What Coldplay is these days is increasingly rare: A young-ish rock band that inspires a monoculture and plays to adoring crowds in arenas nationwide.
To illustrate: Coldplay headlined the Super Bowl halftime show last year, a show where only the least offensive, most broadly popular artists get to perform. It was the first time the headliner was a rock band with a lead singer under the age of 40. This isn't a dig on Beyonce and Bruno Mars, two younger pop stars that have lit up the stage at the big game. But it's just pointing out that in these days of fractured fanship and infinite, internet-enabled genre splintering, rock bands simply don't rise to that level of universal likability anymore. Coldplay is the rare exception, as reflected in ticket prices for last night's show: The cost of four floor tickets could buy you a stoic but functional 1997 Toyota Camry with a great engine and a lot of miles on it.
That's why when Coldplay played Gila River Arena in Glendale last night, one of the most striking things was simply that the band's mellow, perfectly pleasant anthems of love and wonder could inspire such a gathering of people as was assembled in Glendale.
The band delivered a performance full of heart, soaring melodies, touching, authentic-seeming moments, and more confetti than I'd ever seen used at a concert. The band distributed glowing LED wristbands to every member in the audience as they entered the arena, and when the band began playing they lit up like a field of multi-colored fireflies, providing a secondary light show to complement the main attraction. (This is something only megastars can afford, but when they do, it's pretty spectacular. Last time I saw it was at the Taylor Swift concert.)
The entire show went off without a hitch, with singer Chris Martin seizing and relishing the spotlight early on as his three bandmates played steadily and reliably in the background, like a fleet of 1997 Toyota Camrys driving behind a flashy muscle car. Martin's bandmates were functional despite minimal style. (Looking at you, bassist Guy Berryman, who was wearing a black T-shirt hideously bedazzled on one shoulder.) At times I wondered if Coldplay has a "no smiling" rule that applies to everyone but Martin. They weren't pretty, but they got the job done — in true 1997 Toyota Camry fashion.
The band kicked off the show with "A Head Full Of Dreams," the title track from the band's 2015 album, and then went into their 2000 mega-hit "Yellow," following that with "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall," from the band's 2011 album Mylo Xyloto. The band made good use of its confetti supplies, sending chutes of streaming paper into the air twice in during the band's first three songs. And why not? Confetti is probably the most interesting visual a band can use in an arena show, and Coldplay milked it at least two more times during the show. At one point the stage — which had a protrusion that jutted outward from the center of the stage about 60 feet or so before ending in a secondary, smaller stage — became covered with the stuff, and Chris Martin laid down it it, like Mena Suvari on rose petals in American Beauty, and sang "Viva La Vida" into a camera positioned directly above him.
(On the following song, "Adventure of a Lifetime," Martin messed up the words a couple times and stopped the performance. He resumed his lying-down position and the band started the song again, and Martin stood up once more.)
Martin was nothing but charming the entire show, bouncing effortlessly between guitar, piano, and microphone. At one point, the band left and Martin took a seat at a piano at the tip of the stage. He saw a young child named Oscar holding a sign proclaiming it to be his birthday and invited the kid on stage. When Oscar began to shy away from the audience of thousands beaming at him, Martin said reassuringly, "If you feel like going, you can go," before launching into "Everglow." During the encore, Martin was telling a story and a swear word slipped into his speech — "Sorry, Oscar," he said with a coy smile and without missing a beat. Martin was grateful to the crowd for enduring the heat and the crowd on a Tuesday night, and when he saw a British flag, he cracked it was "useless" and made a Brexit joke.
"Britain wants to float away on its own into the galaxy," he said.
During the band's encore, the band set up a stage in the furthest reaches of the arena and began playing a set from the cheap seats. It was a nice gesture to the fans, showing that the band valued those fans whose seat selection probably revealed an affinity for nice, reliable cars, like 1997 Toyota Camrys with peeling paint but rock-solid engines. The screen displayed a pretty girl requesting the song "Shiver," and the band launched into it, noting that they hadn't played the song in ages. The band wound its way back to the main stage and ended with "Amazing Day," "A Sky Full of Stars," and "Up&Up."
Last Night: Coldplay at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
"You a Coldplay fan?"
"I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan."
You could replace the windshield on a 1997 Toyota Camry for the combined cost of the tickets those two guys were sitting in.
Personal Bias: I hate how I know that Coldplay's singer is named Chris Martin without having to look it up.
Celebrity Sighting: About two songs into the concert a very tall man and his wife came and sat next to me. I'm 5'10", and I don't often find myself standing next to someone who's literally more than a foot taller than me. Turned out it was Phoenix Suns big man Tyson Chandler. Let me tell you, his tall-guy concert etiquette was on point. He sat down for most of the show, graciously remaining seated for more of the show so as not to block the view for three rows of people behind him.
Random Notebook Dump: "Coldplay is the daytime television of arena bands."
Random Notebook Dump 2: "Listening to Coldplay is like eating saltwater taffy. All sugar, no nutrition, delicious in small doses but sickening if over-consumed."
Random Notebook Dump 3: "This 'audience request' from Instagram that they're showing on the screen is made by a suspiciously pretty woman in a suspiciously well-lit room. I'm calling bullshit. Am I a Coldplay Instagram request truther?"
Pour One Out: Someone totaled my beloved 1997 Toyota Camry in the parking lot while I was at the concert, and I didn't leave Glendale until 1:30 a.m. Rest in peace, good buddy.
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Set List (From setlist.fm)
A Head Full of Dreams
(extended intro with Charlie Chaplin speech)
Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall
(extended intro with "Oceans" excerpt)
(Tiesto remix outro)
Always in My Head
(with 'Army Of One' excerpt in intro)
Hymn for the Weekend
(with 'Midnight' excerpt in intro)
(David Bowie cover)
Viva la Vida
Adventure of a Lifetime
Til Kingdom Come
A Sky Full of Stars
Correction: This article originally misspelled Guy Berryman's name.