Coldplay launched their A Head Full Of Dreams Tour this year in Latin America at the end of March and on September 3, 2016 brought the spectacle to our 49ers (Levi’s) stadium in Santa Clara, south of San Francisco. It was an amazing night of lights, confetti, stagecraft, and music, courtesy of Chris Martin and band. The event marks the group’s seventh full-length tour. Their popularity has grown to the point where they can fill massive stadiums with adoring fans, fans like me.
Followers of Coldplay take no issue with their often-sentimental lyrics and heartfelt delivery by heartthrob Martin. I’ve read some number of critics who are dismissive of this band and their music exclaiming, “There’s no crying in a rock concert!”. Fair enough, Coldplay’s songs veer towards “adult contemporary,” with few gritty guitar licks, in favor of acoustic guitar and piano. Martin’s heartfelt vocals themselves express a seeking and yearning; lyrics plumb romantic topics of love gained and lost, of self-discovery and change. This is, after all the man who very publicly decided to undergo a “conscience uncoupling” with ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow, then penned a song called “Fun” featuring the lyrical refrain “Didn’t we have fun” to honor what they had together. Very adult. For an older example, from X&Y (2005) take concert favorite “Fix You” and the lyrics
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Those receptive to emotional import can find no better example of an act capable of delivering this kind of material with unabashed reverence. At this most recent show, Martin sang the first half of this staple “Fix You” on the stage walk, lying on his back, and you could hear thousands of young girls, and guys, but yeah, more girls, providing a sweet chorus for the band.
The payoff to all of this, when one is open-minded, is that the music and the band’s delivery can evoke strong emotions and even lead to transcendent moments of peace and inspiration. The messages are strong, the poetry is very well written, the delivery is exciting, and the music is beautifully played in concert. The sometimes overlooked band mates, including guitarist Jonathan Mark Buckland, bass player Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion have each grown in ability and technique over the years and make a fine ensemble. The band also considered “creative director” Phil Harvey a fifth member of the group.
The set list this time out covered the breadth of their many albums, including a handful of tracks from the new album, but also their first hit “Yellow” and “Don’t Panic” from their debut, Parachutes (2000), still my favorite. One of the new ones, played on the b-stage, “Everglow” led to a moving video tribute to Mohammed Ali, followed later by a nod to David Bowie with the cover “Life on Mars” performed with the Oakland School for the Arts choir, who also joined for final encore “Up&Up.” These were nice touches that kept interest high through the buoyant 23-song set.
The tour features design by Misty Buckley, deployed by Stageco Staging Group, just as with this year’s performance at the Super Bowl 50 Halftime show. The gear includes risers, a catwalk, lights and screens that fill 12 big rigs; it’s exceptional staging. Bursts of confetti shaped like stars and butterflies (yes, that’s right!) rain down from above while Martin sprints and spins from the main stage to the mid-stadium mini-stage, plying his trademark athletic performance. Martin draws the crowd in, encouraging all to sing along, playing a number of tracks with the band from the b-stage at the far end of the stadium, and popping up near the end of the show on a third stage, far to the rear and side, which along with cloud shaped projection screens, gave even those in the “nose bleed” seats a view. All the while, every audience member was given a wristband that lit up in sync with the songs, turning Levi’s Stadium into a sea of colored lights – no cigarette lighters for this crowd! It’s all part of an inclusive celebratory night of uplifting music and dance, with at least of bit of grit in parts to go with the butterflies, and yeah, a tear or two, or buckets…depends on you.