It was 5th July 2005 when this writer last saw Coldplay. The group had just released X&Y, their plodding third album and had newly graduated to a stadium act off the back of its phenomenal success. They were supported by sound-alikes Morning Runner and Doves, and the two screens either side of the stage spent the afternoon blaring out messages and videos from Oxfam. The four men all wore black, stayed almost rooted to the spot and played infront of a black screen. The climax of the show featured Chris Martin swinging a lightbulb around his head during the closing moments of ‘Fix You’. It was all incredibly, joy-sappingly earnest.
You need only look at the stage at The Emirates Stadium to see that the 2012 Coldplay are a somewhat different proposition. Rejuvinated and freed by the additions to the colour palette that 2008’s Viva La Vida bought them, last year’s Mylo Xyloto was a neon-drenched, technicoloured pop beast that means that Coldplay now choose to play surrounded by four giant circular screens, confetti canons, huge glow in the dark butterflies, hundreds of yards of graffiti-strewn fabric and a pier-like stage that sprawls out into the sea of bodies.
By now the four-piece, playing a hometown show here in London, are stadium professionals and understand the formula, namely doing everything in their power to distract you from the music, safe in the knowledge that the songs they are playing are some of the most popular in the world. By ‘In My Place’, only the second song of the evening, it’s clear that this crowd are in fine voice, with Chris Martin playing the encouraging showman at all times, throwing his yoga-honed body around the vast stage.
Each song sounds beefier, rawer and grander that their recorded partners. ‘Violet Hill’, with its shotgun snare drum, is turned into a psychedelic rock strut, ‘God Put a Smile Upon Your Face’ is completely transformed into a hi-energy guitar freakout and ‘Yellow’, after its softly-softly reworked beginning booms over the horizon with pure bombast. ‘We’ve not even played any of the good songs yet’ jokes Martin in typical self-deprecation mode as he thanks the crowd for their hysteria.
While the now obligatory mini sets on the mini stages – one at the end of their stage pier, one right at the back of the stadium – gives the chance for the group to showcase their softer side as ‘Warning Sign’ and ‘Speed of Sound’ are given stripped down renditions before the group sprint back to the main stage to begin a run of songs that makes up the backbone of the set: Viva La Vida, Charlie Brown –before which the audience wrist bands light up spectacularly to create a sea of light – and Paradise. They are solid gold in their sing-alongs.
As the Viva La Vida chant continues long after the band leave the stage, carrying on while people file out of the stadium, its safe to say that the biggest band in the world have delivered a show that is truly worthy of the title. Who knew that colour would suit Coldplay so much?