I’m not the world’s biggest Coldplay fan, but I do think they’re the only pop group that interests me these days because they have their own unique sound, and I will admit that I dig a lot of their songs, too. I’d heard that they put on a great live show, so I was geared up to buy tickets for this tour, but when they announced that their show at the Garden would be a free gig where the winners would be chosen from a drawing, I was S.O.L. Thankfully, my friend, Jennifer, who is inexplicably not ashamed to be seen with me in public, was both lucky and willing to take me to this special event.
We pre-gamed with friends at F.A.T.S. (Fat Annie’s Truck Stop). It’s an alternative to the crowded bars that are close to M.S.G., and like many joints in the area, they played a Coldplay DVD the entire time to rev up the crowd. I ordered the Grilled Buffalo Chicken Po’ Boy, which was nothing like a true po’ boy and was served with shredded carrots and blue cheese dressing on a warm pretzel roll. The roll could have been a brilliant revelation, but it was in dire need of salt. Along the same lines, the chicken was as bland as bland could be, and my compatriots deftly pointed out that had it been fried, it could have absorbed more flavor from the sauce. I guess I learned my lesson, Fat Annie’s Truck Stop. Thanks to you, I’ll never eat healthy again.
The arena was only 1/4 full at 8:00, and the 400 Level was curiously empty, which didn't make sense at all. It's a free show, and you're inexplicably not playing another show in New York, even though you could sell out the Garden in minutes, so why not give away as many seats as possible? Are you saving the upper deck for a rainy day?
Matt Pinfield excitedly introduced the opener, Long Island's The Blue Jackets. I found their music to be quite inoffensive, and that's probably the best thing I can say. There seem to be countless bands that sound like this being given daily reach-arounds on BrooklynVegan.com, and not one of them interests me in the slightest. That being said, The Blue Jackets are one of those slightly better than mediocre bands that play really loud, accent every single downbeat, and have a whiny lead singer. In other words, most of my friends would love them. I hate my friends.
The Blue Jackets played for a merciful 25 minutes. Looking at the clock, I started to wonder if Coldplay was only going to play a short set because it was a free show. That would be weak sauce.
At setbreak, I strolled around as Jen discovered that MSG has good beer after all. Internally, I cursed myself for having consumed hangover-inducing, Bud Lite on Friday when there was Hoegaarden to be had. I also discovered a disproportionate number of people in their early 20s, and I felt like the entire state of New Jersey was at this show.
A screen was oddly positioned on stage during the changeover, and when the lights went dark, the now 2/3 full arena screamed, as a countdown appeared on the screen and a guy at a rig did what appeared to be a combination of spinning and keyboard playing. When the countdown arrived at zero, I was hoping for a big explosion and then Coldplay flying in from the rafters. Instead, the DJ/keyboard guy spun this mundane new-agey electronica crap as we watched a mildly trippy cartoon that was more repetitive than creative. The cartoon improved and eventually became more interesting than the cotton candy vendor to my left, but the music got progressively worse and rather plodding. YAWN. At the very end, the screen said the musician's name was Jon Hopkins. I only mention this to warn all of you, so you can avoid having to sleep through one of his future performances. He finished and received satirical cheers from the relieved crowd.
It was now 9:10, the lights came up, a curtain dropped on the stage, and atmospheric music played. Coldplay was successfully boring the shit out of me, and they hadn't even taken the stage yet. At this point, I thought to myself, "They better have some fucking lasers. Only lasers can save this show. A little fire wouldn't hurt, either."
The lights went dark around 9:30, and the crowd went wild. During the “Life In Technicolor” opener, the large orb hanging from the screen turned blue, and I suddenly felt as though this show might have some promise. (Beforehand, I made it clear that I was hoping a little glowing green creature would appear inside this orb during the set.) Sure enough, the second song was "Clocks," and it featured a host of red and yellow lasers! BOO-YAH! Not only was it a song that I really love, but it had fucking lasers, people! LA-SERS! Coldplay immediately became untouchable in my eyes.
The next song featured Chris Martin running down one of the ramps into the crowd and looking like a somewhat confident front man instead of the fragile introvert role that he's been playing in the press as of late. The following cut was the new single, and I was shocked as the entire arena, aside from me, sang along with gusto. I think the song had only been out for a week, so it was clear that I was surrounded by hardcore fans.
At the conclusion, the band moved down to the front of the stage left ramp for a patented mini set. Thanks to U2, The Rolling Stones, and just about everyone else who puts on a big arena show, the mini set in a new location amongst the crowd has become an essential but relatively pointless exercise that never fails to drive the audience crazy.
The second number in this configuration was “God Put a Smile Upon Your Face.”
In my opinion, this was the highlight of the night, featuring some intense, ripping guitar. Very sick. Then Martin played piano in the mini set while the rest of the band accompanied him onstage in a lackluster number.
This video of “Square One” shows a little of Martin’s swagger as a front man:
At this point, more orbs slowly began to appear, and I became impressed with the orbs' mating habits, as they were multiplying almost as fast as rabbits. When the orbs turned different colors, I started to think that there was a good chance of my dream coming true. Since I already got my lasers I thought I had a decent shot at getting a little glowing green creature inside an orb. By now, there were a lot of orbs, so I figured that at least one of them might have a little glowing green creature inside.
After Viva la Vida's "Stawberry Swim," Martin said, "We're going to try something we've never done before." Then band proceeded to leave the stage and walk through the aisles, up the stairs, and all the way around the concourse until they were at the rear of the arena (about 50 feet from me), facing the stage. They pulled out a couple of acoustic instruments and started "Yellow" to the frenzied delight of the crowd. A minor flub caused their second restart of the night, but with 18,000 people singing along, no one seemed to care:
Then the drummer, Will Champion sang a gospel-like “Death Will Never Conquer.”
Afterwards, the band vanished as dramatic music played while they traveled around the inside of the arena.
They reappeared to begin “Fix You,” and Martin shouted "Oh, shit" after flubbing the lyrics. The orbs had disappeared and were replaced by cannons shooting confetti, which I can only assume was made of recycled paper (and not the hides of African orphans, as is the case with most confetti in concerts by British pop acts). One “Lovers in Japan” amongst a background of a giant projection screen, and that was all she wrote.
It was only 10:35, and the crowd stomped and cheered wildly, despite the house lights coming on. If there ever was a time when the audience deserved an encore, this was it. The absence of house music and the relative stillness of the crew during the long break told us that we'd be getting more Coldplay. Then figures strode out on stage, and everyone went crazy...until we realized that it was just the crew in another classic concert encore psych-out.
While there were some lighthearted flubs here and there, it was still a very entertaining set from Coldplay, but it was so short that I feel as though I deserve my money back. Pony up, Coldplay, and don’t try to butter me up with lasers, either. If you can’t give me an encore, the least you can do is put a little glowing green creature inside an orb.