Coldplay. One word can trigger so many varied reactions amongst music fans. For some, Coldplay, since their millennial breakthrough in 2000, represents one of the most talented rock acts outside of U2 to craft intelligent arena-scaled music that can please both the crowd and the critics. For others, however, the name conjures up past glories, confused ideologies, and dated quotes from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Though, if ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’ then perhaps ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is Coldplay’s most recent card trick, explaining their recent hibernation and less-than-explosive return with their sixth studio album, Ghost Stories.
In support, Coldplay has reappeared for a limited series of shows on smaller stages. What started at Austin’s South by Southwest this past March continued Monday night at New York’s historic Beacon Theatre. When they last visited the Big Apple, they performed to over 15,000 fans at Barclays Center; mind you, the Beacon can hold just under 3,000. In a not-so-shocking turn of events, the UK outfit sold out their two intimate shows, forcing an earlier performance to satisfy fans. Nonetheless, either performance was a gentle and polite reintroduction to the group.
Everyone’s back: Chris Martin on vocals and guitar, Will Champion on drums, Jonny Buckland on guitar, and Guy Berryman on bass. There was no sense of any need to become reacquainted with them, and as such, the carnivorous room came alive all at once. Despite piggybacking on a new album, Coldplay worked in a mix of old and new, maintaining their pleasing arena rock for the theatergoing experience. And over a decade later, the band is cohesive enough to rival the most skilled musicians in the industry, but what separates them from any studio performer is Martin’s light stage banter and ability to connect with a multi-generational audience. At one point, he even dedicated “Fix You” to Mick Jagger, whose girlfriend recently passed away.
So the real question is… how does the new material fare? Several have already been consumed by the general public, especially “Magic” and “A Sky Full of Stars”, both of which they performed on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. The former fits the introspective down-tempo Coldplay of, say, Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head. Whereas the latter, co-written by EDM megastar Avicii, reworks the mold some without shattering Coldplay’s trademark sensibilities. Part of this is due to Martin’s vocals; he never feels relegated to a guest starring role, even though the group’s earthly landscapes get very extraterrestrial and even include, yes, a drop.
Still, the mix of old and new proved rather organic, and the premiere of new song, “True Love”, nailed that home. Think evolution and not revolution. Haters will still hate, fans will still sing, and the indifferent will still shrug. But really, there’s something to be said for a group that can consistently please its audiences with so few gimmicks or party favors. (Admittedly, there were lasers and confetti, but it was hardly a fiesta.) Rather, by performing their music with skill, feeling, and energy, Coldplay retains an integrity, albeit polarizing, that few mainstream rock ‘n’ roll acts ever get to clutch for over a decade. Last night, they probably didn’t gain any new converts, but they did age a track record that continues to perplex skeptics and critics.
Where do you stand?
Always in My Head
God Put a Smile Upon Your Face
Til Kingdom Come
Viva La Vida
Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall
A Sky Full of Stars
Life Is for Living