Concert review: Coldplay at United Center

On Coldplay’s latest album, “Mylo Xyloto,” the British quartet traces the story of a desperate couple running from the unnamed bad guys. “From underneath the rubble,” Chris Martin intones, “sing a rebel song.”

But that’s just a bunch of malarkey. There’s not a lot of rebelliousness in Martin and his affable bandmates. Exactly the opposite. Inclusion is the big theme at their concerts, and so it was Tuesday in the first of two shows at the United Center.

Guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, drummer Will Champion and Martin didn’t save their best moves for last. Within minutes, confetti rained down, dozens of beach-ball-sized globes floated and bounced, and six multi-pronged lasers lit up the balconies. Fans who were handed wrist bands at the door found the contraptions glowed in the dark at strategic moments, essentially turning the audience into its own light show.

Martin dropped enough “Chicago” and “Chi-town” references into his songs to suggest that every song had been written with us and only us in mind. A band this aggressively ingratiating can be a bit much, but Coldplay compensates with a scrupulously scripted, fast-paced show chock full of excellent singles: “Yellow,” “Clocks,” “Fix You,” “Viva La Vida,” “Paradise.”

The band’s eagerness to please kept the preachiness and the between-songs patter to a merciful minimum. Instead the foursome turned the interjection “Whoah!” into a 10-syllable celebration, with sing-alongs the rule. The balloons and confetti camouflaged some of the slow spots or underlined the crescendos. The always eager Martin at times resembled an Olympic gymnast performing a particularly awkward floor exercise, sprinting and leap-frogging up and down a runway through the audience.

The stage moves were choreographed to look heroic from the third balcony: Martin kneeling and leaning back with microphone thrust toward Buckland as the guitarist played a solo during “In My Place,” Martin dueting with the video image of Rihanna on “Princess of China,” the band setting up in the middle of the audience to play “Us Against the World.”    

It was professional arena rock executed with lots of recorded backing instrumentation and few moments of genuine spontaneity – the show has been replicated at nearly every tour stop so far. Martin tried to play “Amsterdam,” a song requested by several fans, but could only manage a few lines before breaking it off and returning to the band’s regularly scheduled programming.

“I don’t want to (tick) anyone off,” Martin said by way of apology, while essentially summarizing the band’s career ambitions. Over five albums, Coldplay has flirted with art-rock and world music, but their primary ambition is a crowd-pleasing universality. They want what Rihanna has – to rule the pop world. And they’re going to do it by playing nice.

greg@gregkot.com  

Coldplay set list Tuesday at the United Center:
1. Mylo Xyloto
2. Hurts Like Heaven
3. In my Place
4. Major Minus
5. Lovers in Japan
6. The Scientist
7. Yellow
8. Violet Hill
9. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face

Small Stage
10. Princess of China
11. Up in Flames
12. Warning Sign

Main stage
13. Don't Let It Break Your Heart
14. Viva La Vida
15. Charlie Brown
16. Paradise

Encore:
17. Us Against the World
18. Speed of Sound
19. Clocks
20. Fix You
21. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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