AMD Stage -- Austin City Limits
September 16, 2011
Better than: waiting for Coldplay to release a Greatest Hits album.
It would be a pretty hipster thing to say that the Coldplay show at Austin City Limits Music Festival on Friday was cheesy and overly sincere. But you won't actually hear that. Because all the hipsters were on the other end of the Zilker Park with Kanye West.
Sure, Coldplay's music expertly draws out the emotional side of college co-eds, but, aside from popular hipster belief, there is more to the band than aiming to pull at the heartstrings of fans. Nonetheless, their 2011 ACL performance, rather than featuring cuts from their forthcoming record, Mylo Xyloto, found the band pandering to the crowd. They played material from four different albums over the course of their first five songs.
The whole show was very much a greatest hits performance.
You've got to believe that they're tired of playing some of the old songs, though. You could hear that much, actually, in the changed arrangements and the improvised lyrics on more than a few songs -- like in "God Put A Smile On My Face," when Chris Martin sang "make some noise if you're having a good time."
The crowd roared in return, as if following some unwritten concert etiquette that says when the lead singer says anything, you cheer, no questions asked. But Martin and Company knew what they were doing. This was a crowd that needed help. It was only capable of focusing on the band when they were playing one of their huge past hits. So, that's what the band focused on.
Every once in a while they'd play some songs from the new record, but they were hard to hear for all the chatter in the crowd. So, Coldplay kept it simple and stuck with the singles.
"Yellow," surprisingly, was the second song of the night. Soon after came "Lost" from Viva La Vida, and then "The Scientist."
In addition to playing choice selections from a huge stable of hits, the band used some tricks that they've clearly picked up along the way. One of Coldplay's early influences was The Flaming Lips and in a very Lips like fashion, they dropped hundreds of balloons into the crowd a few songs in.
Later, during the encore on "Fix You," which Martin introduced with a modified version of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," Martin took a note from Bono and ran through the divider in the center of the crowd and climbed the scaffolding at the sound booth.
But all of the energy was overshadowed by the fact that Coldplay has been reduced to the role of a babysitter, working tirelessly to maintain the crowd's fleeting attention. Nevermind that Coldplay has a new record coming out and that a massive festival might be a good time to test out some of the new songs. "Clocks" is all this crowd cared to hear, and Coldplay was happy to play it.
But that wasn't the highlight of the set. That came with "Viva La Vida," a triumphant success thanks to the crowd's singing and dancing.
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The band still has something. Their cinematic songs connect with huge audiences.
Sound like a certain Canadian band you might know?
Random Note: Kanye's bass could be heard during the mellow lulls in Coldplay's set.
Random Note #2: Never seen so many people making out at a concert before
By The Way: Martin acknowledged Coldplay's core audience with this improvised lyric on "Everything's Not Lost": "You can feel it in your chest, when your girlfriend wants to watch Coldplay, and all the boys want to watch Kanye West."