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
Awwwww, I’m so jealous! It must have been amazing! You’re very lucky, I couldn’t have tickets for their Paris show and I would sell my soul to see the the phone lights. Glad you enjoyed it 😀
Thanks Lulu. The wristband lights are certain to become a feature of big concerts. I can see them making their way into football too.
You should be!
Hi John – thanks for a very nice piece, which really got to the heart of this band’s appeal. (And don’t give up your day job for rock photography.) I didn’t get Coldplay for years, but now I get them completely. This might be me getting older, of course.
But your comments on the power of the “anthem” had me musing on the recent Jubilee concert, and I got quite cross in the process. Here’s why.
I was in the Mall about an hour before it all kicked off, and I would say that the crowd was made up principally of people in, say, the 20-40 age range. Of course there were those crazy old dears who used to stalk Tim Henman, and love Cliff Richard, but they really are a tiny minority.
So what did this young-to-middle-aged crowd get? Annie Lennox, Dame Shirley, Sir Elton, Sir Cliff, Sir Tom, Stevie Wonder, St. Paul McCartney, Madness, Rolf Harris, plus the usual token sprinkling of opera singers and classical musicians. (I exempt Grace Jones for her sheer glorious weirdness and originality.) What did the vast majority of these performers mean to the crowd? Naff all! Of course we had Jessie J and JLS, but that was about it for a younger generation.
If the concert organisers had the nerve, they’d ditch the old guard and their knighthoods and build a concert around twenty great, anthemic songs from the last twenty years. So Jessie J and JLS would cut the mustard, as would Rhianna (who’s touring here now). So would Robbie – who can light up a crowd better than anyone, as he demonstrated – and so would Kylie. (You’ve always gotta have Kylie.) But how about the Sugababes, Take That, Kanye West, Kaiser Chiefs, Jarvis, Duffy, U2, Akon, Keane, Scissor Sisters, Sean Paul, Beyonce, Muse, Lily Allen, Elbow, Franz Ferdinand, Girls Aloud, The White Stripes – and yes, Coldplay too? Every one of those acts has written at last one song (and some of them have written loads) which would connect with HUGE numbers in that crowd. (All My Loving was a hit in 1963, dammit! If you went to a gig when you were twenty, and they played something from 1929, would you feel it was right up your street?)
I’d give each of these acts either one song or two, the only condition being that they’d have to be classics. If you built the gig right, and thought about the running order, it could be totally amazing.
Anyway, rant over, before I get tempted to run off a playlist. Apologies for hijacking your blog.
Grumpy Old Git
Excellent rant, GOG. (And keep those aliases coming!). I have to agree with you, but the BBC and whoever else organises these things are in thrall to “pop royalty”. There should never be such a thing. The essence of POP is the new. The rest is nostalgia. Which is fine (this blog after all is mostly about my old favourites), but it isn’t pop.