Coldplay serenades Paltrow and Metro


May 8, 2005


Lest anyone have any doubts, romance is still very much on the mind of Coldplay bandleader Chris Martin.

As the English quartet played a rare intimate club gig at Metro Friday night, Martin's wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, sat in the balcony, enthusiastically cheering her husband on. He frequently looked up at her -- especially during the hyper-romantic hit "Yellow" -- and she responded by lighting up like a schoolgirl, gazing back adoringly and leaning closer to him every time he turned her way.

Ironically, despite a title that evokes the male and female chromosomes, the band's third album -- which arrives in stores on June 7 and is pegged by the music industry as the most important release of 2005 -- "X & Y" is the group's edgiest, most experimental and least love-song-oriented disc yet, as evidenced by the half-dozen new tunes that the band performed during its inspired 80-minute show in Chicago.

Coldplay shot to the level of arena headliners on the strength of an impressive string of unforgettably catchy mood-rock hits from its 2000 debut "Parachutes" and the 2002 follow-up, "A Rush of Blood to the Head." Eager to entertain and seemingly thrilled to be returning to live performance, the group deftly interspersed transcendent versions of those signature tunes--"Clocks," "Politik," "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" and "In My Place" -- with a generous sampling of its new material.

Cell phones snatched

Paranoid about the music leaking on the Internet, the group's label has refused to send reviewers advance copies of "X & Y" -- even though the purpose of "surprise" club gigs like Metro is to start generating enthusiasm for the album -- and the venue's staff confiscated everyone's cell phones to prevent concertgoers from illicitly recording the new tunes as they were performed onstage.

This was also ironic, given that Coldplay chose to introduce its first single, "Speed of Sound," as a ringtone download.

That tune is already on its way to joining the list of the group's anthemic radio hits, but the live versions of other new numbers such as "Square One," "Low," "Fix You" and "What If?" found the band moving toward a more ethereal and atmospheric but still stadium-shaking sound, challenging itself as well as its audience.

Less U2, more Pink Floyd

If the band's earlier formula was a 50/50 split between U2 and Radiohead, it has now halved those ratios and added 25 percent Pink Floyd and 25 percent early '70s German art rock. (Before taking the stage, the group serenaded the capacity crowd with a recording of "Hallogallo" by the German band "Neu!," and Coldplay's new song "Low" shares a title with the best album of David Bowie and Brian Eno's "Berlin Trilogy.")

Whether or not these intriguing new sounds will produce the blockbuster the music biz is hoping for is anybody's guess, but the Metro show proved that the material will certainly translate in the arenas.

Guitarist Jonny Buckland created gorgeous waves of sound--thanks to his tastefully layered effects, he often seems to be playing lead, rhythm and a keyboard part all at once -- while Will Champion propelled the music with metronomic precision and dynamic fury, living up to what may be the coolest drummer's name in rock history.

Then, of course, there was Martin. He hunched over his black upright piano as if crushed by the weight of his emotions. He flirted with his female fans as he caressed his acoustic guitar. He did awkward but endearing twirls as he danced around Metro's cramped stage, and he dared to let his voice soar to a falsetto that could have been disastrous but which succeeded in taking his best songs to a whole other level.

It is easy to see what Gwyneth and so many others love