|Coldplay Live 2003|
|Written by Dan Macintosh|
|Tuesday, 04 November 2003|
Coldplay live is not all that different from the recorded presentation of this band, because it is rarely ever visually stimulating, nor does it stretch out much in concert – like jam bands do, for example – to give its songs new more spontaneous audio/visual contexts to consider. Therefore, if you enjoy the group’s two studio releases (“Parachutes” and “A Rush of Blood to the Head”), this Sidney, Australia concert video will give you the Coldplay you already know and love, albeit with extra added rabid applause.
This is a four-piece group from England, but you might never gather such information from watching it perform in concert. Instead, it appears more like the (singer) Chris Martin show. Granted, singers are invariably the main focal points of most rock bands, but many truly great rock ‘n’ roll bands also have guitarists who contribute significantly to the artistic mix. In the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger has his Keith Richards, and in U2, Bono has an Edge. Even Radiohead, a band Coldplay often gets compared to, contains guitarists Ed O’Brian and Jonny Greenwood to add musical color to Thom Yorke’s heavy lyrical creations. Whether Martin is hovering and bouncing over a keyboard or strumming an acoustic guitar here, all eyes are always on him. Jon Buckland is his guitarist, by the way, but there is absolutely nil interplay between Buckland and Martin onstage.
The show begins with “Politik,” which is also the track that opens the new A Rush of Blood to the Head album. It applies the effective usage of strobe lights shooting back and forth across the stage to give the visual effect of flashpoint explosions going off all around the band. It’s both dizzying and troubling at the same time. Lighting also enhances the pleasures of this show when the band gets to its first big hit, “Yellow,” by bathing the group in glowing yellow light. The same can be said for the blood-red illumination of “God Put a Smile upon Your Face.” But as memorable as these electric light assistances are, they also point out what colorless performers the members of Coldplay truly are. At times, the screen changes from color to black and white, and Coldplay, unfortunately, clearly belongs in the second of those two color-choice categories.
On the plus side, this band’s saving grace is its innate ability to create memorable melodies. Songs like “The Scientist” are just so irresistible that they make the listener want to close his/her eyes and just get lost in the moment, even though this is meant to be a visual document. Upping the ante, Martin is also a convincing seller of his own songs. He can come off a little like a pouter at times, it’s true, but his brand of melancholy is oddly comforting rather than depressing. In other words, you can’t help but believe that he feels your pain. It’s not by coincidence that a piano is Martin’s instrument of choice, since Coldplay is little more than a modern rock band equivalent to a ‘70s singer-songwriter. This analogy goes a long way in explaining why there are so many teenage Australian girls gazing longingly up at Martin whenever he sings here.
This set also includes a 40-minute behind-the-scenes feature that documents the group’s recent world tour. It also highlights how such promotional devices have long since outlived their welcome. How many more times do we really need to see haggard and restless rock ‘n’ rollers stumbling from town to town? We all know by now that life offstage is not nearly as glamorous as the two hours created by bands onstage. But if you truly need to view these Brits as they learn American geography, for example, or try to communicate with those speaking languages other than their own, such predictable scenes are included in abundance here.
Nevertheless, this documentary is not entirely worthless. One scene in particular goes inside the group’s show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre during a torrential downpour. Despite these adverse weather conditions, Martin’s enthusiasm cannot be quenched since he says at one point that it was 20 years ago that U2 performed and recorded an historic album here. Martin is obviously in awe of U2’s legacy and seems to want to have that same kind of an effect upon the current popular culture. The band carries off its live duties like real troupers in Denver, and appears to play its heart out before these wet-but-satisfied fans. This section also includes a scene where a fan is trying desperately to get with the group backstage. Apparently, rain doesn’t deter some really dedicated stalkers, either. There are also a few scenes with Martin being interviewed (on the tour bus, no less) by Robert Hilburn of the L.A. Times, as well as shots of the band at the Hollywood House of Blues and the Hollywood Bowl. Martin and band are also amazed by the Bowl, just they way they are by Red Rocks. Ten years from now, these locales will just be a few more stops on yet another long tour. But for now, at least, it’s fun to look in on the band’s youthful enthusiasm.
Along with this DVD, buyers also get a live CD to go along with it. It’s a smart package, as when you pull the audio slot from the bottom, the visual holder pokes out of the top. Live DVDs are especially desirable for those who haven’t seen a new act live yet. But live albums, on the other hand, should probably be reserved for groups with more than just two albums under their belts. So if you really need to take the audio portion of this visual experience on the road with you, you’ve been accommodated nicely.
“Coldplay Live 2003” presents a band that has made two important albums during its quest to become one of today’s most important bands. If the group can create a few more albums like its first two, it will assure itself of a large social/musical stature. No matter what happens next, this is a stylish presentation of what the group is like, both onstage and off. As a live DVD, it doesn’t stand alone on its own merit -- the way, say, U2 was able to so assuredly do with “Under a Blood Red Sky” – but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, either.