My son, Kieran, and I went to see Coldplay at Arsenal’s Stadium in Islington, North London, last Friday. Photos taken with my iPhone – let’s call them impressionistic!
You might have seen our joint top ten of Coldplay songs – if not check my Top Tens series. They are probably THE band at the moment where our tastes overlap. Not surprisingly, I’m rather more inclined towards the earlier albums, Kieran to the newer ones. But we have a lot of common ground.
It was a fantastic concert, a real show. Of course the music was great – Coldplay really know how to perform their songs on the big stage. But it was the presentation too. The stage lights, the lasers, the astonishingly good circular screens at the back of the stage, the mass of confetti that surged over the audience in the second song, “Hurts Like Heaven”, the multicoloured wristbands we all wore, which lit up when activated to create a marvellous array of colour at selected moments during the concert.
This all matters in a stadium concert. It’s the sign of a band that really does want to give their audience a brilliant experience. It’s a reason why Coldplay are one of the great stadium bands today.
The weather had turned after a week or two of blazing sunshine. A soft drizzle wafted into the stadium as the band took to the stage. Fortunately it didn’t last too long, and after watching the early part of the show from the seats on the lower tier we moved into the standing crowd. I was struck by the range of ages. Teenagers were side by side with thirty somethings and the middle-agers like myself. Coldplay have this wide appeal. And why? The tunes, of course. Especially all those big choruses that raise the spirits and make you want to punch the air. Hence the power of the wristbands and the spectacular colour show they created.
The music had something for everyone. Seven of our top ten featured – never mind that one exclusion, “What If”, is my all time favourite! Though will it be for much longer? The total anthem that is “Paradise”, which fittingly closed the main part of the show, is rapidly becoming my most listened-to Coldplay song. It’s so simple – and so captivating. Para, para, para-dise…. wristbands flickering, iridescent.
The classics were dotted around the show: “In My Place” third up, “The Scientist” and “Yellow” (pulsating rhythms) at six and seven. “God Put A Smile On Your face” at nine, “Warning Sign” at twelve. And then the new favourites: “Viva la Vida”, “Charlie Brown”, “Violet Hill”, and Para, para…
For the beginning of the encore, the band rushed round to the back of the arena and played on a small stage. Armed with acoustic guitars they played “Us Against The World” from “Mylo Xyloto” and “Speed of Sound”.
Then they rushed back to the main stage and cranked up the volume for “Clocks” and then “Fix You”. Is “Fix You” the biggest Coldplay anthem of all? It felt like it. The crowd at one in celebration. Communion.
The band finished with “Every Teardrop is A Waterfall”, another of the new classics. Fantastic for Kieran and his generation, for whom this is one of the biggest songs.
A wonderful show. Something for everyone. Played with elan and humility. Coldplay are big, bigger than big. But they are still grounded. That, I think is part of the appeal. The songs, in a way, are unassuming. You can say, like I used to, that they are essentially U2 and Radiohead-lite. But you’d be wrong. They are more than that. They are a band who have perfected the art of the anthem. Heartfelt, humble, huge. Songs that convey simple but deep feelings. You don’t need an interpreter to get the lyrics or the music. It’s music for the people. And that is an art.
It’s hard to be that good.
Coldplay – the people’s band