Since I'm a journalistic pioneer who lives to buck trends, I'm going to do it again this week. Have no fear, I'm not going to waste your time telling you how much I love fantasy football or live action role playing. (Shout out to all my LARPers)
I'm going to talk about Coldplay, a band I absolutely adore but cannot, and will not listen to any of their albums. I can't stand them. They all sound the same, and they all suck. Coldplay has taken everything I hate about modern U2 and aimed it at 30-something white people, namely women. Granted, I have a lot of things in common with that demographic. Listening to recorded Coldplay songs intentionally isn't one of them.
My affection is a direct result of their incredible stage show. Over the last six or seven years I've seen Coldplay four times. Three of these shows were relative accidents; I happened to be offered a ticket or met up with a group of people who then decided to go see Coldplay and I tagged along. The venues are as follows:
The Metro - A famous Chicago dive venue. Holds around eight hundred between the balcony and the floor. Very grungy, and there are no chairs. Acts that have played here recently include Twista, Lykke Li, Gayngs, and Atmosphere. They focus on indie music and local acts.
Alpine Valley Amphitheater - An outdoor venue that is located twenty minutes from my parents' lake house. What used to be a common stop on any big arena tour is now seldom used, maybe five times per summer maximum. Frequent visitors include: Jimmy Buffet, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Radiohead, and Coldplay.
The Tweeter Center* in Tinley Park - This is another large outdoor venue, and pulls in acts of varying popularity in order to sell overpriced beer. Kings of Leon, Green Day, Phil Collins, Black Eyed Peas, etc.
*Currently this venue has picked up a different corporate sponsor, I couldn't be bothered to find out what it is.
The Metro show was one of those last-minute secret shows, where tickets went on sale suddenly and then an hour later they were on Craigslist for $600 over face value. It was cool that they chose the Metro to do this super intimate gig at, but it wasn't really that cool that it was Coldplay. Still, when this happened my friends and I all agreed that this would be a perfect show to take a girl to. The "Oh my god how did you get tickets to this" factor, coupled with the fact that it was Coldplay, was guaranteed for a handy at the very least.
I swapped a set of U2 tickets at Soldier Field for these. To me, the U2 tickets were only worth a resale, and nothing more. I didn't want to see them. They were decent seats, close enough to both the stage and beer booth that I had envisioned myself going and enjoying the show despite my hatred for the band/Bono. To the middle-aged guy I swapped the tickets with, it was his dream show, and spending three or four hours in the smoke-clogged shit hole that was the Metro to see a hipster band he didn't care for was unimaginably bad. Coldplay was capable of selling out 15,000 seat venues at the time, so it was pretty much a guarantee that they'd never be back to the Metro. The swap was made, and both parties were satisfied. I went to this once in a lifetime show for free.
Whether they were playing to the venue or just trying to irritate the crowd, Coldplay didn't do their normal show. They wandered off in to deep cuts, things that never made the album, and covers. Chris Martin even deferred vocals to his drummer on several songs, which was amazingly weird at the time. (I realized later that this happens semi-frequently, but at the time it seemed like a big deal.) People who had paid eight hundred and up for their tickets were visibly irritated. They'd paid big bucks for a Coldplay show at this shit hole and they wanted to hear Yellow, goddammit. This was right after X&Y had come out, and people kept shouting requests from that album between songs. Martin granted none of them. They did two Prince songs, Billie Jean, and Radiohead's Creep. I was floored. At one point I looked up at the balcony above me and saw Gwyneth Paltrow. This impressed me at the time, but that was before I realized how awful she is.
Coldplay rocked my socks off. In a place where I'd seen some of my favorite bands, here was this incredibly commercial, incredibly derivative band, and they were absolutely killing it. I decided to change my stance on Coldplay, and decided to see them any chance I could. There's few things I value more than a good live show, and they were chock full of that, man.
That's a toned-down version of the Billie Jean they do in concert, but it's proof that Chris Martin can sing a variety of tunes. When I saw Coldplay at Alpine Valley two summers ago, Michael Jackson had just passed away and they sang the song again as a tribute to MJ. The stage at this place is all the way at the bottom of a hill, and if you're in the back by the beer even the jumbotrons look small.
For Billie Jean, they walked straight through the crowd to a little platform they had set up mid-venue. This little annex stage barely held them all, it was that small. I didn't even know it was there; Jimmy Buffet certainly never used it. They played Billie Jean and high fived people almost the entire time. I was maybe 40 feet away for all this, and it was awesome. Chris Martin is equal parts dreamy and charming.
The big venue is more their speed at this point in their careers. Everybody there absolutely loved them, and for a band that sings some sappy sentimental type songs, the party atmosphere was very lively. We were raging out. They closed with Fix You, and I'd like to warn everybody that this is going to sound very suspect:
They started Fix You. They get to the final 90 seconds of the song, and people start walking off stage, but they're still playing instruments. With maybe two rounds of the chorus left, Martin departs and says something like "finish this one for us, will you?" The audience then proceeded to sing the outro at the top of their lungs, and it was magical.
Usually I wrinkle my nose like a snob when crowds sing along too much. In that moment, I just went with it. Fix You penetrated my soul, and my lady parts. I thought it was the perfect conclusion to what had been an incredible night of live music, and I promised myself that I'd see them the next chance I got.
The next chance, as it turned out, was Lollapalooza. Although I couldn't attend this year, I urged anybody who was attending to check out Coldplay. I got a lot of strange looks in return, but I ignored them and pressed the point, making people promise.
Those people are now thanking me for making them go. I hope one day, after you soft rock out to Chris and the boys, you'll do the same.