(This review was originally published on July 12, 2012 at Reel Film News.)
Having it can make you the greatest entertainer, while the lack of it can make you the worst. It’s what some people have naturally, while others need to rely on gimmickry and unnecessary antics to maintain their prominence in the spotlight. Thankfully, Coldplay firmly belong in the former category, while bringing just enough technological gimmickry to enhance their already stellar and enthusiastic live shows. Their latest album, Mylo Xyloto, is a firm departure from the organic-sounding nature of their previous four albums; we got a slight taste of it from their title track of their previous album, Viva la Vida or Death and All of his Friends, with layers of strings, synthesizer tracks, programmed drum tracks and some very nonstandard guitar work. Mylo Xyloto features lots of different soundscapes and new ideas, and their resulting tour is an outstanding in-the-flesh representation of this work.
Critics and fans alike decried their sonic departure from the guitar-oriented rock into synth-pop, saying that Mylo Xyloto no longer sounded like Coldplay, but rather one of frontman Chris Martin’s solo projects. While that concern is not unfounded, the live show more than makes up for it and brings every track up to their brand of exciting rock. They are obviously trying to recall shades of ‘80s synth-pop on much of these tracks; the crushed and distorted drums of songs like “Major Minus”, “Paradise”, and “Hurts Like Heaven” combined with ‘80s keyboards definitely bring to mind other Brit-pop hits from that era. However, the Mylo Xyloto Tour gives us full drums by Will Champion and raucous guitar work by Jonny Buckland, embroidering the live performances of these songs with energy and a rough idea as to how these songs must have sounded before studio gloss was applied to the album.
Kicking things off with Alan Silvestri’s recognizable, trumpet-filled fanfare from the film Back to the Future as their entrance music, Coldplay launched straight into a 110-minute demonstration of why they are considered by many to be the best band in the business. As the Xylobands (radio-controlled wristbands with LED lights in them that were given to the audience) lit up the stadium and the stage lights glowed blue, they played the first two tracks off of Mylo Xyloto – the title instrumental (which also serves as a recurring theme throughout the album) and “Hurts Like Heaven” with a crowd-rocking energy that didn’t let up for most of the night. Martin and Buckland danced all over the stage (extended by a walkway terminating in a red light-rimmed X, known as their B-stage), and encouraged the audience with their smiles and their music; Martin was sure to compliment the crowd on their intensity several times, promising that if we gave them our all, they would, in turn, “play the best f**kin’ show we’ve ever played.” They followed through on that promise, with a momentary breathing point coming when they went to the B-stage to play synth-driven songs “Princess of China” (complete with a video appearance by co-singer Rihanna) and “Up In Flames”. Allowing this rest at the halfway point of the show also let us see the humorous side of Chris Martin, as he goofed up on an acoustic version of “Warning Sign” and bemoaned the fact that the gaffe would now be on YouTube…
Playing 12 out of 14 songs from Mylo Xyloto (including three instrumental introductions that lead to the corresponding songs on the record), the other 11 songs were a welcome mix of older material, with “Yellow” being the only song played off of their debut Parachutes; “In My Place”, “The Scientist”, “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face”, “Clocks”, and “Warning Sign” made appearances from A Rush of Blood to the Head; “Speed of Sound” and “Fix You” were the only representatives from X&Y; with the remainder – “Lovers In Japan”, “Violet Hill”, and “Viva la Vida” being from Viva La Vida… The sonic balance between the back catalogue and Mylo Xyloto was maintained by the fact that they made each of the Mylo Xyloto songs sound just as good and full. Will Champion’s solid drums on “Major Minus” breathed a new life into the song, while his laid-back approach to the synthesized drums brought a heavy thoughtfulness to new favorite “Up In Flames”.
Like any group, Coldplay has its fair share of fans and detractors. While their music may not appeal to everyone’s tastes, their live show is an important must on any music lover’s to-do list. With the audience captivated and their singing almost drowning out the amplified voice of one man on stage, Coldplay manages to be sonically, melodically and aesthetically exciting enough to please anyone. The light and laser show only serves to enhance the songs and never takes away from them; the Xylobands further involve the crowd and leave them roaring for more. When The Mylo Xyloto Tour swings around again, be sure to catch it.
FINAL GRADE: A+
(Back to the Future overture)
Mylo Xyloto (instrumental intro) / Hurts Like Heaven
In My Place
Lovers in Japan
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
Princess of China (B-stage)
Up In Flames (B-stage)
Warning Sign (B-stage)
A Hopeful Transmission (instrumental intro) / Don’t Let It Break Your Heart
Viva La Vida
Us Against The World (C-stage)
Speed of Sound (C-stage)
M.M.I.X. (instrumental intro) / Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall