Since late 2000, Coldplay has remained one of the most consistently successful acts in rock music. In an industry that has struggled mightily to adjust to modern consumption habits, these four decidedly awkward Brits comprise a near bulletproof commercial conglomerate. The band’s most recent album, 2011’s “Mylo Xyloto,” has continued this trend, selling 4.5 million albums globally. Now six dates into its North American tour, Coldplay has set up shop for three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl.
As the house lights dimmed, the brazen orchestral strains of Alan Silvestri’s “Back to the Future” theme blasted through the PA. It was an awkward, artistically illogical, yet strangely endearing choice for walkout music — in essence, it was quintessential Coldplay. The four members quickly trotted onstage and launched into the frantic rush of “Mylo Xyloto” opener “Hurts Like Heaven.” Audience members had been given rainbow-colored wristbands upon entry, which were triggered midway through the song, glowing and pulsating fantastically through the rafters. As fireworks shot from the lip of the gaping bandshell, it was clear that payoffs would not be in short supply on this evening.
Early hit “In My Place” was up next, with its signature, pulsing drum beat eliciting a euphoric audience response. Frontman Chris Martin danced and shuffled his way onto an extended stage peninsula, holding his microphone to the crowd and letting them finish off the chorus sections. Massive plumes of paper confetti were shot from cannons throughout the entire venue, dousing fans in rainbow-colored hearts and geometric shapes. Epic readings of “The Scientist” and “Yellow” soon followed, with the latter track benefiting from a stripped down intro section comprising light piano and Martin’s emotive vocals.
The group performed nearly all of its major hits, fleshing out the set with a couple of lesser-known ballads, “Lovers in Japan,” “Warning Sign” and album cuts from “Mylo.” The Rihanna collaboration, “Princess of China” was performed with the group crowded closely together on the stage runway, with a digital recreation of Rihanna singing along from the video monitors. It wasn’t quite Tupac at Coachella, but synthetic collaborations of this nature seem to be a sign of things to come for acts who tour on this scale.
“Charlie Brown” and “Paradise” closed out the set, revealing that Coldplay’s newer material is almost more stadium-ready than its previous output. “Paradise” was especially well performed: a perfect storm of thunderous drums, vocal chants and stage show wizardry. The encore included staple tracks “Clocks,” “Fix You” and recent single “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.”
The show was a brisk hour and a half in total; just long enough to satisfy without exposing any of the band’s musical limitations. Critics often focus upon what Coldplay isn’t: namely, a band with the artistic depth or musicianship of its sonic predecessor, Radiohead. But in the end, Coldplay is what it always has been: a pop band. And it is darn good at being just that.