July 2, 2008
Carling Brixton Academy, London, (June 17)
It’s tedious to keep talking about Coldplay’s tedium, when even the broadsheets and the most conservative of parents are casting them off, when even they start calling themselves bland. Really, though, they don’t give you a lot else to go on. Even the French Revolution get-up they bounce onstage in tonight seems like an ironic comment. What would be the do-or-die principles in Coldplay’s cultural coup? After all, no-one’s going to take lectures in fair trade and carbon efficiency from a man who’s recently taken Steve Jobs’ dollar to prance about like an MOR Gandalf in a field of luminescent smoke and nonsense.
Hence why it’s unfair to compare Coldplay to U2. For all their sins, Bono’s boys at their Brian Eno-produced peak really did strive for the transcendent. And yes, it got embarassing, but how much more weary is Coldplay’s tasteful restraint? Only a band with a comprehensive lack of scope, ideas or idiosyncracy could be produced by Eno and end up sounding so flat.
Sure, they can pen a great melody, but few get an airing tonight. There’s no ‘The Scientist’, surely the most lovely of their songs, and no drivetime-pleasant ‘Speed Of Sound’ or ‘Talk’ from the now-rejected ‘X&Y’ (though the mawkish ‘Fix You’ is present). Instead we’re left floundering in the doldrums of ‘Violet Hill’ and ‘Lovers In Japan’.
Their strongest songs are still the simplest ones, so it’s a shame when Martin blows ‘Yellow’, probably the sweetest tune he’ll ever write, on a novelty ‘acoustic interlude’ from the balcony that renders the song weak and a quarter of the audience unable to see him. The strongest of the new tracks are the sultry shuffle of ‘Lost!’ and the almost-but-not-quite-epic surge of ‘Viva La Vida’, but you’d still happily curtail them two-thirds of the way through. For all Martin’s impassioned, need-a-slash writhing, there’s no real connection in the choruses, no rush in the dynamics. Maybe it’s just our wizened heart, but the most thrilling point of the evening is the tricolour-butterfly confetti canon at the end.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to work up any real anger: Coldplay commit no real sin, except omission. They’re just there; like concrete or cornflakes, part of the everyday fabric of mundanity rather than something to lift you above it. As Martin asks, on the monotonous ‘Clocks’, “am I a part of the cure, or a part of the disease?” the answer is emphatically clear in our minds.
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