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Nov. 5, 2008

A lukewarm Coldplay

by Kiera Zitelman, Online Editor-in-Chief
Coldplay entered the American music scene eight years ago with its debut album "Parachutes." Today, three full-lengths later, the British group stands on top of the world. But Friday night at the Verizon Center, the foursome slogged through a mediocre and uneven 90-minute set on the Viva La Vida tour that disproved Coldplay's reputation as one of the world's most illustrious groups.
Coldplay, shown here at a Los Angeles stop on the Viva La Vida tour, delivered a middling performance Friday night at the Verizon Center.<i> Picture courtesy of Coldplay.</i>
Coldplay, shown here at a Los Angeles stop on the Viva La Vida tour, delivered a middling performance Friday night at the Verizon Center. Picture courtesy of Coldplay.


Opening for Coldplay was Duffy, a 24-year-old Welsh songstress with a plethora of Amy Winehouse comparisons. Duffy's throwback soul songs rival Winehouse's in their style, but her voice simply does not compare to that of the Grammy-winning Winehouse. Duffy sounds good in headphones (the impossibly catchy "Mercy" pleases listeners young and old), yet on stage, her voice showed more squeak than shine. The highlights of Duffy's 45-minute set were her '60s-style dress and corresponding dance moves - not her songs.

Coldplay opened with the first track from "Viva," the epic instrumental "Life in Technicolor." Frontman Chris Martin joined the group with a guitar instead of his usual piano, and his voice carried over the thousands of fans much better than Duffy's did. Coldplay soon retreated to safer old hits, as Martin returned to his piano for "Clocks" and "Speed of Sound." In the first half of their set, Martin and company sounded decent. Guitarist Jonny Buckland brought much-needed volume to some softer songs that might not have done so well otherwise. By the time Coldplay began "In My Place," many concertgoers got out of their seats and - well, just sort of stood around awkwardly. Coldplay songs aren't usually ones to dance to, but that didn't stop the appreciative crowd from trying.

In the second half of the show, both the song selection and delivery worsened. Coldplay ventured into techno territory with terrible remixes of "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" and "Talk," with drummer Will Champion on an electric drum kit and outrageous echoing wah-wah effects on Buckland's guitar. An acoustic version of "The Scientist" had promise, but Coldplay simply is not a strong band without strong music - Martin cannot carry a song by himself. After returning to normalcy to perform "Viva La Vida" and "Lost!" the band took a brief intermission as still another techno remix of the title track entertained - or rather, bothered - the audience.

As the frontman of an immensely popular band, Martin has a lot to learn. He clumsily galloped back and forth on the Verizon Center stage, and even decided that falling off of his piano stool might elicit waves of applause from the audience. (It did not.) In a small club setting, Martin's antics would entertain. In the Verizon Center, however, Martin should have realized that he was playing to more than just a few people.

Luckily for those who sacrificed their Halloween night for Coldplay, the band stayed away from showy lights or costumes, and Martin refrained from speaking in between songs except for a brief speech in favor of Barack Obama before launching into "Talk."

Another Coldplay EP, "Prospekt's March," is scheduled to be released Nov. 25, and the music world braces for another piece from an accomplished and respected band. But well-written songs are not enough on their own - Coldplay needs to work on its live delivery in order to live up to its reputation.



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