Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Coldplay put a smile upon my face

I found this image at Patch.com
Last night Jennifer and I went to the Philips Arena to see Coldplay.  (Read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution review here.) I have previously blogged about my interest in this great band and I bemoaned the fact that I missed them last year at the return of Music Mid-town to Atlanta.

No matter.  All is forgiven by one of the best live concert appearances I have seen...well...ever.  It sounds silly and naive to say stuff like that.  My daughter is spoiled rotten.  She is young so she has little context for seeing and hearing something extraordinary.

On the other hand, you can appreciate the extraordinary in itself even if you are very young.  My daughter and her friends were all beaming and excited afterwards.  They loved the show and had bright eyes, smiles on their faces.  It was a sell out (about 21,000).  The crowd was totally in to it and sang along with all the lyrics.  Coldplay's fan base is truly fanatical in enormous numbers.  Oh yeah, and the music was inspirational fun very well-styled.

Few bands can generate the intensity and generosity of energy and sustain it so tirelessly through over 90 minutes of performance.  Coldplay was not perfect last night in their performance.  I have seen them do better live versions of certain songs on my Vevo App.  But, overall, it is quite amazing how well they execute live musically.

One of the many highlights for Jennifer and me was the bracelets we were given when we arrived.  We talked about them before the concert, wondering what they were for.  On a half-inch wide band was printed "ColdplayFilm" in the group's special font.  (Lots of videoing going on last night.  Maybe a video of the tour coming out in the future?)  On the other side was the Twitter logo, probably sponsoring the mysterious handout.

Mine was, appropriately for Coldplay, a yellow band.  But there were others: pink, blue, white, and green.  Fastened to the band was something that looked kind of like a cheap digital watch.  Only there was no facing on it.  It was just sitting there.  No buttons to press.  Nothing.  There were four small screws underneath where you could take it apart.  It did not otherwise open.  My own special monolith like in 2001.

Clues were provided about 20 minutes before the show began.  On the five large circular video screens suspended from the ceiling of the arena, instructions were given in the Coldplay font.  "Please put on your wristband...It is part of the show."  This was followed by a funny but cliche standard four-step illustrated instruction on how to fasten the bracelet to your wrist.  Repeat the instructions.  Apparently everyone complied, I know I blindly did.

Coldplay opened with "Hurts Like Heaven" to the large and revved-up audience, the lights went dark and almost immediately probably 15,000 of these bracelets (I have no idea how many they gave away, not everyone had one) lit up and vibrated and pulsed in various programmed ways controlled by some singular technician.  Turns out there were six small LED lites stitched into the thick wristband canvas.  Maybe 100,000 little lights.

The results were truly spectacular.  From our seats we looked out into the expanse of the Philips Arena and it was filled with these colored bracelets, like rock and roll starlight.  All grooving and moving in a thousand different ways.  The music was great, the crowd was ready and roaring.  It was a magical moment.  We all gaped.

I took the afternoon off work to go to Atlanta for the concert.  We got down there before the 5pm business traffic hit, had a nice dinner at Mary Mac's, and checked a few neighborhood shops.  Traffic was terrible near the arena and it took forever to get in and out of there. 


At any rate, before I left work for the day I sent out a "A Short Coldplay Concert Mix" email to my three employees.  They had all left for lunch and I sent it last thing before I left.  I include it next in this blog because I can save myself some typing for what I want to share with you.

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So, OK not trying to be pushy or anything here.  I’ll share with you a bit about this concert I am going to with my wife and daughter, her best friend and their boyfriends tonight.  If you don’t care for any of this, no biggie.  But, I encourage you to at least watch the Viva La Vida clip. (Sorry about the stupid ads in youtube.)

Tonya isn’t as familiar with Coldplay.  So, this is an introduction.  For Lisa and Leani, this is kinda why they are my favorite contemporary band.  There have been greater rock bands but no one is better than Coldplay in this moment.  Somewhat surprisingly in this day and age of cranking out the albums to bring in the bucks, Coldplay has produced only 5 studio albums and 1 live album since their first release in 2000.

Some cool (I think so anyway) facts…
  • Even though Chris Martin is a huge, strong talent (like Sting was with The Police) the band shares all revenues equally.
  • The band has a contract that no member can do “hard drugs” under penalty of banishment from the group.
  • Even though it may not sound that way (and this isn’t a main reason for me liking them – I just think it is interesting), there are many examples of Christian influence in their lyrics and songs.  Songs such as “Moses”, “God Put a Smile on Your Face”, “Hurts Like Heaven”, etc.  “Viva La Vida” has lines regarding “Missionaries in a foreign field” and “I know St. Peter won’t call my name…”
All of these video clips are from a terrific concert they performed worldwide live on the Internet last October from Madrid.  The whole concert is like one big sing-along…oh yeah, and it was raining most of the time…

Viva La Vida…my daughter thought it would be uncool to go to a concert with her parents….until I showed her this…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ldOuVuas1c

The Scientist…my favorite Coldplay song…it has a lot of angst in it…gives them their “edge” though…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLm_aSP369M

Yellow was their first hit back in 2000 and shows their Alt Rock origins…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRP72Ib2e9I

This is a *wild* version of God Put a Smile on Your Face….watch for the Townshend-esque guitar slam at the end…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHAdbn2e_QQ

Their most recent hit is Every Teardrop is a Waterfall…this is the finale on their tour playlist in Atlanta as it was in Madrid…watch for the drummer playing the acoustic guitar and switch back to drums…good back-up vocals too, he is a workhorse, great talent…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGLwhTQsxUw

There is no such thing as a “bad” Coldplay song…I am going because Coldplay makes me feel good…I plan to get there early and have a couple of beers…of course…See y'all on the backside of the Fourth.  Have a great one.

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I'll share one other small thing from the concert.  The band performed an extended encore which was in two parts.  When they first came back out to play - after the usual several minutes of non-stop cheering, facilitated this time by vibrant, rock and roll starlight - they did not return to the main stage.  Instead they surprised us by coming out on a tiny, maybe 15-foot stage that had been set up over a few seats opposite the arena stage. 

In other words, they performed the first part of their encore cramped together on a platform smaller than most Atlanta clubs would offer their bands.  No room to jump around, tightly packed, the band did their thing in close quarters actually in amongst the crowd, giving people who had paid mega-bucks to sit hundreds of feet away from the stage a chance to see them up close. 

During this time, the band was not carried by Chris Martin's insatiable energy but rather by the drummer, Will Champion on keyboards (he also plays guitar) and (a rarity) lead vocals.  A very nice treat before they all ran through the floor crowd (with heavy security, of course) back to the main stage to powerfully wrap things up.

It is no exaggeration to say these songs were performed pretty much as you can see them in the links above.  Only it was live, a feast for eye and ear, tangibly electric...and instead of fireworks at the end (we were indoors after all) there were other great effects including the starlight bracelets.

This concert is with me today, the day after, and it will stay with me for a long time.  With any luck at all, I will think back upon it with delight for many years, just as I think back fondly now upon on some college-day concerts.  The energy of thousands singing along, the energy of the band loudly rocking through one great tune after another, the energy of all the special concert effects - all of it coalesces in my memory and, well, puts a smile on my face.

Late Note:  It turns out the LED wristbands given out during the concert are called Xylobands - after than the name of the tour. A technical view of them can be found here.  The end result can be seen here.  Luckily, I did not get OCD about finding tour videos on youtube before the concert in Atlanta.  So, the xylobands were a surprise.  A wonderful surprise.

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