CHICAGO — Playing the first big show in support of his band’s upcoming fifth album, [artist id=”1111141″]Coldplay[/artist] singer Chris Martin promised a proper rocking time to the massive crowd that gathered to see the group at its first-ever Lollapalooza appearance on Friday night.
They needed to bring it too, since they were up against fellow big-show spectacle veterans [artist id=”1191782″]Muse[/artist] at the other end of steamy Grant Park and #1 party DJ Girl Talk just around the way in the steamy, nonstop disco party that is Perry’s Tent.
And after hyping the crowd with pal Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and the fanfare of “Back to the Future,” Martin and company did their best over a 90-minute set packed with shout-along hits and several intriguing peeks at their latest anthemic tunes.
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The show opened with a combo of new tunes: the crystalline “MX,” which segued into “Hurts Like Heaven,” a double-time shuffle that fits right into the band’s playbook of revved-up emotional anthems. Reeling the audience right in, they followed with a quick jab, their breakout hit “Yellow,” which sounded every bit as uplifting as it did when it first made them stars more than a decade ago.
After furiously strumming a beat-up acoustic guitar for the first two tunes, a beaming Martin bounded across the stage in his rag-doll dance and encouraged unassuming guitarist and old-school pal Jonny Buckland to step into the spotlight for some spiraling solos during “In My Place.” They slipped another new one into the mix, the strummy, U2-like push-pull rocker “Major Minus,” then countered with more crowd pleasers with the chugging, percussive “Lost!” and a spare arrangement of “The Scientist.”
Martin asked the audience to help bring it home and, of course, they obliged, taking it in for a feather-soft landing right out of the band’s playbook.
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With many of the bells and whistles of their previous tour on the shelf — except for some giant balloons and a somewhat modest, for them, multicolored video wall — the band leaned on the yearning majesty of songs like “Shiver,” which lived and died by Buckland’s Edge-like soloing, Martin’s keening falsetto and drummer Will Champion’s whip-crack beats.
“God Put a Smile Upon Your Face” built from a hushed ballad to a chaotic, strobe-lit rocker, with Champion playing a relentless martial beat as Martin literally tossed his acoustic guitar aside in favor of electric to add to the squall of reverb from Buckland.
Martin played the part of saloon crooner during “Everything’s Not Lost,” tickling the ivories as the band built to a slow, powerful crescendo around him, with Champion taking over in his rough tenor while Buckland and Martin engaged in a slow-burn musical guitar face-off.
Martin jokingly introduced another new tune, “Us Against the World,” as a love song about an affair between right-wing TV talking head Bill O’Reilly and Fox News contributor Sarah Palin and his hope that through their love, they might see the world in a different way. He was, of course, kidding and proceeded to play the gentle acoustic ballad about taking on all comers by himself, with Champion joining in on backing vocals and piano, as the song built into a kind of Irish bar ballad.
“Politik” pulsed like a fever, swinging from a constrained rumble to a frenzied, full band strobe-lit thunder, before segueing into the crowd-hyping “Viva la Vida.” With Champion pounding kettle drums and a (Jerusalem) bell on cue, the power of the song to rouse an exhausted flock into shouting and dancing the “whoa oh oh oh oh oh” on cue with no prompting was further proof of Coldplay’s permanent place in the rock stratosphere.
The set ended with another new song, the pompy pop tune “Charlie Brown,” which, again, fans seemed happy to hear in preview form.
With green searchlight lasers scanning the crowd and the indelible opening fanfare of “Clocks” ringing out, the wilting field sprang to life again as tens of thousands swayed, shook their legs and yelled, “Nothing else compares!” The band executed the song with Swiss precision, Martin pounding the keys, bassist Guy Berryman keeping a metronome thrum and Champion rolling out the marching rhythm.
As he’s done several times lately, Martin quietly sang a tribute to Amy Winehouse with a solo piano chorus of the late British singer’s hit “Rehab” that slid into the swooning sing-along “Fix You.” As the song swelled, Martin threw his hands up and jumped, a move timed perfectly with a burst of silvery fireworks that erupted from the roof of the stage.
Their faithful firmly in hand, the show ended with the band’s new single, the excitable “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall,”
which the crowd greeted with nearly the same enthusiasm as one of the classics they had chanted along to all night. The colorful fireworks display set off against the city’s iconic skyline didn’t hurt either.
That reaction was just about the perfect definition of rock stardom.
There was plenty on display across the way as well, where Muse opened with the bombastic hit “Uprising” as the stage lit up with the band’s signature “Tron”-like light-stravaganza. While tossing in bits of covers such as “House of the Rising Sun” and Nirvana’s “Negative Creep,” frontman Matthew Bellamy kept things gothic and theatrical, hitting up such catalog highlights as “United States of Eurasia,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” “Resistance” and the set-closing “Knights of Cydonia.”
But unlike his eternally genial and self-deprecating countryman Martin, Bellamy couldn’t resist a slight dig, telling the crowd, “We know you had options [tonight] … and you picked the right one.”
MTV News is in Chicago for Lollapalooza 2011! Stick with us all weekend as we cover the bands you love and the bands you will love soon.