The British band Coldplay brought its current A Head Full of Dreams Tour to the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville on July 27. After a couple of less than well received discs and the demise of lead singer Chris Martin’s marriage to actress Gwyneth Paltrow, the group managed to regain some fire in producing a more positive and upbeat recording with the tour’s namesake release in December 2015.
I remained a skeptical attendee. The band’s high water mark for me came in 2002 with A Rush of Blood to the Head. Much of their work since has migrated into the universe of chick pop. Still, Coldplay doesn’t frequent neighborhoods like Louisville often. They also happen to be a favored band to Maia & the boys, who lived in Europe for many years and hold Coldplay in lofty regard. I checked my preconceived notions at the door and went in ready to have a good time.
I assumed the special effects would be top-notch and was not disappointed. Each patron entering was given a souvenir LOVE pin, and a chunky white LED bracelet that staff cinched on everyone’s wrists. This turned out to be a great alternative lighting element throughout the show. Thousands of bracelets could be activated remotely, with multiple color schemes, speed variations and patterns. Kudos on that one boys!
Coldplay opened dramatically with A Head Full of Dreams and followed strong with Yellow. I was pleased to also hear The Scientist, Paradise, Clocks and In My Place. The strongest new tune was Adventure of a Lifetime. The companion video with humanesque dancing primates was ecstasy-fueled brilliance and the critters’ club-dance moves melded hypnotically with the song’s guitar refrain.
The set was a robust 24 songs. The problem for me being that there is a definite theme in Coldplay’s subject matter. Martin is inevitably always singing about longing for someone, trying to reach them, fix them, love them or in general yearning about something. Combine that with his stark piano playing and mourning vocals – and even the uptempo tunes eventually morphed into serious chick rock.
And then there was the skipping. Martin spent “considerable” time skipping about, like some amalgamation of Huck Finn and Goldilocks, usually with an oversized bandana or flag hanging out of his back pocket. On the overtly slow tunes Martin most often could be found playing a jilted teenager, writhing about on the stage floor amongst fallen confetti.
His portrayal left me with an overwhelming urge to smack him and scream “Get ahold of yourself man and pull it together.” I also found it odd that Martin and guitarist, Jonny Buckland, felt it necessary to change outfits, or perhaps costumes is more accurate. It was a tad metrosexual for me, but whatever. Obviously I was in the minority with this opinion, as the boys and girls were both hot for these Brits.
This made Martin’s cover of the Johnny Cash favorite, “Ring of Fire” all the more tragic. Few dudes are less like the Man in Black than Martin. Nor did Coldplay do any favors to David Bowie’s “Heroes.”
I will offer mad props to their technical ability. Coldplay is exceptional at what they do. Those cats can play amazingly well in a complicated atmosphere and hold a large crowd’s attention. Their sound was pristine.
Three separate stages were utilized during the concert. The main one had an extended runway (often used for Martin’s skipping) that protruded out into the floor area, and at the end had a rounded space large enough for the band to perform a mini three song acoustic set.
Toward the end of the show the band was escorted from the floor into the lower arena level, where a tiny black stage was erected into the front of a seating section. Here they proceeded to jam with crowd members surrounding them for several songs. That was a smart change of location because it brought the band up close and personal to several other sections of the arena that wouldn’t otherwise get such an opportunity.
There’s no argument that Coldplay has earned its status as a premier musical act, but I’m not sure I would call them a rock-n-roll band. To find out the truth patrons had to ante up. Like many acts these days, tickets were progressively priced based on seating location. Our lower level mezzanine seats were over $100 a pop, but again, they’ve earned the right to charge top end prices.
Overall, Coldplay delivered a finely performed concert, and seeing them on their current tour was about the best it could get for a fan such as myself. All the same, I’m happy to have this one checked off my list.