Last Night: Coldplay at Toyota Center

Coldplay Toyota Center June 25, 2012

At the risk of obliterating the last remnants of my punk-rock cred, I guess I never really understood all the Coldplay hate. Chris Martin's Ernest Lee Sincere routine puts a lot of people off, sure, and some (like my neighbor) bailed on them when they started dressing like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but while some of their music might be reminiscent of those songs you can't place as you're wandering through the outlet mall, Coldplay has some legitimately good tunes. So what if Martin married Gwyneth Paltrow, the heart wants what it wants.

Right, Ric Ocasek?

Rocks Off has to admit, Coldplay puts on a hell of a show. It was obvious even as the last chords of Robyn's opening set were fading out and the coverall-clad roadies started setting up that we were in for an audio/visual feast, and they didn't disappoint.

At heart, we suspect Martin and company know it would be hard to hold a modern crowd's attention through portions of their catalog, so they charge out of the gate and grab you by the throat from the outset.

Oh, does your favorite band drench the crowd in confetti during the closing number? Coldplay does it the second song, bitches (and then again two songs later). Does your favorite band sell glow sticks to wave at random intervals? Coldplay gives away free bracelets that light up by remote control!

The coolness of seeing this multicolor display last night was only slightly tempered by the nagging suspicion that the goddamn thing is now broadcasting images of my bedroom back to some giant marketing conglomerate.

Or maybe the bracelet thing was for the band's own amusement. We didn't major in psychology.

Are all of these -- confetti ("In My Place"), giant balloons ("The Scientist"), and singalongs ("Yellow," "Violet Hill") -- not-so-cheap parlor tricks designed to distract an audience from occasionally over-precious songwriting?

Perhaps, but they worked. Rocks Off won't claim the roars of approval were louder than Sunday night's One Direction show (though probably less high-pitched), but by the sound of it, whatever Martin and the boys were selling, most of us were buying it.

It would be easy to mistake Coldplay for "Chris Martin and Friends," but the band's sound owes as much to guitarist (and co-founding member) Jonny Buckland as Martin's falsetto. His distinctive riffs were in evidence in everything from "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face" to "Speed of Sound" (one of only two X&Y tracks that made the Mylo Xyloto/Viva La Vida-heavy set list).

The rhythm section of drummer Will Champion and bassist Guy Berryman have also been around since the band's late-'90s formative years. No band defections in a 16-year history are fairly unusual, but evident in their onstage cohesiveness.

For most of the show, Martin roamed a Day-Glo set that resembled something out of To Live and Die in L.A. (with a lighting rig a friend of mine described as "Pink Floyd, circa 1972"). He cuts an athletic if goofy figure: capering jerkily, arms outstretched, occasionally collapsing to the ground (overcome by the adulation, no doubt). And the crowd-pleasing didn't stop with confetti cannons (luckily for Toyota Center, Houston has an ample supply of leaf blowers).

The band set up at the end of the stage runway that extended out to section E for a three-song set consisting of "Princess of China" (with video accompaniment by Rihanna), "Up in Flames," and "Warning Sign." They returned to the main area for four more songs (including "Paradise," another audience participation number), then popped up in section 112 at the back of the arena to do a quick two-fer of "Us Against the World" and "Speed of Sound."

The crowd, already eating out of Martin's hand, were firmly in his grip for the encore of "Clocks," "Fix You," and "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall" (including intro track "M.M.I.X."). All told, not quite an hour and 45 minutes of show, but nobody was complaining. Martin and company were locked in from the get-go and clearly have got their act down to a science, you'll excuse the pun.

They say one of the hallmarks of a true Svengali is leaving those in thrall unaware and/or uncaring that they've ever been manipulated. Well played, Chris Martin. Well played.

Personal Bias: Honestly disappointed at the underrepresentation of X&Y. Not that we'd ever admit to liking X&Y. Heavens, no.

The Crowd: Step right up, step right up: fun for the while family.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Fuck Dallas!", in response to Martin asking us to "make some Houston noise"

Random Notebook Dump: "Is there any job less stressful than floor security at a Coldplay concert?"


Mylo Xyloto Hurts Like Heaven In My Place Major Minus Lovers in Japan The Scientist Yellow Violet Hill God Put A Smile Upon Your Face Princess of China Up In Flames Warning Sign A Hopeful Transmission Don't Let It Break Your Heart Viva La Vida Charlie Brown Paradise Us Against the World Speed of Sound


Clocks Fix You M.M.I.X. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

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