Melbourne warms to Coldplay

Inflatable balls at Etihad Stadium. And this wasn't the cricket (Image: Mancunian Matters)

Inflatable balls at Etihad Stadium. And this wasn’t the cricket (Image: Mancunian Matters)

Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto Tour
Etihad Stadium
Tuesday 13 November 2012

Fireworks were streaming through the Docklands skies. Bracelets were flashing in a frenzy of colour. A capacity stadium was screaming out the words in unison.

Etihad Stadium had been converted into a sprinkles sandwich, and I was in the middle of it all.

The night began with classics such as “In My Place”, “Yellow” and “The Scientist”, each one giving the 60,000-strong crowd a series of early sing-a-long opportunities. Even I, attending by myself, couldn’t resist putting on my falsetto voice and reciting “Nooobody saaaaaid it was eaaaasy…”

This was all complimented by a faultless sound-and-light exhibition and a couple of well-utilised props. The electronic wristbands handed to every patron at the door were activated sparingly in order to accentuate peak moments. Meanwhile, a barrage of inflatable beach balls were released to the crowd during “Lovers in Japan”, simulating the vibe of the cricket games Etihad will be hosting in a month’s time.

For a moment, I feared these balls would float around all night and become an unnecessary distraction from the main event. But Coldplay was evidently one step ahead – right on cue “The Scientist” followed – a song demanding so much reverence you wouldn’t dare punch a beach ball during its progression.

The crowd evidently knew the cues just as well as the band. When “Up in Flames” began – a slower album-only track from Mylo Xyloto – hundreds of fans saw this as an ideal opportunity to swamp the merchandise stores and visit the toilets. Much like a Melbourne Demons crowd leaving at the 10-minute mark of the final quarter, the exodus was obvious from all angles. The disappointing thing about this mass movement was that these fans unfairly neglected the following track “Warning Sign”, one of Coldplay’s most beautiful songs.

Given the timing of the concert, the surplus of uneventful Mylo Xyloto tracks was to be expected. The needless pissfarting from Coldplay, however, was not.

With all due respect, the band lost almost all the momentum they gained via “Viva La Vida”, “Charlie Brown”, and “Paradise” – three anthems designed with mammoth congregations in mind – when they disappeared off stage into darkness. Having not officially signalled it was the end of the set, the missing band was given no encore chants. Instead, the audience’s bracelets continued to flash for two minutes and nobody had any idea what was going on.

When the band finally arrived on a secondary stage, lead singer Chris Martin screwed up the beginning of “Speed of Sound”. This blight – his second notable one for the night – gave the audience something to laugh about, but it compromised what was otherwise a clockwork event.

While those who purchased cheap standing-only tickets appreciated seeing Martin and co. right in front of them, the whole secondary stage ploy was poorly executed. I don’t say this because “it has been done before”; it was more a case of Coldplay being the world’s best stadium rock band. As such, people expect them to be innovative, to provide more than just mere gimmicks.

If I was the stage manager, things would have been done differently. Let’s imagine Martin sitting alone on the separate stage with nothing but an electric organ. He begins the opening couple of verses and choruses of “Fix You”, leading the crowd in an acoustic sing-a-long session. Then, during the bridge, Jonny Buckland appears beside him and gives us that simple-yet-deadly guitar hook. The crowd erupts. All of a sudden, big Will Champion appears 100 metres away, behind the drums on the main stage, and plays that Phil-Collins-esque drumbeat. The crowd goes absolutely bananas.

If I didn’t like my day job so much, I’d quit it.

After returning to the main stage for what could perhaps be considered an encore, Coldplay aptly cleaned up their temporary mess. A climactic trio of songs ensued – “Clocks”, “Fix You”, and the closing number “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”.

The finale fittingly brought the entire crowd – or at least those who weren’t already standing – to their feet. Indeed, the song’s live energy was infectious (although it evidently wasn’t enough to cure the apathy shown by the Etihad security guards – who did little to stop the hundreds of patrons who illegitimately ran onto the ground, as if to celebrate Plugger’s 1000th career goal).

In their final three songs, Coldplay erased all doubts about their status as one the world’s pre-eminent live rock bands. While they didn’t quite produce their greatest performance ever – as Martin promised the Melbourne audience he would – they put on a show that was both engaging and entertaining. Few would have left the crowd disappointed in what they experienced. Even fewer would have left the stadium without a song stuck in their heads.

Earlier, The Temper Trap and The Pierces did their best to warm the crowd. While the open roof prevented either from creating the same atmosphere as Coldplay, they soldiered along honestly and won fans along the way.

Just prior to Coldplay’s set, a message flashed onto the screens, informing patrons to wear their wristbands as these props were to form part of the show. While this in itself wasn’t particularly odd, the choice of music was. Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” was the accompaniment of choice, a mysognist ditty arguably inappropriate in Australia’s current political climate. More than that, it was unusual to hear Jay-Z appear in this pre-show promo yet not appear during Coldplay’s set; “Lost” was one of the notable absences from the set list.

As for the rest of the set list, Mylo Xyloto dominated proceedings. Fans of A Rush Of A Blood To The Head would have also felt vindicate; five songs from that classic album made it onto the list.