, green, pink and white lights throughout the packed arena (even extending behind the stage). The effect was exhilarating, as was the massive confetti blast during “In My Place” and the huge, paint-splattered balloons that dropped like beach balls during “Lovers In Japan.” But all the hoo-hah actually served to enhance rather than distract from the musical performances – this evening felt like a celebration from start to finish.
And that vibe comes mainly from Martin. There isn’t a more dynamic, energetic, charismatic – and ridiculously talented – front man today. He rocks the piano, strums a mean acoustic guitar, sprints around the stage, charms the crowd (he congratulated the Miami Heat for its NBA championship, and promised to try and live up to that standard on this night), sings like no one else can (both his falsetto and low range are surprisingly resonant) and leaves everything he’s got on the floor, literally collapsing in a sweaty pile. So for all you Coldplay haters out there (it’s apparently become hip to diss the band – I guess it’s like hating the Heat for being so talented), it’s pretty obvious you’ve never seen them live. Pity.