(This review originally appeared at Reel Film News on November 14, 2012.)
Coldplay have spent the last year touring in support of their new album “Mylo Xyloto” to much critical and audience acclaim. Their live show, augmented by the use of illuminating wristbands (called Xylobands) given to the audience, redefined the relationship between band and observer by making them an active part of the proceedings. On Monday, November 19, they will unleash Coldplay Live 2012 upon the home media market; it is a concert film culled from several performances, dating all the way back to their 2011 Glastonbury show to recent shows in Paris and Montreal. To hype this release further, they added a one-night only theatrical screening on November 13th at theaters worldwide. Locally, the new Angelika Mosaic and a few others were host to this screening, with the theater being filled with fans old and young, all delighted at the prospect of being able to witness this snapshot of this moment in Coldplay’s history.
It’s tough being a Coldplay fan these days, with constant derision being heaped upon them and their fans. The “You know how I know you’re gay?” sequence from the film The 40 Year-Old Virgin was just the first of many public tongue-lashings directed at Coldplay, with detractors left and right coming out of the woodwork to heap scorn upon them. With five studio albums and a relentless tour schedule, Coldplay have fired straight back with brilliant musicianship, heartfelt songs, and one of the most memorable stage shows ever to tour the earth. With Coldplay Live 2012, they are afforded the opportunity to show the world at large just how powerful their combination of music and imagery can be; we also get each band member’s personal take on the tour and their own perceptions of themselves.
Against a backdrop of graffiti, laser lights, swirling confetti, and computer imagery, Coldplay’s 90-minute exercise in showmanship starts from the very beginning, where the raucous “Hurts Like Heaven” blasts the audience into a frantic fervor. The Xylobands pop and flash, animating the audience and further enhancing the impact of the music. Chiefly caught on digital cameras by director Paul Dugdale, we are granted an upfront look at the band onstage, sweat and all, while they power through an ecstatic show at the Stade de France in Paris, which serves as this film’s base performance. Songs captured during their appearances in Madrid, Montreal, the Hollywood Bowl, and Glastonbury are thrown in the mix to complement and contrast the Paris show. Every two or three songs, there’s a break in the concert footage as each member provides a small narration about how the tour has affected them, and we are given a rare glimpse into their road lives and what their expectations are for these shows. It’s also fun to see their playful moments; we see them driving around in stadium carts, playing soccer and ping-pong, and goofing off for the cameras. (Speaking of which, watch all the way past the credits.)
Musically, Coldplay are at the top of their game. Sonically tight and soulful, their songs are given ample room to mesmerize on their own; the additional imagery only adds to the experience of the song, making the song both aurally and visually memorable. The sound, mixed by longtime collaborator Rik Simpson, is sure to grab your ears and make you notice sounds that you may never have noticed before – the wobbly synthesizers in “Charlie Brown” are a fine example of this. Also, the crowd noise is never too overpowering, yet enough of it is there to make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the Stade de France. Additionally, it was nice to hear the instrumental synthesizer/keyboard tracks to some of their various songs underpinning each member’s narration.
This yearlong (and soon to be extended) tour has crossed the globe several times. Meticulously planned, rehearsed and executed, each performance ignites audiences everywhere through exuberance and excitement, pulling out every stop in order to make the fans feel appreciated and wanted. Fireworks are set off at their outdoor stadium and pavilion shows; the band moves into the crowd to play a few songs from the back of the auditorium; sing-alongs are encouraged; and it doesn’t hurt that they come off as some of the most genuinely nice people to ever grace a stage. Coldplay Live 2012 captures the band at their best, and their best is good enough to beat all of the criticism any day of the week and twice on Sundays.