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Coldplay entertains but lacks an edge

Irony-free arena-rock with mild alternative leanings is not necessarily what U2 had in mind when it launched its game-changing “Zoo TV” tour back in the early ’90s. But by the time alt-rock met the mainstream head-on, the irony had all been burned off in the initial blast. Which leaves us with Coldplay, the band that always wanted to be U2, and before a full house at First Niagara Center on Monday, for all intents and purposes pretty much was its own generation’s U2. Minus the game-changing and the irony and the depth and all of that.

Coldplay, and frontman Chris Martin in particular, seemed genuinely surprised that Buffalo could “bring it” with so much force on a Monday. He’s obviously not familiar with how we roll around here. We generally don’t care what day of the week it is when we are dead-set on partying, Chris. File that one away for next time.

Ebullience was the order of the evening, and Coldplay – in addition to head cheerleader, cruise director and pianist/guitarist/vocalist Martin, guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman and drummer/harmony vocalist Will Champion – delivered it from the downbeat forward. This was music about feeling good – or, in the case of the ballads, feeling good about feeling bad, because everyone around you is singing the same bereft-of-hope chorus figure. Mild misery loves company. 

Ultimately, however, Coldplay is about laughter and forgetting, and hugging your neighbor when Martin sings “I will try to fix you,” as if in the process you’ve actually fixed anything. It’s a beautiful sentiment, and Coldplay is nothing if not wholly sentimental.

When the lights first went down, a recording of Maria Calas singing “O Mio Babbino Caro” blasted through the PA, and led nicely into the title tune from the band’s latest album, “A

Head Full of Dreams.” This itself as prefaced with a voice-over of Charlie Chaplin’s soliloquy from “The Dictator.” I’ve never loved Coldplay more than I did at that moment. The rest of the show found the band chipping away at that love until it became more of a “like.” 

Why? It was the safe and studied nature of it all. Coldplay started out as a band that, on a particularly good day, might’ve grown into a Radiohead. To date, the band has missed that mark. Monday’s show was entertaining, and energetic, but edgeless. 

That’s OK, if that’s your thing. And for a full FNC on Monday, it sure seemed to be their thing. So “Yellow,” the band’s first hit in the late ’90s, was rapturously received when it came second in the set. Martin was already warmed up by this point, having traversed the gangway leading out to the satellite stage at the center of the arena several times before grabbing an acoustic guitar and kicking into the hit, which was duly echoed by seemingly every concert-goer come chorus time. This was moving.

Less moving was the self-consciously EDM nature of much of the band’s newest music, which came across as a “Hey, we, too, like electronic dance music, people” portion of the gig. This was not Coldplay’s finest stuff.

Far better was “Fix You,” delivered in part by Martin at the piano on the satellite stage, and aided and abetted by the FNC chorus, the sheer volume of which appeared to truly move Martin.

This, when the full ensemble kicked in for the “Tears stream down your face” section, was Coldplay at its absolute finest. A transcendent piece of pop music. 

“Viva la Vida” was also outstanding, a percussion-heavy bit of ear candy pushed heavenward by drummer Will Champion’s harmony vocals, which were outstanding throughout the evening. Dude lives up to his name. “Everglow,” with its video introduction honoring Muhammad Ali, was equally awesome.

Pristine sound, an incredible visual spectacle, and an unflagging energy made Monday’s show special. A deeply emotional affair. 

A closer look might’ve revealed a band that is very very good at being very very average. But it did not seem that too many were looking too closely. And maybe that’s OK.


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