Coldplay Live 2012
Coldplay’s latest tour, which officially launched around the time of their album release in October 2011, actually reaches back to the previous summer, when the British band hit up Festivals across the world as a test for their new music. Among these fests was Glastonbury, sort of a musical home for the band, which played there in 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2005.
If you’ve seen Coldplay live at any point in the past twelve years — be it in person or televised in one of their numerous performances at the Grammys and the AMAs — you know the distinctive style of frontman Chris Martin. It’s a loose jumping around the stage, free-bodied as if his body is the venue’s subwoofer, pulsing with each beat. He turns awkward into his own art form, flinging his arms around, lying flat on a stage covered in paper butterflies, or thrusting with his bench as if banging the piano. Amidst the fanfare of the show, though, it’s easy to forget what made Martin and the band famous in the first place: his uniquely tuned voice, whose falsetto charmed hits like “Yellow” and “Clocks,” rings with an effortless and soothing sincerity, turning sometimes vague lyrics into genuinely relateable anthems for a myriad of listeners. He was the foundation of the band’s popularity for their first three albums: their 2000 debut Parachutes, their 2002 shot to stardom A Rush of Blood to the Head, and their 2005 inoffensive continuation X&Y. With Martin still the sole identifier of the band to most listeners, Coldplay’s evolution since 2005 has been a collective effort of the band as a whole, as 2008’s Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends was a deliberate creative break in sound from its established formula — the well its first three albums had drunk dry. Their most recent album, 2011’s unpronounceable Mylo Xyloto, was another sonic evolution, this time influenced by dance styles and painted with a soundscape concordant with the fluorescent murals designed for the album’s art inserts.
The album, despite mixed reviews, is the most consistently produced of the band’s five and tailor made for stadium rock performances. It’s with that in mind that the band embarked on the Mylo Xyloto Tour, launching back in October 2011. Characterized by bright lights and a broad array of the band’s decade of hits, it was another success, with the band’s theatricality reaching new heights but still focusing on the inclusiveness of the music.
Coldplay Live 2012 immortalizes the tour through carefully filmed performances, and takes it a step further by including backstage footage and commentary by the band. For a band that considers itself “private,” the film is a rare look inside their inner workings and the mentality behind their live shows. This isn’t exactly Rattle and Hum — the focus is still heavily placed on the performances, with most of the breaks in action saved for five “intermissions” placed throughout the setlist. Each intermission is focused on a single band member, as they each provide voiceover for a montage of concert, rehearsal, and studio background footage. Giving each band member equal time for input allows drummer Will Champion, lead guitar Johnny Buckland, and bassist Guy Berryman the chance to explain their place in the band’s chemistry as they’ve never really done before. They are noticeably less confident under the spotlight than Martin, as they’ve rarely given the mantle of speaking for the band. But it’s their moments that reveal the most. In one admission, Champion speaks about the strange moment when, only half an hour after a performance, he is shuffled into a personal hotel room, suddenly disconnected from his bandmates and the screams of 20,000 fans. It’s almost like he’s has never discussed this with anyone before and is realizing his own insecurities just as he’s revealing them to the world.
Chris Martin’s bookending voiceovers for the film reveal some of the hard work that the band’s put in to get this far, explaining that they’ve been through “breakups” and “addictions” just like any other band, but that they choose not to talk about them and make them seem like any different from any regular person’s problems. Martin admits that it’s the band’s chemistry that keeps them together their music interesting, and that with Mylo Xyloto they’ve reached the most synergistic place in their career.
The live performances in the film form a lively series representing the setlist as featured in a number of different venues, focusing primarily on the September 2, 2011 show at Stade de France in Paris. One of the highlights of the show is Rihanna’s guest appearance for her featuring spot on “Princess of China” — regardless of your opinion of the song itself, the oddly sweaty synergy between Martin and the Barbadian songstress is riveting.
Highlights of other venues include musically impressive back-to-back performances of “Us Against The World” and “Clocks” from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Glastonbury 2011’s return-to-the-spotlight performance of “Viva La Vida,” a DVD/Blu-ray-only rendition of “Violet Hill” from the more intimate La Cigale in Paris, and a rain-soaked “Major Minus” from Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas in Madrid.
With Chris Martin’s occasional F-bombs thrown into the performances (thus earning the release the band’s first “parental advisory” label) and the frantic depictions of transitions between performance stages, Coldplay’s energy keeps eyes on the screen, even for those who might be tired of the tunes themselves. The band is more skilled technicians than Martin is a lyricist, but the arena appeal of their melodies is a special quality few bands possess.
One especially bombastic show of the band’s bursting energy is the Xylobands — a concert souvenir given to each attendee on the walk into the arena. On the first notes of “MX” — and more notably, when the beat drops in “Charlie Brown” — the tens of thousands of bands light up in different colors, bringing the crowd together in a rainbow show of lights that bounces, flashes, and dances to the beat. It’s a mesmerizing example of an aging band reaching its performing maturity and demonstrating its gratitude for the fans that keep them going.
Coldplay Live 2012 is grainy and not as clean or beautifully shot as its content undoubtedly appeared in live reality. That seems deliberate, though, as it makes the performance feel gritty but brimming with brightness, like it’s ready to explode at any moment. The film is perfectly timed in the band’s career, and makes you feel like you’re watching — and included as an integral piece of — a special moment in music history at the exact moment of its occurence. Coldplay puts on an epic show, and while the flurorescent, booming show brings out the most superhuman selves, it contrasts with the down-to-earth humanity herein shown, behind the scenes.