Coldplay – review

Royal Court, Liverpool

"If anyone's here for the pantomime I'm afraid you're gonna have a shit evening," quips Chris Martin, kicking off the first of two gigs for homeless charity Crisis, in "intimate" venues. "Intimate", of course, is a relative concept, but a 1,000-capacity theatre is a small gig for a group who've shifted 50m albums and treat the venue like an arena. The drum sound alone seems to come via the Mersey tunnel.

Coldplay's last album, Viva la Vida, suggests they may now be the world's biggest-selling band, and while U2 and the Stones may still be ahead in tour receipts, Martin's troops are a formidable live act. The £50 tickets (unfortunately touted for 15 times as much) get you a set of greatest hits and songs they haven't played in years, and an evening somewhere between Echo & the Bunnymen, Elton John and Anfield. In My Place raises hands in the air within 30 seconds; the crowd bellow Yellow so loudly Martin can barely get a word in.

Wearing unfeasibly tight trousers and a carnation, the thirtysomething singer is part consummate frontman, part someone stumbling on stage at a wedding party. On record, he can be overearnest; live, he is a hoot, smashing mic stands, accidentally headbutting the microphone, claiming to be listening to Radio 4 through his headphones, and insisting the band are too embarrassed to play anything from their forthcoming fifth album because it is "atrocious". However, they can unleash considerable emotion, not least when the crowd form a hushed choir as Fix You unshowily but poignantly captures the point of the evening.

Martin may wish to come over like a hapless Mr Bean, but he clearly has powers beyond even the average rock god. "If only the pantomime genie could magic up the greatest songwriter in Britain," he sighs, and lo and behold on walks Take That's Gary Barlow for a version of Back for Good, which generates such hysteria you fear for the building. The surreal cast is then joined by Peter Kay, hurling sweets, and no fewer than three Elvises, playing violins.

But perhaps the most significant moment came earlier, when the Choir With No Name – singers of varying ability drawn from "the fringes of society" – brought cheers to the rafters with their heroic, moving renditions of Christmas classics. Meanwhile, the £250,000 raised by these gigs has already established a Crisis centre in Liverpool: while governments do nothing, or worse, it seems that extraordinary events such as this can make a real difference to struggling people's lives.

More information at crisis.org.uk

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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