Coldplay is the rock band from outer space – or at least that is what their music would have you believe.
With their futuristic production, some of which sounds like it could have been lifted from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Coldplay likes using its music to portray the idea that it has the unique ability to “look at Earth from outer space,” as the band states in the opening line of their 2002 song “Politik.” It seemed strange, then, that their show last Thursday at the MCI Center, although occasionally inspired, was mostly underwhelming and – dare I say – boring.
In their 2003 hit “The Scientist,” lead singer and Gwyneth Paltrow hubby/baby-daddy Chris Martin wailed, “Nobody said it was easy.” He might as well have been singing about performing an effective arena rock show, which is by no means an easy endeavor.
It’s true that Coldplay has a number of great and sometimes amazing songs to choose from, and when they hit their high notes on Thursday, they were soaring. Imagine no fewer than 20,000 loyal fans chanting every word along with Martin to Coldplay favorites such as “Clocks,” “The Scientist,” “Yellow” and “Don’t Panic.” In these moments, one would have to be inhuman not to feel a rush. But these moments, which were provided mostly from songs from the group’s first two albums – 2000’s excellent debut Parachutes and 2002’s masterpiece and album of the year Grammy-winner, A Rush of Blood to the Head – were too infrequent to keep the crowd riding on a continuous and fluid high.
Many of Coldplay’s newer numbers, such as the shows opening number, “Square One,” from their 2005 release X&Y, did not play nearly as well as those from their back catalog, mostly due to overproduction that overwhelmed Martin’s voice, making many of his lyrics indecipherable. Also, many songs from X&Y sound very similar to one another. The difference in the audience’s song recognition between the earlier albums and the latest one was noticeable, as most the crowd seemed bored during the show’s several lulls.
Martin’s bandmates brought little personality to the show, fading into the background for the majority of the one and a half hour-set. Regardless of their artistic contribution in the writing and recording process, on stage the three other members could have been any average Joes off the street, and few audience members would have known the difference. This left the entire show on Martin’s back, and although his nerdy charm brought life and personality to the show at certain moments, Martin lacked the stage presence of his obvious idol Bono.
Martin even used one of the Irish rocker’s signature moves when he lied down on the stage and serenaded a young girl (unlike Bono, however, Martin sang to her over a cell phone). Not only does he lack Bono’s performance ability and natural stage presence, he has yet to attain the iconic status for a gimmick like that to seem genuine.
Coldplay had their no. 1 highlight with their last number, one of X&Ys only standout songs, “Fix You.” The song’s gorgeous, yet twisted chorus (“Lights will guide you home/and ignite your bones/and I will try to fix you”) and soaring melody provided a high note on which the band could depart.
Fiona Apple opened the show, touching on all of the important songs from her repertoire, ranging from her 1996 breakthrough hit “Criminal” to many songs from last year’s impressive Extraordinary Machine. Spending part of the time hunched in front of her grand piano almost devouring her microphone, Apple – with her intricate lyrics, unique voice, pouty face and intriguingly dark personality – was able to effectively engage the audience, even as more than half of the arena was still in the process of being filled.
She was a headliner in her own right, with a segment of the arena obviously present solely to see her. Although her set was significantly shorter then Coldplay’s, Apple effectively displayed her talent. Unlike Coldplay, she may not be from space, but she sure knew how give a performance.