Bowery Ballroom, NY Review

Originally posted on August 20, 2002 6:00 PM

Coldplay seem like a group of polite young men who you wouldn't mind taking home to meet the parents. But they're about more than mere pleasantry. Their concert in the tiny Bowery Ballroom also showed they have an ambitious streak the size of U2.

Huge stars in their native Britain, the band hopes their second album A Rush of Blood to the Head will capitalize on the success of their breakout hit, "Yellow." That irresistible song established the band's trademark sound: twee-pop verses of heartfelt declarations like "I wrote this song for you," alternated with guitar stomps that conjure images of Neil Young's Crazy Horse on a forced march.

Coming off what the Brits call "a wobbly," (illness, cancelled gigs, and rumors of a split all marked last year's American tour), this New York show found them trying to ditch their "next best thing to Radiohead" designation, and opting for world domination. From the pounding thrash of the opener "Politik," their music roared with extraordinary vigor.

Guitarist Jon Buckland coaxed shimmering whines from his instrument with a bottleneck, and the supple rhythm section were turned up to Spinal Tap-like levels. Coldplay's charismatic focal point, however, is wiry singer Chris Martin, who, in spite of a bandage on his right hand, played guitar and piano. Martin is the band's muddled heart. His wounded rasp can find a bedrock truth in a line like "If you go leave me down here on my own/ I'll wait for you." During "Daylight," an anthem that spirals around the drumbeat from the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," he screwed up his face in concentration, and whooped at his piano like an ecstatic Ray Charles.

At points Martin seemed a stand-up comic with opening night jitters. He apologized for preferring Bruce Springsteen over Aphex Twin before singing a verse of the Boss' "Hungry Heart," and joked that the glittering ballad "Trouble" was a "stupid little song" before halting the tune to make sure he wasn't misinterpreted. "It's a fucking great song, actually," he decided. Glad that's settled.

Hearing songs from the band's Parachutes debut was like bumping into old friends. The sing-along of "Everything's Not Lost" inspired the group to carefully tease it until its refrain reached its breaking point. When "Yellow" arrived in the finale, Martin didn't even have to sing. He turned his mic stand around to the bellowing fans as if they were the stars.

Coldplay respond to such audience adoration with a generosity that almost made you mistrust them. I guess we're just not used to pop stars being so ... nice. Their second encore was yet another a gift. Martin played Oasis' "Songbird" alone at the piano to the evident delight of the brothers Gallagher, who lurked in the upstairs balcony. The entire band reassembled for the rousing closer, Echo & the Bunnymen's "Lips Like Sugar." Offering a respectful nod to Britpop masters past and present, Coldplay seemed keenly confident in their own glorious future.

Source: VH1 Concert Reviews

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