2011 was a monumental year for Coldplay. Written off as a tired non-entity they stunned the world at Glastonbury by upstaging U2 and Radiohead in one fell swoop. The performance was heavy on hits, but it was powered by tender moments, pinpoint choruses, and a sense of inclusiveness that Chris Martin has become adept at fostering. A day-glo make over and a number one album later, and a revamped Coldplay are once again the nation’s ubiquitous stadium headliner.
Tonight, Chris Martin an co. round off their latest UK tour with a third sold out night at Emirates stadium. Far from cultivating a personal bond with a crowd of thousands, Coldplay 2.0 overawe their audience through sheer abundance. A forced fireworks display and the first of many blast of confetti welcome a band who appear dead set on pandering to an already reverent crowd. At times the glitz and glamour assault proves irresistible. A stadium sized “In My Place” and the seething euphoria of “Paradise” make time stand still as the crowd bellow and bounce in unison.
Unfortunately, more often than not, the maximalist bombast is a distraction. Bouncing balloons and lingering confetti strip “The Scientist” of its solemn beauty, while the understated but irrepressible punch of “Yellow” drowns in syrupy smultz and self-adulation. The cruelest fate is reserved for “Violet Hill”. Reworked for the arenas, it is rendered bereft of poignancy as its piercingly intimate finale (“If you love me, won’t you let me know”) is turned into a needy and unnecessary call for applause.
The night’s finest moments come when Coldplay strip away their seemingly endless arsenal of gimmicks. “Viva La Vida” stands on it’s own two feet, creating a feeling of gleeful union as the crowd belt out the track’s timeless refrain long beyond its four minute run time. “Warning Sign” circumvents the pomp and circumstance altogether, creating intimacy in even the densest and most distant corners of the Emirates (a trick which “Us Against The World” beautifully recreates during the Simon Pegg assisted encore).
For its part the light show is spectacular, and the luminous Mylo Xyloto wristbands leave the crowd speechless during a celebratory airing of “Charlie Brown”. It proves a shrewd piece of misdirection as even this, the most reverent of crowds, is hardly taken by the more transient efforts “Major Minus”, “Princess Of China”, and “Hurts Like Heaven”.
Tonight’s show doesn’t have the feel of vintage Coldplay performance. There are no teary eyed lovers, and no one leaves believing Chris Martin was singing to them alone. Instead, Coldplay offer something more synthetic; the warm buzz of a Las Vegas review. The grand ceremony, the luxurious excess, and cosy feeling of crowd pleased, but not moved. It’s impossible to do anything but admire Coldplay’s utilitarian ambition to put smiles on faces, sadly in 2012 it comes at a high cost as poignancy and tranquility are ruefully jettisoned. David Hayter