Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Chris Martin and the Coldplay lead guitarist Jonny Buckland onstage in Cologne last week. Roberto Pfeil / AP Photo
Roberto Pfeil SUB
Chris Martin and the Coldplay lead guitarist Jonny Buckland onstage in Cologne last week. Roberto Pfeil / AP Photo

Live performance puts life into Coldplay

Coldplay performed in Manchester earlier this month, giving us a glimpse of what to expect when they make it to Abu Dhabi in two weeks' time.

It's not often the words "Coldplay" and "surprising" inhabit the same sentence. After all, even if some of the criticism they endure is unfair, Chris Martin's band is widely dismissed as being as safe and efficient as stadium rock gets, pushing the buttons of the masses in time-honoured but clichéd fashion. So it's a genuine pleasure to report that there is something so magical, so unexpected and so innovative about the opening minutes of their current world tour that it is almost a plot-spoiler to reveal it. So, I won't, save to say that it involves lighting and audience participation - and it will be fantastic if they repeat the trick on December 31 in Abu Dhabi.

If not, well, it won't be a serious issue. Perhaps Coldplay's main problem on record is a lack of personality - it is difficult to congratulate Martin on such insightful lyrics as "I turn my music up, I got my records on", as heard on their comeback single Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall. But played live, as the kick drum thuds around the arena, that particular song not only makes perfect sense, but everything Coldplay does is ramped up, energised and, with Martin's enthusiasm bordering on the tiring to watch, imbued with character and charisma.

In short, they pull off the not inconsiderable task of making their live show massive and intimate in almost the same instant. In Manchester recently, back-catalogue anthems such as Yellow and Fix You were blasted out in the manner of a band who perhaps are sick of the constant jibes that they are insipid and bland. But at the same time, Martin went well beyond asking the crowd if they were OK. He thanked them profusely for buying tickets, for giving up their evening to come, for joining in. He changed the lyrics of songs to speak directly to the audience. When he messed up a few chords, he stopped, apologised, and started again - as if he were performing in a tiny bar venue rather than an arena. Perhaps such antics are all part of the act, but they're hugely endearing. It means that even those who, quite bizarrely, watched proceedings from behind the open stage felt involved. I should know. I was one of them.

Of course, such stagecraft has been honed over a decade of filling arenas and headlining festivals. It means Coldplay is canny enough not to scare the audience with loads of new songs from the band's fifth album Mylo Xyloto - in Manchester they played roughly half of it. But what they do showcase reveals exactly why the record is so uneven. Live, the raucous Major Minus sounds unhinged and ragged - and is all the more interesting for that - but the tracks that display a hitherto undiscovered love for R&B and chart pop (specifically Paradise) are indistinguishable from a million other chart acts. There's the sense that, five albums in, Coldplay is not quite sure what kind of band it would like to be.

Undoubtedly, when Martin is hammering away behind a piano during fantastically epic versions of Politik and Clocks, Coldplay makes perfect sense. It is then that they make the job of being in a multimillion-selling pop band seem like both the most normal and the most amazing thing in the world. With Grammy nominations and sell-out tours in prospect for 2012, it's likely to be a happy new year for Coldplay - in more ways than one.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National