September 25, 2009
Live review: Coldplay/Jay-Z
Inviting his hip-hop megastar mate to warm things up was always going to be a risky game
Recessions make people act out of character; party animals won’t socialise at all while board game enthusiasts spend nights eternally pub-crawling. Others, like the fifty-something woman stood in front of NME tonight, will spend £50 on a Coldplay ticket and then indecently expose themselves by urinating in a pint glass in public. The ‘camouflage’ bit of her camouflage jacket isn’t doing what it should, and we don’t know what to think. Not a typical Coldplay fan, right? Right. But this isn’t a typical Coldplay gig; one of hip-hop’s strongest contenders is tonight supporting Britain’s most confusingly popular rock band.
Of course, Noel Gallagher insisted Jay-Z and guitar music couldn’t grace the same stage or ignite the same audience. Yet, just over a year later, the rapper is playing to a sell-out Coldplay crowd in the Oasis departee’s hometown – and what’s more, he’s winning with ease. While Coldplay insist on dressing like toy soldiers, Jay-Z strides onstage like a rock star, sporting shades and studded leather jacket. Sure, his confident Brooklyn drawl, as ever, suggests he could afford more gold toilets than we could Wispa Golds, but that doesn’t stop all 50,000 of us feeling like a collective of superstars when the thud of bass-heavy ‘99 Problems’ kicks in.
It’s a happy reception, but this crowd aren’t easy to work out, as exemplified by Madame Public Urination as she proceeds to drink her own freshly brewed export. Yep, really. As security drag her out by the arms, we wonder how the excitement of American hip-hop could summon up such English madness. We also feel obliged to point the OAP holding binoculars in the direction of the opera but, alas, his feet are tapping as the words “Rap critics that say he’s ‘Money Cash Hoes’/I’m from the hood, stupid, what type of facts are those?” blast out at mighty volume. Superfans wearing replica Coldplay army get-up, who you might have thought only knew Jigga from collaborations ‘Lost’ and ‘Beach Chair’, are in fact singing his back catalogue word for word. Iconic images of Muhammad Ali, JFK and Nirvana set the scene for ‘U Don’t Know’ and the soulful ‘Heart Of The City (Ain’t No Love)’. Rihanna’s vocals introduce ‘Run This Town’ and the crowd divide for group vocals on ‘Jigga What, Jigga Who’. But it’s ‘Encore’ which allows the rapper to be on top of his game tonight – even to a wall of guitar-loving Mancunians who apparently consider Chris Martin a stadium god.
And away he goes… sprinting from corner to corner like a hyperactive child, Martin and co have blown budgets on fireworks and giant yellow balloons which, in predictably cheesy fashion, float out during the soppiness of ‘Yellow’, which is then turned into a comedy X Factor skit. Fair enough, Coldplay do take the piss out of themselves, but Simon Cowell’s pink, smug face on a half a dozen TV screens cancels out any empathy. Mass singalongs are encouraged for ‘Clocks’, ‘Fix You’ and ‘Trouble’ and if said hits weren’t so debilitating to the soul, maybe we wouldn’t feel as hollow as a Songs Of Praise special for atheists. ‘Violet Hill’, ‘Viva La Vida’, the piano stirrings of ‘Politik’ and a (rubbish) acoustic ‘Billie Jean’ don’t muster up anything near the adrenaline caused by Jigga. Before he bursts into the rom-com-perfected ‘The Scientist’, Martin declares, “I think this is the only time we’ve ever had to play after someone who’s had about 10 more Number Ones than us!”
And with that, a line-up born out of mutual respect for different genres has no doubt opened up new sounds to die-hard fans. If, even in the credit crunch, the average listener clearly still values live music as an essential pleasure, no matter what the support, well, we can all take comfort in that – even if we have to sit through Coldplay to do so.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday