Concert review: Inspiration and showmanship elevate Coldplay’s live show

Chris Martin performs with his band Coldplay at T-Mobile Arena on September 1, 2016.
Photo: Courtesy
Jason Harris

Four stars

Coldplay September 1, T-Mobile Arena

Right away, the spectacle began. As Coldplay hit the stage Thursday night, the lights went dark and T-Mobile Arena was entirely lit up by thousands of blinking bracelets. Each audience member was given one, so depending on the song, everyone either had the same color flashing in unison or alternating colors, the latter creating an impressive, organized mob of party lights.

While opening salvo “A Head Full of Dreams” was still being performed, the night’s first confetti blast rained on top of the ecstatic crowd. Yes, from the first minute of Coldplay’s first public headlining concert here in eight years, it was clear—this night was as much about showmanship as it was about the show.

A lesser band would have—as many have—gotten lost in the effects, its music becoming secondary to everything happening around it. But what makes Chris Martin and company so impressive live is that all the hoopla surrounding the music just enhanced the overall experience. Coldplay is good enough that the bells and whistles serve their exact purpose: complementing the English foursome's nifty pop constructions, to which seemingly everyone in the building wanted to sing along.

Martin gave the adoring fans their chance early on as the band launched into “Yellow,” the song that turned them from a band to watch to one of the biggest bands in the world. From there it was “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,” perhaps the best example of just how influenced these pop-rockers are by the masters of the genre, U2. As Jonny Buckland’s guitar cut through the air, one could imagine Bono onstage, leading the crowd in a melodic harmony with The Edge playing behind him.

Speaking of hits, “The Scientist” followed, the piano-driven ballad giving Martin his Bono moment as he led the audience in falsetto chants, then ending the song with a verse of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a touching memorial to the recently departed actor Gene Wilder.

This was not the only tribute of the night. Late in the main set, Coldplay performed David Bowie's “Heroes," with all the colorful theatrics of the evening undoubtedly inspired by the Bowie playbook. Martin also gave love to Las Vegas’s biggest band as he sung a snippet of The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” at the end of "See You Soon."

That song was played on the C stage, which stood perched in a back section of the venue, engulfed by rows of the audience. Which means there was also an A stage and a B stage, the former featuring a typical main-stage setup where most of the hits were performed (“Clocks,” “Fix You,” “Viva la Vida”), and the latter comprising a circular platform that the band reached by way of a huge, illuminated walkway.

“We’ll give you the best show of our lives," Martin said early in the show. By the end, I believed that might be true—and that Coldplay could accomplish just about anything else it desired.

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