Thursday, October 23, 2008

Coldplay Concert: Why being commercial darlings isn't necessarily a bad thing

This week we say the Coldplay concert in Ottawa, and it was incredible.

The band has always been a little special to me, since I initially discovered them during a trip to Italy in 1999. It was a full year before they hit Canadian shores, so I got to look cool by being "the first to know" about them. ;-)

Nonetheless, I was immediately struck by their semblance to another famous British band, Radiohead, who at the time was going off on a fascinating but... err... artistic tangent. Compare "Yellow" (Coldplay, 1999) to "Fake Plastic Trees" (Radiohead, 1995), featuring underfed, sensitive blonde Brit boys falsettoing to mellow music with periodic swells of guitars. Listen for the similar sound between the two.

But from there, Coldplay went more commercial, and Radiohead went more artsy. Radiohead artistically evolved past their old sound, but Coldplay copied that sound and made it more audience/radio-friendly. Coldplay is the Phil Collins to Radiohead's Peter Gabriel.

Now, being the artistic snob that I am, I would normally consider this to be a point entirely in favour of Radiohead. I fully expected Radiohead's concert back in August to thusly be a superior show to Coldplay's. Because, surely, artistic merit of the music is the only important factor to consider in evaluating a concert, right?


Yes, Coldplay has a musical formula, and yes, it's literock pablum, but those boys put on one hell of a show. They told stories, interacted with each other and the audience, and seemed wholly grateful to be there. Basically, their stage presence was a perfect balance between star power and regular-guy-dom. The song choices were ideal, and encouraged audience singalongs. Their encores were ingenious. The lights were spectacular, and even included a song where millions of multicoloured paper butterflies were rained down over the entire audience. My only regret regarding that concert was not going stoned.

The moral of the story is, therefore, that artistic merit of music and enjoyability of a concert are not necessarily linked. While I should have understood this from when I saw Nickelback live (great show, but lukewarm about the music), Coldplay made the point fully sink in. And while I am in no hurry to purchase their next album, you can bet I'll be first in line to get tickets when Coldplay hits Ottawa again.

Who knew? :-)


Anonymous said...

Anybody who likes Coldplay will be more than happy to admit, they they love their B-sides most of all. Anybody who hates Coldplay, should get their B-sides and get a whole new appreciation of how good they can be. Anybody who goes to a Nickelback concert, shouldn't be reviewing..err....anyone?

Just kidding.:) Thanks for the review. :)

Karla said...

Haha, no really, it wasn't Nickelback I was wanting to see -- they were opening for The Stones when I saw them in NZ. ^_^

B-sides sound worthy of checking out, thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Dang, even Nickelback would sound great in NZ..that's not fair! ;)