Straightforward as its title, "Coldplay Live 2003" records the Brit pop quartet's concert at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion earlier this year. Very well shot and edited, feature nonetheless often feels forced, as though pic needs to pump up the excitement factor. Pic is currently playing limited theatrical run, but two-disc DVD/CD package is available.

A correction was made to this review on Nov. 26, 2003.

Straightforward as its title, “Coldplay Live 2003″ records the Brit pop quartet’s concert at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion earlier this year. Very well shot and edited, Super 16mm feature nonetheless often feels forced, as though pic needs to pump up the excitement factor of the multiple-Grammy winning band whose quintessentially melancholy qualities make it difficult to wow an arena-scaled audience. Pic is currently playing limited theatrical run at San Francisco’s Roxie Cinema; other such gigs will likely be even shorter, save perhaps for those in the U.K. Two-disc DVD/CD package is already available from Capitol Records.

Initially dubbed a more accessible Radiohead, Coldplay is (for better or worse) far less musically adventuresome than that outfit, sharing only a pensive tilt and a singer who switches to frequent falsetto without sounding ridiculous. Band’s 2000 debut full-length disc “Parachutes” (following a little-heard EP) was a gem of minor-key melodic and simple lyrical content lent hypnotic tension by guitarist Jon Buckland’s soft/hard power chords, and songwriter Chris Martin’s eerily detached-yet-intimate vocals.

Last year’s follow-up “A Rush of Blood to the Head” proved even more successful in commercial terms, though its overproduced reach for harder-rock credibility undercut the unit’s strengths to some degree.

In any case, Coldplay is not the kind of band likely to raise the roof in a large venue, being just a degree or two more “rocking” than say, fellow countrymen Travis, and ideally suited to 3 a.m. headphone contemplation rather than mass Bic-lighting. There’s a particularly lame attempt here to build communal-chant excitement around the close of “Everything’s Not Lost,” while singing along is also encouraged for “Trouble,” a song antithetical to stadium bravado.

Strangely, the one Coldplay tune ideal to excite a large crowd — their original breakthrough, “Yellow” — is ploddingly delivered, with Martin vocally derailed by his attempt to “dance” and strike various rousing poses. (He makes Michael Stipe look like David Lee Roth by comparison.) Faring better is “Clocks,” thanks in part to deployment of green laser beams.

Elsewhere, Martin slumps over his piano like “Peanuts'” Schroeder, pouring sweat between aud-frenzy shots. But the spectral quality of Coldplay’s best music makes such ersatz raw freneticism seem a tad silly. And, the members (who barely interact) don’t appear to be having much fun. Onstage they’re almost anti-charismatic, without making that into a virtue. Martin’s rare between-song patter is nondescript; the band’s attire so ditto you might think The Gap was a tour sponsor.

The lack of stage magnetism leaves one all too free to notice how Martin’s lyrics are “personal” without revealing anything, “philosophical” in the vaguest sense, full of all-purpose phrases like “Nobody said it was easy/Nobody said it would be hard.” Indeed, while Coldplay’s music alternately recalls the anthemism of U2 ballads and the sensitive insularity of folk-pop icon Nick Drake, their words are by contrast almost wholly devoid of personality, opinion, or point-of-origin (they formed in London) character.

There’s no faulting the packaging here, however. Stage lighting designer Bryan Leitch favors intense yet simple, single-hued gambits that accentuate group’s air of aesthetic purity; occasional projections on four rear video screens are unfussy. Fluid multicamera lensing and sharp editing lend concert as much dynamism as possible — perhaps rather more than it can reasonably support. Audio mix is superb.

Coldplay Live 2003

Production

A Done and Dusted, Parlophone and EMI Records Ltd. production. Produced by Melanie Vaughton. Executive producer, Julie Jakobek. Directed by Russell Thomas.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16mm), Eugene O'Connor; editors, Tamer Osman, Simon George; stage lighting designer, Bryan Leitch; concert video projection director, Nick Whitehouse; sound production/mixers (Dolby Surround), Daniel Green, Paul Hicks, Chris Bolster; assistant director, Amanda McGeever. Reviewed at the Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Nov. 19, 2003. Running time: 91 MIN.

Cast

With: Guy Berryman, Jon Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin.
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