Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Coldplay at the United Center

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Even after several million albums sold, British art-rockers Coldplay are still conflicted about their status as an arena act, and that's one of their most endearing traits.

On the one hand, frontman Chris Martin and his bandmates do everything they can to maximize the big rock spectacle, the grand theatrical gesture and the musical bombast.

Wednesday, during the first of a two-night stand at the United Center, the musicians came out dressed in pseudo-Napoleonic uniforms and began to perform in front of a giant backdrop of Delacroix's French Revolutionary painting, "Liberty Leads the People," which happens to be the cover of their new album, "Viva La Vida."

Several big globes hung from the ceiling and flashed video images of the band as it played; at times, the group deployed more lasers than any band since Genesis, and during the song "Lovers in Japan," a seemingly endless rain of colorful paper butterflies fell on the crowd.

On the other hand, Martin has never been afraid to let his inner geek show: He's the anti-Bono, dancing like an awkward little urchin instead of striking cool larger-than-life poses, and never hesitant to do his Schroeder routine at his black upright piano.

Throughout the 90-minute set, the bandleader frequently thanked the fans for their support, sounding genuinely surprised at his own success. And he, guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion did everything they could to get up close and personal, running to the end of the platform on stage right, performing two songs at the end of the platform on stage left and eventually hopping down from the stage altogether to briefly perform acoustically in the midst of the fans in the first tier off the floor.

None of this made the show as intimate as the one the group played at Metro to celebrate the release of its last album, "X&Y." But it felt as special as any party for 20,000 can, and the good will the band created extended to the audience indulging two renditions of the new song "Lost" for the benefit of a video filming, as well as the heavy sampling of the more arty, less anthemic songs from "Viva La Vida" sprinkled between guaranteed crowd-pleasers such as "Clocks," "In My Place" and "Yellow."

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4 Comments

Can anyone tell me how the encores went on Night 2? The first night was just Martin and Champion performing Green Eyes. Did they change this and have the usually expected encore for Night 2?

And the other question would be is if Jim DeRogatis stayed longer on Night Two than he did on Night One. I was in 103 row 16, seat 2 so I saw you taking notes not knowing who you were...but had an inkling of what your profession was (googled your picture today to confirm, sorry not trying to creep you out and not stalking either; just curious who would sit down taking notes through the show...). My memory serves that you left early (or just re-located) on Tuesday night for the end of the show. Did you see the two-man encore and what was your comment on the overall encore-less approach (or was it built into the show and we just missed the subtlety of it?)
Thanks for what you do for music.

I didn't see night 1 but night 2 was fun, up until the last 20 minutes of dis-jointed randomness. Since you or others reading this may have seen both, what the heck was that? Maybe I am too used to seeing shows end triumphantly, but I just didn't get it. From the odd screen thing to the bass player leaving durring the last song... it was like they were confused or something?

Good review, I agree wholeheartedly. I have always liked coldplay's non-U2-ish-ness. The light show and the crazy stage theatrics still there, but in some way seem a bit more raw and unexpected.

Always been a fan of your writing, reviews, etc. (and Sound
Opinions!). I wanted to just send on a thanks as just a music fan for
not panning Coldplay. Sure, they've written a few uninspired duds,
but this new album and tour are really, really good. It seems most
critics are loathe to say anything positive because it's "not cool" to
say anything good about Coldplay. Nice to have a critic who just
knows good music and good performers deserve credit, whether it's
their type of music or not. It's ok to like music that is just great
to listen to and not always ridiculously challenging, right? There's
room for all kinds of music. Seriously though, I'm totally surprised
how really good this album is actually, I think Eno took them up a
notch!

:) Well done sir! :)

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on July 24, 2008 9:54 AM.

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Lollapalooza's promoters address the sponsorships, the radius clauses and their plans to expand in Chicago is the next entry in this blog.

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