Coldplay review – charge of the bright brigade

Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Just about pulling off their late-career rave reinvention, Coldplay deliver a tireless, eye-popping show

Bits of coloured confetti are stuck to Chris Martin’s brow, giving him the air of a dad roped into a messy play session. In fact, the lead singer of Coldplay is banging away at the piano on Yellow, their career-defining love song, in front of a sell-out crowd.

Martin is slick with sweat, as drenched as the crowd who have braved sodden queues outside the Principality Stadium for the band’s first Welsh gig for 17 years. (Rumours swirled all day that the Cardiff landmark’s roof would be left open to the elements; mercifully, it is shut.) Martin thanks us for “all the shit” fans had to go through to get in, noting how well things have turned out for the cagoule makers of Wales.

The inside of the stadium is all aglow, thanks to Coldplay’s signature light-up “xylobands”, first used on the Mylo Xyloto tour of 2012. They are, yes, all yellow. It feels like the encore, the kind that sends you out into the night streets, hollering the chorus. We are just two songs in.

Coldplay’s All I Can Think About Is You.

Despite their nice-guy credentials, energy saving is just not what Coldplay do. During Paradise, Martin slurps some water on the main stage, runs down the catwalk towards the B-stage, does a backwards roly-poly and runs back. The end of the song now has a rave climax, thanks to an interpolated Tiesto remix, part of Coldplay’s late-life embrace of dance music, a gradual reinvention that they are just about pulling off – at least at the level of mass entertainment, if not hardcore clubland: witness their dancing ape-themed 2015 comeback single Adventure of a Lifetime, which renewed the band for younger listeners.

Soon, all of Coldplay are down the end of the catwalk on the B-stage for a trio of quieter songs. Later, they’ll dash to the C-stage for an even more intimate, acoustic interlude. The cumulative effect of all the explosions, fireworks, balloons, xylobands, rainbow-coloured lasers and dashing about is less shock and awe than a sort of dazzled, frazzled Color Run.

Similarly, Coldplay’s A Head Full of Dreams tour has crisscrossed the world frenetically since March 2016, via last year’s Super Bowl, four Wembleys, and, more recently, Manchester’s One Love all-dayer; 50,000 people saw them in Singapore in March. By the end, they will have done both Europe and North and South America twice. Coldplay are only playing in stadiums. That’s a lot of xylobands. Whatever insults their aloof compatriots might level at Coldplay – from “music for bedwetters” on in – this band are an engine of Technicolor succour with a global reach.

After Wednesday’s gig, that will be it for the UK. And if tonight’s set is, by and large, the same multiple, album-spanning compendium of Pantone feelgood music that has been shuffled between Santiago, Taipei and Leipzig, then the context around it has shifted, like the night sky around a fixed telescope. Did you know guitarist Jonny Buckland grew up in Wales? Wales does. Cue two choristers, who come on at the end for a massive rendition of the Welsh national anthem.

The tour has opened umpteen times with Maria Callas singing O mio babbino caro, a Puccini song that translates as Oh My Dear Daddy. But Martin mentions that friends and family are here tonight, including his 76-year-old dad, whom the singer instructs to limber up before we all jump in unison on Charlie Brown.

Coldplay at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.
‘Energy saving is just not what they do’: Coldplay at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Photograph: Polly Thomas/ Rex/ Shutterstock

Martin spoke movingly about his father in my former colleague Ted Kessler’s compendium of father-love, My Old Man. “The one thing he gave me was the phrase ‘never give up’,” Martin says in the book. That phrase ended up most obviously in Up & Up, Coldplay’s most positive jam, but it suffuses pretty much everything Martin writes. Tonight, Up & Up features one of Buckland’s most ringing guitar solos.

More contexts are swirling. On Friday, Coldplay dropped an EP of new music, Kaleidoscope, containing companion songs to last year’s A Head Full of Dreams (their seventh album; 5m copies sold worldwide: not bad, in the age of streaming). The meditative All I Can Think About Is You finds Martin musing on the state of things (“chaos giving orders”).

In spring, there was Hypnotised, another pretty, bittersweet piano outing with a little self-deprecating joke hidden in it (“I’m hip,” sang Martin, “I’m hypnotised”). More recently, there was Aliens, an eastern-tinged electronic outing about migration; its proceeds will go to Moas, the Mediterranean rescue organisation still fishing desperate people out of the sea. Anyone hoping to hear any of these new cuts goes home disappointed.

In February, however, there was Something Just Like This, Coldplay’s collaboration with the Chainsmokers. Somehow, this big song has outlived the hostilities unleashed at its birth, where piano-rock fans bristled at their favourite band’s debasement by club-pop producers. Like the dancing gorillas of Adventure of a Lifetime, the rave stabs and references to cartoon superheroes in Something… are a bid to “young-up”. Given the undulating stadium full of shiny, happy, wet people, it seems to be working.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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