June 24, 2009

And Coldplay makes me deliriously happy

If there’s any band out there that reminds people that music is an art form, it’s Coldplay, four British boys that never fail to knock all the socks off 16,000 people in an arena.

It should have come as no surprise to me, given the use of a famous Delacroix painting on the cover of last year’s stellar Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends and the painterly design of their promo, but I was pleasantly surprised and had perhaps forgotten the level of their artistry.

My face brimmed with a smile and my eyes nearly welled up the moment they bounced onstage with sparklers, behind a sheer black screen that then created a layered shadow show. I felt a bit like a Beatles fan overcome with emotion as my hands clasped my face but it wasn’t because it was Coldplay as much as because it was just incredibly beautiful. And that beauty would not cease the rest of the evening.

If Apocalyptica’s concert was the epitome of a stripped-down show with intense but focused visual stimuli, this was the opposite but none of it was superfluous or frivolous. From my seat in the first row of the balcony near the stage, I could see everything. The angle wasn’t great for the flat video screen that hung from the ceiling (and which was backwards to my view), but that was more than made up for by a gigantic, rotating orb at the back of the arena and several smaller ones above the stage (one of which sometimes blocked my view of a part of the stage). Onto these were projections of highly produced and beautiful video footage. They were, in fact, filming their two Vancouver shows, the last dates on the North American tour. The film seemed produced in real-time, as if perhaps the effects were in-camera; for example, changing the picture to black and white and adding a vignette which, on the round projections, reminded me of a scene from the Wizard of Oz. I was somewhat transfixed by these things which echoed the rotation of the sun or earth at times.

When during Yellow a dozen or so large, yellow (what else?) confetti-filled balloons in different sizes burst forth from the walls of GM Place, I could see them all bounding gracefully over the crowd, and enjoyed watching frontman Chris Martin kick and pop them. Later on, butterfly-shaped confetti rained down from the ceiling over ecstatic fans. They were shaped as the graphic on the live album LeftRightLeftRightLeft, which made them lovely keepsakes for fans to take home (more than enough for all of us I’m sure, but I didn’t get one!) and thus more than just an overuse of paper. They were also in fluorescent colours that shone brightly under ultraviolet lighting.

Speaking of LeftRightLeftRightLeft, Coldplay’s thank-you freebie for fans, it’s a 40-minute compilation of live tracks (including the incredible Fix You which was nothing short of heavenly Sunday evening) that reminds me of the experience of the concert so I can relive it in a small way with each listen. I’m also excited to finally have a physical Coldplay CD, as all of their music to date I had only in digital format. (I traded in my first Coldplay album, Parachutes, about 5 years ago for a phenomenal Alice in Chains EP, only to fall in love with the band about a year and a half later with the release of X&Y.)

Interesting lighting was a lesser component this time compared to the multiple video projections, band performances and the thrilling — what did he call it? a Mexican Wave? — display of thousands of cell phone lights around the entire arena. (My friend described it as being inside a massive disco ball!) The band shifted focus from the visual art to the music itself with a surprise visit to mid-way up the lower bowl at a tiny stage where they did an acoustic set that included the lovely Green Eyes and a cover of I’m A Believer as well as a song I didn’t know. (I was hoping for more of that since it’s always a treat to hear a song for the first time live.) Even the drummer Will Champion played a guitar, to much applause. The house lights were on for part of this, which brought together the immense crowd that sang together most of the evening. Between two short catwalks, multiple stages and several video screens at different elevations, there essentially was no bad seat in the house. It was very fair to fans who paid a lot of money to experience it and I was very pleased, though still a bit jealous! (Not that I could afford anything more than I got, which were great seats for the section.) Twenty minutes in, I said to my friend, “This is totally worth the money and it’s not even over yet!”

I was surprised at how much I responded physically to the music — the upbeat hits on Viva La Vida inspiring me to move, bounce and tap. And the ever-charismatic Martin was constantly in motion, running and jumping around the stage, bending over backwards (even a flip), and lying on the stage pretending to be unable to get up.

Their music, performance, and visuals filled me with such joy, such elation like I have not felt in a long time and that is something Coldplay does uniquely and extremely well. They made the evening so very, very special. Even in an arena of that size it still felt intimate in a way, and I can’t even imagine how it felt to be close to the band, or to receive a keepsake like a drum stick or a Chinese-style parasol. (I had similar seats to their previous show at the same venue.) At one point, Martin strutted down the catwalk wearing a huge Chinese animal head (dragon perhaps?) which appeared to bat its eyelashes. Very impressive!

After nearly two hours of Coldplay I felt as if they had taken my heart and hugged it tightly, making it swell up. I was breathless, euphoric and unsure whether I’d be able to sleep. The concert was definitely a highlight of my year so far, and I really look forward to getting my hands on what will hopefully be a DVD of the back-to-back Vancouver concerts. That’s incredibly special.

Openers Snow Patrol were solid and I enjoyed their heavier live sound, but found the singer’s vocals to be more abrupt. I discovered I liked more songs than I thought, so I may revisit the album of theirs that I own. The first band, Howling Bells, started earlier than the ticket indicated so we caught just the last 2 or 3 songs mostly from the hallways. They sounded pretty great, too.

I was reminded that when you pay for a Coldplay concert, you get more than what you pay for and it’s worth every penny. If you have a chance to go, even if you’re not a big fan, go see them as the whole experience is more than the sum of its parts. And be sure to download your copy of LeftRightLeftRightLeft at Coldplay.com which gives a good sense of the incredible vibe that happens. If you saw them in concert already on this tour, tell me what you thought!