Coldplay with Black Mountain
Friday, Aug. 12
Verizon Wireless Music Center
Chris Martin and some dudes turned in a larger-than-life show that was both incrementally exhilarating and pointedly manufactured at Verizon Wireless last Friday. Having only just released their critically polarizing third record, X&Y, in June, it’s evident that this little U.K. band that could, has, but may have gotten too big for their knickers in the process.
The Good …What made this an indelible show despite the new, diluted material was the excellent visual staging of the show. Simple design elements of light and color (also elemental in their last expansive U.S. tour for 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head) made for a larger-than-life tableau. (It resembled the panoramic screen of red light in the Foo Fighters’ video for “All My Life.”) The older material featured on the setlist not only held up, but still breathed deeply with original, organic verve intact. The sweet gospel-like goodness of “Everything’s Not Lost” amplified to the size of Noblesville made the disappointment of the new songs evaporate almost instantly in the evening’s humidity.
The Bad …The tone was instantly marred during the second song, “Politik,” with blatant, choreographed pandering to the locals, including name checking the Colts in the lyrics of one line and then: “This is a concert you cannot miss, it’s Coldplay in India-napo-liiiissss!” Fashion mallers screamed excitedly on cue while alienated hipsters shuddered at the contrived, cheesy maneuver. The new songs, juxtaposed with the older ones, sat on top like the slick grime that rises to the street surface at the beginning of a rainstorm. This was best exemplified by “Speed of Sound,” the first single from the album, whose best component is the fluid melody of the verses (only to downgrade into a weak chorus) and “The Hardest Part,” a tune resembling a discarded U2 B-side. To further connect the dots to U2, Martin’s banter, unchanged from the last tour, is rife with ego and regularly chased with Bono-style feigned humility: “Thank you for letting us come to your city and play for you.” (Read: “And for being suckers enough to spend $80 for pavilion.”)
The Opener … The Canadian-based outfit Black Mountain is not for those looking for a two-minute pop fix. They mingle the expressive, melodic swell of Mogwai with bluesy psychedelic rock. The set was highlighted by the dark, spacey ’70s guitar riffs of “Don’t Run Our Hearts Around,” adorned with ghostly vocals and the angular indulgence of Pink Floyd. The set ended with the addition of a couple of execs from their label Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian Records coming on stage to add a little instrumentation. This is too interesting a band to be properly absorbed in a large setting; it’s too cinematic, too suggestive. Although the finer points of subtlety and detail were obscured in the open air of the amphitheater, it was a strong step up to the radar of the 20,000-strong audience. Not a bad way to be introduced, really.