Concert Review: Coldplay, MTS Centre, Winnipeg, MB, 6/15/09
attendance: 13,550 (sold out)
Upbeat openers the Howling Bells from New Zealand had some nice moments with their infectious indie-pop, including playing "Blessed Night," a catchy song that I did not realize was theirs, that I have heard when I randomly play music on one of my computers at the office. I'd like to see headline a smaller venue, as the cavernous MTS Centre seemed too large for them to really connect with the audience, who were largely unfamiliar with their material.
Glasgow, Scottland's Snow Patrol sold out Winnipeg's Burton Cummings Theatre (capacity 1646) in April of 2007, without being a widely recognized band. Clearly, they have a larger following than I expected, based on the audience response to their romantic indie-pop songs, which are not too far removed from what Coldplay offer up. They really caught my attention with their urgent, anthemic, U2-esque sound. I can only see these guys getting bigger. Lead singer Gary Lightbody (1976) performed with confidence, sang beautifully, and won over new fans. The band are touring in support of their 2008 album, A Hundred Million Suns.
It was pretty obvious that Coldplay were going to incorporate some backing music to flesh out the exotic sound of some of their material, such as the opening number "Life In Technicolor," from last year's Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Released in May, 2008, Coldplay's fourth studio album was the number one selling album in the US (over 2 million) and internationally (7.8 million) and it debuted at number one in 36 countries. It's also the most paid-for downloaded album of all time, with over 700,000 downloads to date and counting (statistics courtesy of Wikipedia.)
Early in the show, the burst into "Yellow," one of their first hits from their debut album, Parachutes (2000, 4 million sold.) As the first few notes rang out, members of the road crew walked into the floor area, bearing large yellow balloons, some much larger than beach balls. The fans proceeded to knock them around the floor and stage, but nothing made it into most of the stands. Occasionally, a balloon would burst, spraying yellow confetti. By the time the next song rolled around, only a couple of the yellow orbs were left. The 2005 album X&Y sold over 8 million copies, but was seen as their weakest effort. Still, it was heart-warming to hear so many sing along to the ballad "Fix Me," the only track performed from this recording.
Coldplay could have played it safe, but despite having a bevy of commercial pop songs, they served up songs that were quite quirky in nature and not exactly hit single material, like the moody "Cemeteries of London," the tabla-accented "Lost!," and the atmospheric "Death And All His Friends.". They played every track from the new album, save for "Yes." Of course, it was all eagerly consumed by the crowd who went nuts for all their antics. Lead singer Chris Martin ran around the stage and sang at the same time, without huffing and puffing. At one point, he ran down one of the two ramps that jutted out either side of the stage and lept to the very edge, seemingly defying the law of physics as his momentum should have sent him sailing into the audience on the floor. I couldn't help but turn to my friend and crack a big smile.
The end of the ramp near me served as a mini-stage from which all four members huddled onto the illuminated tiles and played a few tunes, to the absolute shock and delight of the fans who crowded around. There was more. Well into the show, each member briskly walked off the left side of the stage and made a bee line for the back of the floor. From there, they walked up a few rows at the very back of the 100 section and proceeded to play a few unplugged songs. It was all captured for everyone to see on the huge video screens, which were suspended over center ice, roughly. Why at that location and not just over the first few rows near the front of the stage like most bands do? More on that later. The screens showed everyone just how giddy with delight the surrounding fans were, who had purchased some of the less desirable seats in the house, but not with Coldplay just inches away. From this unlikely spot, they performed the Monkees' classic "I'm A Believer," before some more audience participation. Chris Martin asked everyone to turn on and hold up their cell phone. When the audience complied, it was looking into a galaxy of stars. He then asked everyone to hold them to their sides, to hide their lights, and then asked that one section begin to hold theirs up and put them down again, causing the first "Mexican wave" at the MTS Centre. For several minutes, fans played along and the result was an unusual but spectacular.
I really wanted to hear their other night song from Parachutes,"Shiver," which I have recorded onto many mixed CDs for friends, to introduce them what I considered to be great but lesser-known indie pop songs. They may have had indie pop roots, but for a few years now, Coldplay are clearly part of the mainstream, with their fourth album probably outselling even the latest U2 offering. Martin referred to Winnipeg and Manitoba in some songs and rantings, like acknowledging that they were supposed to play here about a year ago, and mentioning the Jets (who became the Phoenix Coyotes) to great applause. Even the lead singer of Howling Bells referred to a few things that makes Winnipeg renown, such as being the Slurpee capital of the world and being the home of the Crash Test Dummies (interesting Neil Young and the Guess Who weren't mentioned.)
It was a four-hour event. During the prelude to the two-song encore, Chris Martin asked us to remember a few things, including to download the song "Nightingale" by Howling Bells and to pick up a free copy of their new 9-track live album on the way out of the MTS Centre, LeftRightLeftRightLeft,which is also available as a free download from the band's website. Why have the screens at centre ice, roughly? I believe it was so that the fans at the side and sitting behind the stage, could look up and see the show, even though the band had their backs to them most of the time. You could see the video feed on the creens from both front or behind the screens. Bravo Coldplay for caring about those fans.
This was the fastest-selling concert in MTS Centre history (8 minutes), and for the first time in a long time, I wasn't able to score floor seats. We ended up on the right side, in the lower bowl.
Life in Technicolor
In My Place
Glass of Water
Cemeteries of London
God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
The Hardest Part / Postcards from Far Away
Viva La Vida
Death Will Never Conquer
I'm a Believer
Lovers in Japan
Death and All His Friends
Life in Technicolor II