Confetti paper butterflies. Giant yellow beach balls (dropped during "Yellow" — get it?). Super high-definition live video. Friday's opening night of the last leg of Coldplay's Viva La Vida tour in West Palm Beach was an Olympics-esque spectacle, complete with five orbs dangling over the band's heads that served as screens for more state-of-the-art camera work.
Coldplay are playing big sheds for this summer stretch — about 16,000 fans filled the Cruzan Amphitheater — and, despite their sad songs, grand gestures suit them. The quartet, dressed in their Sgt. Pepperesque jackets, want nothing more than to please. That's why they twice made excursions to small ancillary stages in the middle of the venue, to show their "respect for the lawn," as Chris Martin said in one of his many shiny, hammy comments (someone hire him a script doctor). He then choreographed the audience to hold up their lighted cell phones and perform what he called "the first ever Mexican phone wave," before leading the band into an acoustic cover of the Monkees' "I'm a Believer." Believe.
One doesn't go to a Coldplay show expecting shock rock or even anything more mildly challenging than having to commiserate with Martin over his bad haircut. With Martin's piano riffs and falsetto croon, the band stops just shy of being alt-rock's answer to smooth jazz. Their music is almost unnervingly tight; Jon Buckland's Edge-walking leads rang out in the kind of perfect stage mix you rarely get at shed shows. They played long — almost two hours — and they played well, hitting all the bright spots of their catalog (though changing the song selection little from their earlier U.S. leg). "The Scientist" has been moved to an encore position, Will Champion's high-hat fillip creating just the right dramatic tension. The butterflies rained down during "Lovers in Japan." Gwyneth Paltrow was standing center front (not out in the lawn), singing along with hubby Martin. Given how eager Coldplay are to please, they made a serious misstep with the distribution of free CDs that they touted would be available after the show. A few people handed out woefully insufficient quantities of LeftRightLeftRightLeft at only one of Cruzan's exits, causing Coldplay's heretofore-happy, polite fans to get ugly. (A more raucous crowd would have rioted or at least trampled someone for good measure.) Presumably, the band will have this sorted out at future dates — or they'll just decide everyone who cares will have downloaded LRLRL already and give up on the idea (which Martin claimed as the band's own original concept, even though Prince did it years ago).
Pete Yorn played before Coldplay, performing angsty ballads from his recent CD Back and Fourth. While Coldplay are practiced entertainers who know how to play to every corner, Yorn and his five-piece band with their earnest, indie songs sounded dwarfed by the venue. It's nothing that a million or so bucks in audio and video technology and a movie-star wife couldn't cure.
"Life In Technicolor"
"In My Place"
"Glass Of Water"
"Cemeteries Of London"
"God Put A Smile Upon Your Face"
"The Hardest Part"
"Postcards From Far Away"
"Viva La Vida"
"Death Will Never Conquer"
"I'm A Believer"
"Lovers In Japan"
"Death And All His Friends"
"Life in Technicolor 2"
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