Saturday night I didn’t sit in for Coldplay’s delayed visit to Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center. I stood. The entire time. Coldplay’s brand of rock, which escalates from melodic to anthemic, was perfect for enthusing a crowd eager to hear some good music. I was eager to hear Coldplay from the moment I got the tickets. I got online within the first minutes and still landed back in section 213.
But when I tell you that I heard perhaps the worst set of opening acts I’ve ever witnessed in my concert-going repertoire, I do not exaggerate. So let’s get the bad vibes out of the way before we talk about the main event.
Opening the show was 93.3 WMMR-contest-winner Jonah Delso and his band. I knew from the introduction we were in for a little bit of an ego-trip as he said “I’m Jonah Delso, and this is my band.” Isn’t that how Genesis split up? “I’m Phil Collins, and this is my band,” and then off goes Peter Gabriel? Poor chaps. Or maybe they were lucky in the sense that we can’t tie their names to this performance. Anyway, the way this garage band got up on such a grand stage was through a video they sent in to WMMR. The video was voted (from online poll) into the top three of those submitted, and then Coldplay picked the winner. I have not seen the field Mr. Delso was competing with, so I can’t make a full analysis there. What I will say is that they put out more destructive feedback than a bad psychiatrist convention. The lyrics were dull and uninspired pop/rock. The band was musically okay, but Delso was not. It was formulaic, and maybe Coldplay picked them because they had a piano? Not my question to answer.
After that rather iffy experience, and a small break with the lights on, I and the thousands of others left in the arena saw a group of white shirt, black pants individuals walk out. It was something like the Robert Palmer backup girls from “Addicted to Love,” but throw in some Clockwork Orange. I was interested, very much so. Techno, club, trance maybe? Bring it on! It turned out to be Philadelphian Santi White, better known as Santogold. Another bad start let loose, as she sang the whole first song apparently without monitor support. Her strained wailing (which her set confided to be her style) was so off-key I think maybe–just maybe–my ears actually cried. Every song’s completion was followed by earnest hope that her trance-hop punk self would trot off stage. She even made the audience aware of the monitor’s problem, which just gets me going to no end. As a performer (of a different type admittedly), rule number one is that if the audience doesn’t know it’s a problem, you don’t let them know there’s a problem. If Delso had an ego, Santogold made him look tame. You know it’s bad when an opener tells you “It’s my job to pump you up.” Mission from-thereon-out thoroughly unaccomplished. I know my entire section was mock-clapping for her followed by calls of “What?” and “Get off, where’s my Coldplay!”
That unpleasantness out of our systems, Coldplay took stage at 9:30 p.m. Glory of glories, it was finally here. The concert was originally scheduled for late June, but they had to postpone. Later front man Chris Martin would make a joke of the delay, noting that the band had mandatory nose job appointments. The stage was interesting from the moment I walked into the arena. Giant white spheres hanging in the rafters, intelligent lighting on lightweight (soon to be moving) frames. Double curtains and front screening. Those Western European bands really know how to throw a concert (reference: U2, Muse).
The album cover from Viva La Vida dropped (Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People) and the concert got rolling. The instrumental “Living in Technicolor” rolled right into the new album’s first single “Violet Hill.” Instantly, Martin owned the crowd; they eagerly anticipating every note and sang along with the passion perhaps only Philadelphia fans can offer. Martin made note several times through the concert that our singing blew him away, and frequently he shoved his mic away and let the crowd take a chorus. It was particularly fun to hear the crowd, and I joined in on “The Scientist.”
Laser lights adorned the arena starting with Clocks, perhaps their biggest hit from their album A Rush of Blood to the Head. The band then took their set to different performance settings. Down the stage left runway was a lit disco-esque platform at which they performed a couple songs. They also did a song on the other runway.
After the majority of their set was completed they suddenly ran off stage, down the hockey boards and into the first floor concourse. The audience abuzz (and many drunken fans sloppily sprinting for the concourse), Coldplay re-emerged in section 106 and performed a set from the entrance space which included “The Scientist” as well as “Death Will Never Conquer.” Acoustically, “The Scientist” worked wonderfully. Until this point I was very happy with the performances, but I did want a little more change from how we’ve heard it from the studio albums. This was the right injection at the right time of some new flavor.
The band then headed back to the stage while a rather political video played to the recorded tune of “Talk.” It included the jab Bill O’Reilly took at Martin and the band on his show. Is there anyone the man doesn’t take a hit at? Oh yeah…the President. Following the video, which played on those neat little hanging spheres that doubled as both live and recorded rotating projector screens, the band uncorked a rendition of “Politik” that made sense following the video.
The concert finished covering all of the hits, past and present, as well as the majority of the new album. Encores consisted of “Green Eyes” and “The Dubliners,” which rocked the crowd to the very end. I will tell you I’ve been to many big concerts. I was on the field for The Police last summer in Citizens’ Bank Park. I was front row for The Who in Washington, DC. This was the most pumped I have ever felt a surrounding audience. It was non-stop singing and pure fun brought on by amazing spectacles of performance with a little humor interspersed from Martin and the gang.
While I maintain The Police and The Who delivered just a bit of a better concert for me as a band, the energy that I felt just blew me away. It put it into that echelon of concert-going. And in my book, that’s great company. The exciting fact for me is that Viva La Vida is the beginning of a new Coldplay, as the older three albums were part of a “trilogy” as Martin has detailed. With what has happened thus far, Coldplay has nowhere to go but up.