Monday, September 7, 2009

Coldplay in Paris

Now that's what I'm talking about!

How a band could go from my worst concert experience (relative to expectations) to my best in exactly one month is beyond me but that is what they did. Yawn to goosebumps.

August 7 I saw Coldplay at Verizon Amphitheatre in Charlotte, NC with Brittain who had won 2 lawn tickets at work and invited me. (Brittain and her boyfriend will be joining us in 3 weeks where they will see Elton John and Green Day with us.) This venue has a seating capacity of about 18,500 with 10,000 being lawn seats and 8,500 being reserved seating (some under cover).

The concert was particularly disappointing because I had heard so many rave reviews about Coldplay live. We were in the very back of the lawn section and the sound just didn't carry well apparently. It was quite underwhelming, no energy whatsoever. The review in the paper the next day was great and I have heard that others had a great time so I had to attribute my experience to our seating.

Tonight, I gave them another chance.

As I described earlier, we obtained two tickets yesterday; Stephen and Heidi were able to scalp two tickets when we arrived early at the venue. They chose to enter early to establish a spot close to the stage (since they had standing room tickets on the floor) while Amanda and I relaxed at the nearby Les Princes restaurant with a couple beers and some appetizers.

The weather could hardly have been more perfect -- fair and mid-70s in the early evening dropping to just below 70 after the sun set.

The venue was Parc des Princes, a football/rugby stadium owned by the city. The seats completely encircle the arena in two tiers. While the stadium is open on top there is a roof that extends inward to cover the seats, leaving only the field exposed. Seating capacity is 49,000. While one end of the stadium (behind the stage) was unusable, this appeared to be more than made up by the fans on the field.

Since the concert was sold out, I would guess there were more than 50,000 people in attendance, obviously significantly more than the concert in Charlotte.

And did they make their presence known!

After the first two acts (who were really bad), it took about 30 minutes to set up for Coldplay. During this intermission, the crowd did "the wave," clapped in unison, and otherwise demonstrated they were ready for the show to begin. The contrast with Charlotte was palpable. You could sense the place was ready to explode.

Our seats were in the far end zone, upper tier, row 25 (out of 33), dead center. In fact, we were so far up and back that we could not see out the opening in the stadium due to the slope of the roof covering the seats. From our perspective, the stadium might as well have been an enclosed arena. This was the view from our seats:

Comically, at then end of the string of songs played during the intermission was this classic waltz which the crowd enthusiastically clapped to in time. Maybe this is a concert tradition in Paris or for Coldplay or Europe or just concerts in general. I don't know but I had never heard it before. Watch this 14-second clip (you can see crowd swaying near stage):

Coldplay opened (as they did in Charlotte) and also closed the concert with Life in Technicolor, which is a near perfect opening song because of the instrumental opening, in which a new instrument is added to the mix as it loops through the opening chorus repeatedly, finally reaching a crescendo when the vocals begin.

The staging and lighting were much more impressive than in Charlotte. The main screen behind the band displayed a famously unique French picture, Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix:

This was particularly ironic because we had just seen that painting in the Louvre Museum yesterday!

It was only in writing this post that I discovered that this image is actually on the cover of their Viva La Vida album (which means it wasn't on stage just as a tribute to the French concert audience):

I mean what are the chances of seeing a British band playing in France displaying the same image on stage that you had just seen in the most famous museum in the world the day before.

This 25 second clip on the song Clocks not only illustrates some fancy laser lightworks, but you can (faintly) see the Liberty Leading the People image on the screen behind the band.

However, it was Viva La Vida, the Grammy's Song of the Year for 2009, that really got the crowd going about 50 minutes in. Until then everyone in our section of seats had remained seated. It was this song that brought them to their feet.

And they loved the catchy little interlude at the 3 minute mark and the end (which I believe was the basis for the copyright infringement lawsuit):

Oh, oh oh-oh oh, oh oh-oh oh,
Oh oh-oh oh, oh-oh oh, oh-oh oh,
Oh-oh oh, a oh oh oh

In fact, when the song was over, teh crowd insisted on continuing it. Between other songs, they continued to repeat it. When the concert was over, they continued to repeat it. You couldn't sleep without hearing this "hook" ringing in your ear.

I have to admit Chris Martin, the enthusiastic keyboard player, vocalist and clear leader of the band, is infectious. At one point, he turned out the lights, requested cell phones to be raised, and choreographed a light "wave." (I recorded it but you wouldn't recognize it.)

As in Charlotte, they performed an acoustic set on a makeshift stage in the middle of the infield, which included a version of Billie Jean, in which the crowd sang along on the chorus (as Martin so often prompted them to do on many songs and which they loved). I have a brief audio recording:

Unfortunately, after about an hour and forty-five minutes, they were done.

They did return for an encore of two songs, starting with the poignant piano ballad (with Chris Martin falsetto) The Scientist and finishing as they began, with Life in Technicolor.

This was everything the previous concert was not. The sound and energy were probably better than any concert I have seen. The video and light production were likewise astounding. Of course, 50,000 people helps. Maybe its Paris. (I mean, if you are a band, how can you not have Paris circled on your tour calendar as a stop you really want to have your A-game at?)

One concert down. Five to go. If the others come anywhere close to this, it's going to be an amazing next 7 weeks.

PS By the way, here is someone else's review of the concert in Hong Kong. The song sequence looks similar (except they got a 3rd encore song which we didn't) to what I vaguely recall, so I'll assume they are the same:

Life In Technicolor
Violet Hill
In My Place
Glass Of Water
Cemeteries Of London
Fix You
Strawberry Swing
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
The Hardest Part
Postcards From Far Away
Viva La Vida
Green Eyes
Death Will Never Conquer
I'm A Believer
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends

The Scientist
Life In Technicolor II
The Escapistoutro

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