Coldplay are a lot like Ron Howard. They consistently produce well regarded, commercially successful and occasionally moving work. And they’re really nice. The problem with this is that, like Apollo 13 or Frost/Nixon, their output is often too sanitised to make the jump from good to great.
The opening track on their latest offering, Coldplay Live 2012, only seems to reinforce this. More music video than live concert footage, the lyrics to ‘Mylo Xyloto’ are scrawled across the screen as footage of the band is interspersed with shots of impassioned pretty people singing along, eyes screwed tight with emotion.
In direct contrast to the predictable opener are a sequence of interviews with individual band members that frame the live tracks; insightful and considered, it’s clear that Coldplay are an outfit made up of intelligent individuals who have worked carefully and diligently to reach the position they are now in. So much so that on occasion you could imagine what’s being discussed is a successful internet start up rather than a rock band.
The explanations behind their approach to writing the album, shaping its aesthetic and carrying out the live shows also help contextualise the concert footage, lending it significantly more emotional weight. Even if you’re not interested in Coldplay’s music the interviews are worth a watch for some unexpected insights, including an introspective Will Champion highlighting the juxtaposition that a global stadium tour presents, in moving from playing to tens of thousands of people to sitting alone with your thoughts on an aeroplane in a matter of minutes.
Musically it’s a relatively even selection from the Coldplay back catalogue, filmed in a range of venues from the epic to the intimate across multiple countries. The size and scale of the undertaking that is a global stadium tour is also teased out, from footage of setups or takedowns and a clever use of Google Earth to zoom in and out between venue and country changes.
The more recent, stadium friendly and lively likes of ‘Paradise’ and ‘Charlie Brown’ are well cut with slower, more introspective material, and the likes of ‘Yellow’ are reworked, creating a collective moment of dawning realisation once the vocals start. The power of a mass group experience is clearly something that has informed much of the thinking that went into this tour – Martin talks of the importance of fostering a sense of community, of '30,000 lives colliding' and creating a spider web of connectivity that connects him to every audience member he looks in the eyes. It’s this thinking that informed the creation of the wristbands, with the aim to make “every person part of the show”; whether you’re a fan of Coldplay or not, the moment when the wristbands are activated is undeniably magical.
For such a successful outfit, it’s intriguing to hear that this tour has been the first time the band has felt ready to play stadiums, and the first time Martin has felt able to look audience members in the eyes. Mylo Xyloto is described as being about ‘enjoying yourself and not feeling guilty’ and that really comes across, both through live footage and the interviews. It’s fair to say that the fireworks, confetti canons and those infamous wristbands all attest to a group about as far removed from the dour Mercury nominees of yore as possible.
7James Atherton's Score