Confetti jets, a huge projection screen at the band’s back, Chris Martin’s mug projected onto massive balls dangling from the ceiling, a stage with dual runways (out to the crowd on one end and an alternate drums/amp setup on the other) — you could almost be forgiven if you forgot it was a free show at Madison Square Garden last night. Except that Chris Martin reminded you with every other song. And hey why not, it was a nice time, and it was a certain experiment with our collective fascination for loss leading musical ventures, staged for the benefit of around 10,000 people here and similar amounts in London and Barcelona in the days before. They’re not putting up Lil Wayne numbers, but Coldplay’s selling, and this was their way of saying thanks (optimistic) or please put us in your headlines (cynical). Whatever your view, you should hand it to ’em: they managed both.

I’ve seen Coldplay a few times, once back in the Parachutes days, and then a couple times at Wembley the month Rush Of Blood… was released. This show had many (many) rough spots, but overall they’re a much better band now: more sturdy, and empowered by the X&Y rut-busting of the Viva La Vida… songs, even if the post-Eno incarnation has further marginalized everyone’s musical identity save Martin. But you know, it’s Coldplay — not high artists, but self-admitted appreciators and appropriators of high artists — and it’s nice to see solid reference points wading so far out into the mainstream. To make an occasion of it last night, the band played with the venue a bit. “Chinese Sleep Chant,” one of their more interesting and outlying musical moments (hi, MBV), got the showcase treatment: performed on its own, not affixed to “Yes” (which wasn’t played at all), with the band set up on a little stage jetty that sorta put them in the thick of the crowd.

I say “sorta” because later, for “Yellow,” they were actually deep in the thick of the crowd: after warning us they were trying something new and it “might backfire,” Chris led the band on a long, spotlit walk from stage, through the crowd, and up into the second level, close enough to my post-photo pit seat to grab a shot or two.

Now, if you’re looking for a great (not great) way to temper people’s expectations and diffuse awkwardness after numerous fuck-ups, forgotten lyrics, an untuned guitar, earpieces falling out, and/or bum piano chords, just say something like “hey, you could ask for a refund — except this is free!” Over. And over. (Also improvise new lyrics to “Fix You” — “when you embarrass yourself at MSG-eee / but it doesn’t matter ’cause they got in for free-eee,” etc. PEOPLE LOVE THAT. Side note to the youngsters: don’t use this if your show isn’t actually free. Or at MSG. It’ll be even less charming.)

So no the night didn’t go entirely smoothly, but maybe you heard, IT WAS FREE. There were some good choices, like DJing a straight shot of Kraftwerk’s “Computer Love” while readjusted the stage, rather than performing the song that samples it (“Talk”). And overall the Viva stuff sounds good: “Lost!” and “Strawberry Swing” and “Lovers In Japan” brought some cute hug-your-lover moments, the former being my favorite Viva song and strong live, the latter bringing lots of confetti and ending the show sans encore, moving into the same “Eno was here” electronic music that bookends the new album (and opened the show). At an hour and change, sure it could’ve been longer. Chris never offered an explanation, but you know exactly what he’d have said if asked.

01 “Life In Technicolor”
02 “Violet Hill”
03 “Clocks”
04 “In My Place”
05 “Viva La Vida”
06 “Chinese Sleep Chant”
07 “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face”
08 “42″
09 “Square One”
10 “Trouble”
11 “Lost!”
12 “Strawberry Swing”
13 “Yellow”
14 “Death Will Never Conquer”
15 “Fix You”
16 “Lovers In Japan”

Comments (32)
  1. and the haters start chiming in at 5…4…3….

  2. Crowd  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2008 0


  3. Maybe I’m the most naive person in the world, but I just don’t understand the excessive hate on Coldplay. I mean seeing them in the Billboard Top 10 ( it could be way worse right? And in the end who cares, they’re not on you IPod so don’t worry about it.

  4. John  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2008 0

    Oh white people…..

  5. Fuck Coldplay, I wish I was at the show the other night where Shaq was freestyling about Kobe tasting his ass. Real Muthaphukkin G!

  6. Not playing Don’t Panic or The Scientist was pretty big disappointment for me. It took folks like 5 minutes after waiting for the encore that never came that they would actually not play either song.

  7. tingletrent  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2008 0

    16 songs is pretty weak for a band as big as coldplay. no encore? cold.

    • Jack Kapulsky  |   Posted on Nov 1st, 2009 0

      it was free chillax people! the two times i saw them they played the scientist and had an encore and it was best night of my life

  8. J. Greenwood  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2008 0

    “But you know, it’s Coldplay — not high artists, but self-admitted appreciators and appropriators of high artists — and it’s nice to see solid reference points wading so far out into the mainstream.”

    Because, I mean, there are so many artists that are more high art than Coldplay in the non-mainstream.

  9. I keep trying to get into the new album and just can’t. I think Coldplay’s first two albums were amazing, X&Y is much better than people remember, and Viva is just not very good.

  10. Hasief  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2008 0

    It’s funny you mention all the mistakes that made at this show, considering one of the reasons they did this gig for free is out of guilt for “fucking up” (Chris Martin’s words, more or less) their previous NYC gigs on the X & Y tour. But I guess reminding themselves that “it was free!” will make them sleep better this time around.

  11. I couldn’t click on this fast enough to read these comments. They make me laugh. They played 3 free arena shows but of course are still assholes.

    • Todd  |   Posted on Jun 26th, 2008 0

      It’s like saying you don’t like the color blue.

      “I don’t like blue because it’s not red enough.”

      “Blue is trying SO HARD to be green.”

      “I heard gay fags like the color blue.”

      “Blue is EVERYWHERE and it’s OVEREXPOSED.”

      “Primary colors are for douchebags.”

  12. rybeartron  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2008 0

    it’s as if Will Champion (world’s foremost non-drumming drummer) finds a new piece of percussion and forces it into each album. on X&Y he discovered the Cowbell, and on Viva he found the big Marching-Band Drum.

  13. Is it just me or is Coldplay really aping The Flaming Lips whole, concert-as-a-big-fucking-circus schtick? Chris Martin is even starting to resemble Wayne.

  14. Pat  |   Posted on Jun 24th, 2008 0

    “Chris Martin’s mug projected onto massive balls dangling…” Da Capo Best Music Writing take notice!

  15. At least they creating someting and lotta of people appreciate it. Not just hating, just like most of you did. Create something, don’t just critizise.

  16. i guess it was short and with no encore cuz it was free…just saying.

  17. im not really sure if bitching about the concert is allowed bc it was free….. thats like finding money on the ground and then being sad its not more. U got to see a band u like for nothing, good stuff.

  18. know how i know you’re gay?

  19. CN  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2008 0

    I really don’t understand the whole encore thing. I mean, if Coldplay had taken a 1 minute break after 14 songs, walked off stage, and then come back on stage for the last 2 songs, would people be happy that they did an “encore”? One of these days I want to see a real encore. One that is deserved. One where the fans refuse to leave until it happens. I thought I was going to get it once at a Smashing Pumpkins show. The fans chanted and clapped for a good 20 minutes…but then finally caved.

  20. Hood-X  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2008 0

    What is “Death Will Never Conquer”?

  21. I personally like Coldplay, especially the first two albums. I saw them in 2002 post Rush… and they were fantastic. Chris forgetting lyrics is very disappointing to me. And out of tune guitars? People play free shows all the time – they’re still shows. not sound checks.

  22. joydivided  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2008 0

    we had a IM conversation about this show and the Harvey Milk show at Europa. Check it out:

  23. cashc0w  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2008 0

    so whats up with coldplay, these guys are joking right

  24. snooter  |   Posted on Jun 25th, 2008 0

    What’s annoying about Coldplay is how BADLY they want to be the biggest band in the world.

  25. Alex  |   Posted on Jun 26th, 2008 0

    Well your not gonna start a band and say…we don’t want any fans or do any tours and get as many people to hate our music as possible…That would be defeating the purpose of making music. Yes it can reflect the human emotion and be expressive but doing so will inevitably connect the music with something or someone…

  26. Emma Darjling  |   Posted on Jun 29th, 2008 0

    The top executives of EMI Music were in attendance at Coldplay?s Monday night show, including Jeff Kempler, COO of Capitol Music Group, and Victoria Bassetti, Head of Government Affairs, Amani Dunkan, Head of Marketing, Colin Finkelstein, President EMI, Edna Abad, VP Artist Relations, Chris Anokute, VP A&R, and Jeanne Meyer, VP of Corporate Communications. Also sitting behind the EMI management team was Actresses Charlize Theron, Kirsten Dunst and supermodel Helena Christensen in the 10,000-strong audience.

    Also in attendance was Johnny Barbis, Elton John?s Manager. After the concert the Chris and the band members celebrated together with EMI on the rooftop of the Gramercy Park Hotel.

    The album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends has been #1 in both the US and Europe. The band has focused on quality over quantity and we are hoping that Coldplay renews their contract with EMI; however, that will be dependent Guy Hands and the new management, along with the development of Artist Relations at EMI. The addition of Brian Eno and Markus Dravs as producers on the album, contributed to its strength.

    Violet Hill will be released on Guitar Hero.

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