Does arena-rock retain any relevance in the hipster-blogger post-whatever world? Did I really just find my soul at a Coldplay show? Before venturing to see a gig on the the Mylo Xyloto tour, I was worried I would feel lost as a middle-aged man. Wouldn’t this be a teeny bopper scene? The diverse crowd surprised me.
Upon entering, we’re communally wristbanded with rainbows of personal accessories-as-props; we’re all part of the show we’re told. Sounds gimmicky, yet nothing prepares for the vision we’re about to become. During the opening whoosh, the entire place lights up like a living Christmas tree, the throng becomes the theater, united in song.
What’s up with this stage set and light show? It’s like someone let kids loose with day-glo paint; bright graffiti tags the stage and sets story to our age. Before we can get our bearings in this bold carnival, Chris Martin mentions something about this being the best night of all our lives or some holy hyperbole he surely whispers to every crowd. Is he for real? Why do I want to believe the lie—not of spectacles in general, but this spectacle in particular?
Employing color and technology to transcend the cavernous character of a basketball palace, the building bursts with confetti-soaked surrealism—like a child’s birthday party gone crazy. Juicy kernels of classic Coldplay got the choir swooning and crooning. What rush of such loveliness—ballads briskly gave way to rockers and then back to ballads again.
Do lovers in America live the refrain from “Lovers In Japan” and simply “soldier on” or begin to wrestle with the part of the lyric that wonders when “right is wrong”? Stripped down to the basic message of love, Coldplay’s work bears witness to the resonance of the romantic, with passion as an organizing principle for nothing less than compassion. Staged intimations of intimacy inside the anonymity of pop-rock spectacle predictably give gravity to our gargantuan age, but does their givenness make these gestures any less generous?