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Concert Reviews:
Coldplay's Arrival At Palace Was Worth The Wait
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

AUBURN HILLS -- The Palace got rocked twice on Monday (Nov. 3).

During the day it was news of the blockbuster trade that brought NBA superstar Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons. And a few hours later it was the British rock band Coldplay, delivering a 90-minute slam dunk of a show that deftly balanced visual dazzle with musical facility -- and a humble countenance that made for a refreshingly earthy and "matey" experience for the 13,300 fans.

They had waited for this moment, too; Coldplay was initially supposed to play the Palace on July 5, towards the start of the world tour to promote the quartet's fourth album, the chart-topping "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends." The tour was pushed back to give the group more time to hone its production, and while frontman Chris Martin apologized for the delay, what Coldplay delivered was more than worth the wait.

Martin and company have never been shy about wearing their influences on their sleeves and acknowledging them -- primarily U2 -- and Monday's concert certainly had those hallmarks, as well as touches of Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd and the Flaming Lips. But this time out Coldplay offered an array of tricks and treats that felt more their own, with a flow that never wore any of them out and presented a steady stream of new stimuli.

Among those were lasers, a particularly huge video screen behind the stage (complementing two others hanging from the rafters) and, most interestingly, six overhead "balloons" which carried graphic images and live performance footage of the band. Two somewhat under-used ramps extended from each side of the stage to bring Coldplay closer to the crowd; the group performed a short "electronic" set -- featuring remix-style versions of "God Put a Smile on Your Face" and "Talk" -- on one, and it played a two-song acoustic set ("The Scientist" and "Death Will Never Conquer," sung by drummer Will Champion) in the back corner of the arena in the grandstand by a lower-level suite.

And Coldplay showered the crowd with two helpings of day-glo confetti butterflies during "Lovers in Japan."

The music on Monday was just as memorable. Following an energetic and confident set by opener Sleepercar, Coldplay kicked off playing the shimmering "Life in Technicolor" behind a sheer curtain, then emerged with the full-bodied "Violet Hill" -- the crowd cheering as Martin sang "If you love me won't you let me know" -- and quickly rolled into a trio of the biggest hits in its canon of majestic pop, "Clocks," "In My Place" and "Speed of Sound." The group not surprisingly dug deep into "Viva la Vida..." for eight songs -- including "Lost!," "42," "Strawberry Swing" and the crowd singalong "Viva la Vida" -- and effectively deployed selections from the rest of its catalog, including a gentle voice-and-piano rendition of "The Hardest Part" that Martin dedicated to Jennifer Hudson.

And while the rest of Coldplay -- Champion, guitarist Jonny Buckland and bassist Guy Berryman -- have become more animated over the years, Martin is still the unquestioned star of the show, a gleeful, Muppet-like presence happily flopping loose-limbed around the stage, bouncing between keyboards and guitar and pointedly deflating any star trips the group could laugh into. "Those of you in the back of the room will notice we don't smell quite as good as we look," he said when Coldplay reached its destination in the seats for the acoustic set. "And we don't look that good, anyway!"

Having endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on "Saturday Night Live" nine days before, however, Martin's political commentary on Monday was surprisingly low-key. After welcoming the crowd to "what we're calling the last night of the Bush administration," he noted that "whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is for you to decide. It's not for us to tell you."

Sentiments seemed to run in agreement with Coldplay's position, of course, but the more unanimous sentiment was that the group managed to raise the roof on what had already been a momentous day at the Palace.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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