With Alessia Cara
AT&T Stadium, Arlington
Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016
Minutes into Coldplay’s set Saturday night at a sold-out AT&T Stadium, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin looked like a man who had already put in a hard night’s work. Drenched in sweat and adorned with a few strands of the thousands of pieces of confetti that greeted the band’s opening number, Martin paused, took stock of the mass of humanity staring back at him and provided a warm welcome.
“Tonight is our 51st show of the tour," Martin said, "and as far as I’m concerned the previous 50 have all just been dress rehearsals for tonight in Texas.” A bit trite, perhaps, but by night’s end it was hard to argue. The band — Martin, guitarist Johnny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer and multi-instrumentalist Will Champion (whom Martin referred to as the band’s “Swiss Army Knife”) appeared to leave it all out on the field and the adoring crowd greeted them with unadorned fervor and affection.
If he hasn’t already done so, Martin would be wise to add a FitBit to his various wrist adornments. He would undoubtedly reach his fitness goals early and often. For the majority of the set, he rushed around the stage with the maniacal enthusiasm of an elementary school kid leaving the front doors on the last day of school.
Lyrics were belted out from a variety of positions: laying flat on his back for the opening verses of “Fix You,” pounding the piano with brutal emphasis on “The Scientist” and ending a few numbers with a dizzying display of acrobatics that would’ve sent more timid performers plunging several rows into the audience. Several times, Martin sprinted the length of the main stage’s catwalk with the speed and precision of a Cowboys wide receiver hightailing it after a Tony Romo — sorry, Dak Prescott — flea flicker.
Coldplay would not have ascended to the stratosphere they occupy (their current tour has already grossed a staggering $144 million and counting, and virtually everyone in the AT&T had some newly purchased merchandise) without mastering the art of crowd pleasing. Fighting through a couple of the acoustical glitches that have forever plagued live music in this cavernous location, the band flexed a surprising amount of musical muscle and dexterity. Alternating between good mixes of rousing stadium anthems like “Yellow,” “Clocks” and “When I Ruled the World,” which were tailor-made for these environments, and gentle ballads, their evening’s repertoire had a little something for both the longtime die-hards and those newer to the scene — like, say, a couple of the confused looking dads urged to stand by their overzealous wives and daughters.
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However, it was Martin’s banter and stage presence that really stood out. Throughout the two-hour set, he repeatedly channeled Lone Star pride: shouting out the Cowboys, playfully referencing our staggering summer heat and performing much of the show with the Texas flag tucked into his back pocket. Rather than coming across as stilted or forced, there was an honest feel to his words that felt less like pandering and more like genuine appreciation and reverence. Heck, he even spoke right to peoples’ hearts by thanking them for enduring traffic gridlock and exorbitant ticket prices in order to be there.
Martin’s comments also poignantly resonated at times. At one point, he asked the crowd to send some goodwill to places around the world that most needed it, invoking Baton Rouge, Italy and a few other recovering areas. At another point, he casually referenced that the band was a week away from celebrating 20 years together, a phenomenal point in itself, but further underscored when their longtime friend and road manager was ceremoniously brought out to the stage during the finale to celebrate his 40th birthday. In keeping with his penchant for crowd involvement, Martin had earlier trained everyone to greet the birthday boy’s arrival by mimicking a particular pose that he seems to be fond of employing.
Often derided for displaying a bit too much earnestness, Coldplay did their best to work over even the most cynical of attendees. Who couldn’t resist marveling at the majesty of a stadium’s worth of multi-colored digital wristbands proudly raised in the air? Who could argue with the carefully curated speeches by Muhammad Ali or the snippets of Charlie Chaplin film dialogue that accompanied several set changes? They even doled out a cover version of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” while lamenting this year’s losses of so many musical giants.
Then there were the special effects. Coldplay learned a thing or two from being upstaged by Beyoncé during last year’s Super Bowl Halftime performance. Every song was visually stunning. From fireworks blasting through the air to large, oversized balloons bouncing around the crowd to pre-recorded Instagram song requests, Coldplay brought everything to the table. To further the point, the band spent a considerable portion of the evening performing atop two mini-stages located across from the main stage and well out amongst the crowd assembled on the field. These sojourns gave fans in the upper reaches a chance to better view the band and also served as an outlet to work in a few stripped-down versions of some of their better known tracks, “In My Place” and “Don’t Panic” chief among them.
North Texas’ enthusiasm for Coldplay hasn’t dimmed in the four years since they last visited. While their tour itinerary has found them primarily setting up shop in basketball arenas elsewhere in the country, they had no problem filling up the world’s largest indoor arena, and expended all the energy they had to make it worthwhile. Though “Everything’s bigger in Texas” is often a groan-inducing cliché, it appeared to ring quite true Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.