2012-06-24

Concert Review: Coldplay

Last night, I had the good fortune of attending a Coldplay concert at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. What follows is a review of my experience.

Downtown Dallas
I rolled into downtown Dallas in the mid-afternoon. The city center on a weekend was predictably empty, but I was in for a big surprise when I arrived at my hotel. Multiple, high-profile conferences were being hosted there, and the two large buildings that made up the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas, Texas had all the bustling appearances of a major airport.

Within the hotel itself, there were a number of places to relax and chill out: a sports bar, a coffee shop, two restaurants, and an enormous, pleasant lounge. Unfortunately, these were all rather "hotely" venues, and not the greatest place to grab dinner or drinks. Even more unfortunately, the surrounding downtown area hosts precious few restaurants or pubs. I managed to find a passable hamburger bar, but not one I would strongly recommend.

If nothing else, the hotel was close to a train station, enabling us to catch a short, inexpensive train ride to the concert.

Opening Acts
The concert featured two opening acts.

The first was a band I had never heard of before: Wolfgang. A five-piece band from London, England, Wolfgang's style can be described as a bit of a throwback to 80s new wave music. Perhaps the best comparison would be to Tears for Fears. Wolfgang is obviously heavily influenced by Tears for Fears. Nevertheless, their vocalist was fantastic, and the songs were all well-written and well-arranged. Compositionally speaking, their songs are a few steps above Coldplay in terms of braininess, although they will obviously never achieve the same level of success, for the same reason. They played a brief, 30-minute set, and I was sorry to see them leave the stage.

Next came Robyn. I had heard of Robyn before, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what song I had heard. Doing a brief web search just now, I discovered this song, that which I had most likely heard before (although I don't seem to remember it now):

Listening to this song is a lot like seeing Robyn in concert: There is some energy there, but for the most part, the music is forgettable. She played for what seemed like a small eternity, and I was glad to see her depart.

Coldplay
Coldplay is touring in support of their most recent album, Mylo Xyloto. The album continues down the road first paved by their 3rd album, XY. This fact seems a little anachronistic, considering that the band released an album in between the two. But aside from that minor surprise, the album delivers everything one can expect from a Coldplay album, which means that faithful fans will enjoy it, while longtime critics will not be won over.

And yet, when the band hit the stage, it was impossible to argue with the energy they brought with them. From the first note to the last, the band played physically, jumping around on the stage in a manner I haven't encountered since the heyday of Van Hagar.

But the physicality of it all was really just where the energy began. Those of us who have always felt that Coldplay's recordings lack a certain amount of energy can take heart in the fact that their lives shows make up for this in spades. The band seems to throw themselves, heart and soul, into every note they play. At one point in the show, frontman Chris Martin said, "We have the best job in the world," and it's clear from their performance that they genuinely believe this. The result was a hit-packed setlist of bright lights, big sounds, soaring melodies, and excellent performances.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night (considering I had never before seen Coldplay live) was the fact that drummer Will Champion is something of the band's backbone. Not only does he play drums, but also sings rather excellent backing vocals, and also plays piano and guitar throughout the set. Without his hefty contributions, Coldplay would be a very different band indeed.

The setlist favored the newest material, but all of the radio releases were there, the very most successful of which were reserved for the encore. They must have played for approximately 90 minutes, and there was extensive variety throughout: from dance pop, to folk, to folk-rock, to as close to Coldplay might get to rock. For me, the highlights of the evening involved acoustic, drumless arrangements of popular Coldplay songs, which seemed to inject new life into familiar songs by highlighting Coldplay's excellent (and, by me, quite underrated) sense of arrangement.

All in all, it was an excellent show. If you have a chance to catch an upcoming show on this tour, I highly recommend you take it. Come early enough to enjoy Wolfgang's set, and leave with the memories of a great night.