Coldplay at Glastonbury 2011 – review

Pyramid stage

It's not easy being the boy band U2 when the real thing played the night before. Guitarist Jonny Buckland got his apologies in early, telling the NME last week: "We hope U2 do a B-sides set with no lights".

Before they walked onto the Pyramid stage, Coldplay were Glastonbury 2011's forgotten headliners. U2's mere presence on Friday generated intense debate and booking Beyoncé for Sunday night induced squeaks of delight. Yet a band whose last album, Viva La Vida, sold almost 7 million copies in 2008 somehow slipped into the background.

But that level of success is no fluke. Coldplay are a light, bright pop act, specialists in the kind of non-specific, one size fits all emotion that plays well in front of the Pyramid stage. Crucially, they're also on home turf, this being their third headline appearance in nine years. It doesn't hold the same fear for them that it did for four men from Dublin.

So after the symphonic intro music and fireworks, no one cares that the opener, new track Hurts Like Heaven, is basically a Walt Disney version of Arcade Fire's Keep the Car Running. Besides, it's only there to kill time until the audience have made it through the bog. What follows sets the mood properly, with shameless crowd-pleaser Yellow followed by In my Place and not long after, Scientist. It works, too.

In the end they needn't have been quite so modest. Sure, they benefited from facing an audience who'd spent an afternoon in the sun, and who were still on a high from a spectacular Elbow performance, but they're also a kinder, more welcoming proposition than U2.

So it didn't matter that they needed two shots at new song Us Against the World, or that it was a bit sappy. As with their earlier European festival performances, the whirling Charlie Brown was the standout new song, a definite advance on the still forgettable Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, even if the lyrics were guff about "running wild" and "glowing in the dark."

And despite front-loading the set, they kept plenty in reserve, Viva La Vida winning the prize for most joyous sing-a-long, at least until Clocks kicked off the encore.

A victory that few predicted. Who knew a band this big could sneak up on people?


Gareth Grundy

The GuardianTramp

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