Bucking the most prevalent trend in the concert-doc market, “Coldplay Live 2012” director Paul Dugdale abstains from shooting in 3D as he turns his camera on the world-conquering mensch-rockers as they tour in support of last year’s album “Mylo Xyloto.” Yet this restraint is nullified elsewhere with unyielding quick cuts, overblown slow-mo and druggy, bright-colored interludes, causing no shortage of clutter in an otherwise solid performance film. Hardcore fans should show up for the pic’s Nov. 13 engagement, though healthy ancillary will be required to put a real smile on its backers’ faces.
Primarily shot at a show earlier this year at Paris’ Stade de France, the film takes a number of detours to Madrid, Glastonbury and Montreal, with the band reveling in the biggest and most elaborate production values of its career. Since emerging as a somewhat awkward pop-rock unit in 2000, Coldplay has learned how to enliven its beige-colored modesty with eye-catching stage design, contagious surges of energy and one particularly brilliant gimmick in which concertgoers are issued LED bracelets that light up in rainbow colors at key moments in the show. (Somewhere, one imagines Bono burying his face in his hands, distraught over not thinking of this earlier.)
Dugdale clearly knows how to quicken the pulse with jumbled edits, crowd shots, psychedelic effects and double-exposed song lyrics scrolling atop the footage. But he seems less sure how to pace it, and the soft contemplativeness of Coldplay’s music can sometimes seem comically out of sync with such gussied-up images. On the flipside, when frontman Chris Martin executes a perfectly timed leap into the air as confetti cannons explode around him and the band bursts into the climax of “In My Place,” a cut to an uber-dramatic slo-mo shot actually obscures the energy of the moment.
Pleasantly unencumbered by any need to adhere to indie-rock values or project edginess, Coldplay’s material shoots for broad, sunshine-breaking-through-clouds transcendence on nearly every song, which makes its music unexpectedly moving when it works (“Up in Flames,” “Fix You”), and particularly treacly when it misses (“Paradise,” “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall”). But as led by the admirably peppy, unself-conscious Martin, the group display advanced levels of salesmanship in putting these emotions across. Stadium stages often serve to magnify every underwritten chorus or hint of hesitancy in a younger band, yet Coldplay’s four members never look out of place, even when they’re joined by a capital-P Pop star like Rihanna on “Princess of China.”
Glimpsed in interstitial interview segments, the quartet mostly offer passing platitudes, and their overwhelming pleasantness can start to feel deadening; a stark black-and-white shot of Martin staring forlornly at his deluxe espresso machine while his v.o. laments the hardships of touring just invites snickering.
Yet perhaps that dullness can provide a blessing of sorts. As Martin notes with disarming clarity late on, after acknowledging that this ostensibly drama-free band has quietly endured its share of addictions and disputes: “We’re a very private band, and we just don’t really believe in any of that rock ‘n’ roll myth.” Were the film more attuned to this low-key mentality, it might have struck a more appropriate mood.
Tech credits, especially the sound design and mixing, are high-caliber.