Critical Fandom for the Blogosphere "Pop music has for decades possessed the power to transport the human spirit and to serve as a vehicle for the transcendence that we seek." --Bill Friskics-Warren
The Case for Coldplay
Continental Airlines Arena, aka The Meadowlands 25 March 2006
(picture *not* from these shows!!)
Last year, Jon Pareles wrote an article for the New York Times called “The Case Against Coldplay” where he called them “the most insufferable band of the decade.” Last night, I went to his neighborhood (northern New Jersey, to be exact) to witness the case for Coldplay.
While I never thought I’d share so much spiritual geography with teenage girls and emo rockers, it seems like that it’s exactly that kind of “guilt by association” that turns Mr. Parales sour.
While he doesn’t like what Coldplay does, he clearly realizes that they’re good at it. Witness this impeccable prose: “It's not for lack of skill. The band proffers melodies as imposing as Romanesque architecture, solid and symmetrical. Martin on keyboards, Jonny Buckland on guitar, Guy Berryman on bass and Will Champion on drums have mastered all the mechanics of pop songwriting, from the instrumental hook that announces nearly every song they've recorded to the reassurance of a chorus to the revitalizing contrast of a bridge. Their arrangements ascend and surge, measuring out the song's yearning and tension, cresting and easing back and then moving toward a chiming resolution. Coldplay is meticulously unified, and its songs have been rigorously cleared of anything that distracts from the musical drama.”
No, it’s the emo effect that gets this critic’s goat. It’s Chris Martin and his lyrics: “I hear a passive-aggressive blowhard, immoderately proud as he flaunts humility. ‘I feel low,’ he announces in the chorus of ‘Low,’ belied by the peak of a crescendo that couldn't be more triumphant about it.”
While it was an epic and eternal sound that sucked my brain on the first listen to “Clocks,” the spirit of the project kept me. Emotion truly pulled me to Coldplay and kept pulling me. My first "emo" band. (Now, I know, especially with the help of some folks on a fan-based web forum, that Coldplay are not "emo" in the literal sense of that particular genre of pop-punk, but I think some of the anti-Coldplay backlash of the last while rests on the same anti-sentimental scaffolding as anti-emo rhetoric.)
Perhaps the frustrated rock critics are jealous, since the sensitive rockers seem to get a lot of affection, admiration, and adoration from fans who "get it" of both genders.
In such an intensely miserable world, it’s this cozy component of Chris Martin’s sensibility that makes a Coldplay concert a kind of postmodern love-in. I still like my anger in folk, punk, and hip-hop, but sometimes such ranting can leave me cold. Coldplay makes me warm and wet.
People of all ages, arms waving, hearts swelling, vocal chords wailing: we are in this fucking together, and we want more. Now, some people get that buzz at church or singing the Star Spangled Banner at football games. But for those of us unable to access too much religion or patriotism, we have rock and roll.
And of those rare and bombastic and hokey enough to try transforming a hockey arena into a homey happenin’ hoedown, Coldplay has come to the top of their crowd and can draw the crowd.
Northern New Jersey is a kind of example of why modernity might have been a bad idea, an exurban unimpressive pavement monster. Just finding my hotel room and getting to the show were a chore. But once in the parking lot, with the Amstel Light and Dominican rum warming the hearts of the hospitable tailgaters I happened upon, the beauty of the pre-concert communion shed my doubts about why I’d traveled so far again—"just to see a band." While some of my friends are baffled by my devotion, my new friends were just impressed. They had the same infection as me and completely understood.
The etymology of the word “fan” (from the root fanatic) is instructive here. I’m a fan in the true sense. Two nights of Coldplay equals my March madness. There’s more to say about last night, but it’s time to get ready for tonight, with Ashcroft onstage in less than two hours!!
Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, 26 March 2006
"I'm warning you -- I'm in an extremely good mood; I'm expecting a baby soon."
Chris Martin made my weekend two nights in a row. Moving from the main floor to side stage, lower level, I enjoyed my great view of the band, who are absolutely on their game--personal and passionate and totally professional.
At least twice, Chris commented on how the crowd exceeded his expectations. Now, it's hard to find a fellow fan having as much fun as me -- but people were as friendly (although not as drunk or wild) as in New Jersey. I still don't understand why some folks feel compelled to talk during a show (as some near me did during R. Ashcroft, prompting me to move) or constantly play with their phones -- an activity Chris M. apparently condones ("Cell phones is cool").
Seeing all the waving lights during "What If" was inspired, but I wonder what it would be like if people just turned them off and got more into the show. Into the show, indeed.
An unparalelled ecstasy could be found at the close of Clocks, a stunning climax that sent the whole place into a deafening post-orgasm moan.
At the close of Fix You, I grabbed my coat and sprinted to the car, motivated by Martin's leaping and dashing acrobatics, the best, of course, being his mad lap to the back of the building during In My Place. As Chris warned of his mood during the opening strains of Square One, I want to carry that joy home with me on the plane and back to work today. We certainly all need the love that Coldplay carries every time we hear their hooks, in a big hall or privately on headphones.
Setlist both nights:
Speed of Sound
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
Til Kingdom Come
Ring of Fire
Swallowed in the Sea
In My Place