Concert Review: Coldplay at Nationwide Arena

Joel Oliphint

Photo by Joel Oliphint

Coldplay and Lisa Frank seem to have a lot in common these days. During Thursday night's gig at Nationwide Arena - the 44th stop on the band's A Head Full of Dreams tour, according to singer Chris Martin - there were dancing, tie-dyed monkeys; a sea of rainbow butterflies; pink elephants; a sea turtle swimming through a subway station… and that was just on the giant screen.

Off-screen, multicolored lasers criss-crossed into the crowd and confetti canons blasted kaleidoscopic stars atop a sea of craned necks and open-mouth smiles on the arena floor. Oh, and the bracelets. Every show-goer received a bracelet that changed colors and pulsated to the beat of the songs, creating an ocean of choreographed colors all around.

Over the course of two hours, Martin (sporting purple, white and turquoise shirts; bejeweled skinny pants with an American flag spilling out the back like a patriotic tail, and Lite-Brite-inspired hightops) switched among piano, guitar and instrument-free galloping as he exuberantly led Coldplay through a 24-song setlist that was heavy on material from 2015's A Head Full of Dreams and 2014's Ghost Stories but also cherry-picked older radio hits ("Yellow," "Trouble," "Clocks").

For some reason Martin also dedicated two songs - including a lovely, solo-acoustic cover of Rod Stewart's "Have I Told You Lately" - to WNCI DJ Jimmy Jam, which was sweet but odd. David Bowie's "Heroes," meanwhile, was the perfect song for Coldplay to cover in tribute to the recently deceased legend.

The night was an ecstatic display of uplifting refrains and "woo"s and "whoa-oh"s, and the crowd matched the British four-piece's enthusiasm, even if the words weren't always as colorful as the antics.

With Coldplay songs, it's better to just let the waves wash over you rather than attempt to closely read the waves to find the best one to ride. Martin is going for big, emotional climaxes, and he doesn't mind using some platitudes to get you there. He wants you to feel the swells, to stand in the confetti rain and let the positive vibes give you the warm-and-fuzzies.

"Life is a drink and love's a drug," he sang on "Hymn for the Weekend," a recent single from A Head Full of Dreams. "Got me feeling drunk and high, so high, so high." The problem is, if you keep telling everyone that you're drunk on life and high on love (as Martin did in various ways throughout the night), the message grows stale, because who needs hope if life is all good times and butterflies?

Still, while the everything-is-awesome vibe of A Head Full of Dreams feels near-tyrannical on the album, it's much more palatable and even euphoric at times in concert, amid the sea of glowing wrists, prismatic eye candy and Martin's smiley, onstage charisma. Coldplay also used its back catalog wisely, interspersing the setlist with downtempo numbers, which was a welcome respite from fairy-unicorn land. Coldplay's ballads have always been my favorite version of the band; songs like "The Scientist" and "Fix You" packed a Joshua Tree-esque emotional wallop without getting treacly.

Seated at a piano at a secondary stage in the middle of the arena floor, Martin prefaced "Everglow" by referencing all the bummer stuff in the news and asking if everyone in the audience would send good vibes out to a people group or geographic region of their choice. But less than a minute into the song, he stopped.

"Sorry, man. I don't mean to be a dick, but I can hear you asking people to go back to their seats. Can we do that after? Is that all right?" Martin said, then realized he'd just singled out a lone security guy in front of thousands of people, even though the guy was only doing his job - kind of the opposite of good vibes.

The second after Martin said it, he began profusely apologizing. "Sorry, sorry. … Everything is cool, no one is gonna do anything," he said, then walked over to shake the man's hand. "I'm sorry to make you feel bad. I'm so sorry." After apologizing a few more times, he started the song again.

It was a funny, awkward moment that Martin redeemed with his trademark winsomeness and a gorgeous rendition of "Everglow," one of A Head Full of Dreams' best songs that mixes the melancholy of a relationship's end with the joy of knowing that any loving relationship, however temporal, is a gift. "If you love someone, you should let them know / Oh, the light that you left me will everglow," he sang, and a sea of lights echoed the sentiment.