The critical consensus over
Coldplay is divided: Some see the platinum-selling British pop band as the
poor man's U2 (circa the early days of grand gestures and hollow
chest-thumping), while others have it nailed as Radiohead-Lite (all
over-emoting and wispy, ethereal ambience).
Neither view is entirely fair. Taken via the short bursts of hit singles
such as its 2000 breakthrough "Yellow" or recent chart-toppers "Clocks" and
"God Put a Smile Upon Your Face," the quartet distinguishes itself with its
indelible melodies, its heartfelt lyrics and Chris Martin's soulful, soaring
voice (which is no doubt a major source of the attraction for current
girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow).
But while the group rings out amid the clutter and clang of modern-rock
radio, it failed to make much of an impact onstage at a sold-out UIC
Pavilion Monday night.
Part of the problem is that the band has grown too popular too fast, and
it really isn't ready for the arenas yet. It kept the stage set simple,
performing under four video screens that flashed images of the musicians and
created a mood via swirling psychedelic lights and a lone green laser that
must have been purchased used from Genesis circa 1977.
Unfortunately, the band members' stage presence wasn't big enough to make
up the difference in filling such a large space. Martin spoke only
sporadically, and he couldn't be understood when he did.
And when he wasn't tethered to his acoustic guitar or doing his Schroeder
imitation at his black upright piano, his
bouncing-on-one-foot-while-reaching-for-the-sky dancing was just plain
Coldplay's sound is based on a simple formula that pairs the unrelenting
4/4 pounding of drummer Will Champion with the interplay between Jon
Buckland's Edge-like single-note guitar lines and Martin's insistent piano
and acoustic strumming (plus, of course, those nimble vocal gymnastics).
The group opened strong, with a pounding version of "Politik," the timely
protest song that it played on the Grammys. (Adding to the Radiohead
connection, it also celebrated leftist political activism by trumpeting a
fair-trade group on the video screens and in booths throughout the lobby.)
But while its string of hits stood out--inspiring several crowd sing-alongs--at
least half of Coldplay's 90-minute set sounded repetitious and indistinct.
It was also disappointing to see the band relying on taped acoustic
guitar and piano (or an unseen roadie playing those instruments) during
several of its best numbers, including the rousing hits "Yellow" and "In My
Any band with songs this strong can't be dismissed as a serious
contender. But Coldplay needs to polish its act and learn to better project
its passions if it wants to continue playing the enormodomes.
Adding aggravation to the night was the fact that the group didn't take
the stage until nearly 2-1/2 hours after the advertised starting time. And
underwhelming openers Eisley (a cookie-cutter female-fronted pop band from
Tyler, Texas) and Ron Sexsmith (the over-rated Canadian singer-songwriter)
had even less cause to perform on such a large stage than the headliners