Coldplay has become the biggest band in popular music by blending melody, melancholy, a bit of positivity and a penchant for crafting a particular type of ballad or anthem that shoots for transcendence, occasionally hitting its target.
But when it came to the show the band put on at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville Wednesday night, one thing was made abundantly clear: When it comes to performing live, Coldplay is firmly in the joy business.
During a set just shy of two hours, the Brits presented a Technicolor and kinetic arena rock showcase that occasionally thrilled and consistently uplifted the 16,000 in attendance.
The band literally wasted no time getting the proceedings off to a rousing start and letting the crowd know what it was in for. There were two different blasts of colorful confetti during the first three songs (there were several more as the night went on), which featured the title track from its latest and most rhythmically dance-heavy album “A Head Full of Dreams” and two of its biggest hits, “Yellow” and “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.”
The musical aesthetic and kaleidoscopic artwork of that 2015 release served as inspiration for the group’s performance. The extra-large LED screen featured trippy visuals or video of the band members altered by visual effects. Lasers were frequently utilized throughout the proceedings while audience members were outfitted with bracelets that changed colors or pulsed along with the music. The end of the band’s initial set was highlighted by its newest and funkiest single, “Adventure of a Lifetime,” and giant colorful balloons being tossed from the rafters, which only amped up the celebratory atmosphere.
The show’s feel didn’t necessarily match the low-key demeanor of band members Will Champion (drums), Guy Berryman (bass) and the frequently impressive Johnny Buckland (lead guitar), but it fit frontman Chris Martin to a “T.”
When he wasn’t bouncing back and forth between manning the piano or acoustic guitar that complimented his vulnerable voice and signature falsetto, the lead singer was a bundle of energy running the thrust of the stage, jumping, spinning, dancing, crouching, stalking and falling over on stage. One of the few times Martin was wielding only a microphone and not moving was when he was lying down on a stage blanketed in confetti to deliver the opening verse of the band’s most arena-worthy anthem “Fix You.”
The few occasions Martin addressed the crowd at length, he complimented its enthusiasm and mentioned how happy he was to play the “Yum-Yum Center.” The times he got a bit more serious, he spoke about sending “good vibes” to people affected by recent violence both nationally and internationally and the impetus for the song “Everglow,” a newer piano ballad inspired by the late boxing legend and Louisville native Muhammad Ali. The song, which Martin played solo during a portion at the end of the stage thrust, featured a video at the end of Ali speaking about his philanthropic ambitions that got a sizable cheer from the crowd.
While Coldplay featured a handful of tracks from the new album, they were sprinkled throughout a tight set of hits from all seven of the band’s albums, which included “Magic,” Paradise” and “Charlie Brown,” not to mention brief covers of David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” The crowd sang along happily and heartily to some of the group’s earlier hits like piano ballad “The Scientist” and more fast-paced numbers like “Clocks” and “Viva La Vida,” which featured indefatigable drummer Champion pounding heavily with mallets on a large bass drum, timpani, bell set-up.
The band’s lengthy encore/second act led to the members performing in an unusual spot as they walked the crowd to a stage in the back of the lower bowl of the arena. The stripped down set gave them the chance to take an Instagram song request from the video screen and perform the hit “In My Place” and the opening track to their first album “Don’t Panic” before returning to the main stage to amp things back up with the EDM-inspired track “Sky Full of Stars.”
The band closed with “Up & Up,” the last track from its latest album that featured some six-string fireworks from Buckland and some of Martin’s most passionate singing. The newer song didn’t elicit the same excited response as more familiar numbers did throughout the night, and it felt like a missed opportunity to end on the transcendent note the musicians often strive to reach.
That’s a minor complaint from a satisfying show in which Coldplay put forth a strong effort to emphasize the “play” in its name.