Coldplay delivered an dynamic performance that lifted the spirits
In an interview with 60 Minutes on CBS in 2009, the lead singer of Coldplay Chris Martin said, "We rely more on enthusiasm than actual skill. Whatever you do, do it with enthusiasm and people will like it more. I can't dance like Usher. I can't sing like Beyoncé and I can't write songs like Elton John. But we can do the best we can with what we got. That's what we do. We just go for it."
It was the humble, raw energy of Coldplay that held me captivated during its energetic live concert in Bangkok on 7 April 2017. The thumbing beat of the music, soaring melodies and quirky charisma of Martin entertained a record crowd of over 60,000 fans at the Rajamangala National Stadium. Coldplay was only the third band to play in the said stadium with One Direction and Lady Gaga being the other two music acts to have done that. Coldplay's last performance in Bangkok was in 2003.
Formed in 1996 in London, this British rock band consists of lead singer Chris Martin, bassist Guy Berryman, guitarist Johnny Buckland and drummer Will Champion. Throughout their musical journey (up till November 2016), the band has received numerous awards including seven Grammy Awards, nine Brit Awards and four Billboard Music Awards. I am sure more will follow suit.
What makes the music created by this quartet highly successful, achieving global recognition and selling millions of records?
Before I try to answer that, allow me to clarify that I am an Art Director who loves photography and paints when I can find the time. However, when it comes to music, I cannot read musical notes, play any musical instruments or sing to save my life. When I was at a live operatic performance in Vienna, during an audience participation in one of their songs, I even clapped out of sync which horrified my fellow tour companions.
Having said that, I like music that makes me feel "something", especially music from the 1980s. I was in my teens then and my musical superheroes included Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, George Michael, Annie Lennox and U2 to name a few. If you were from that era, you would understand the kind of music I am talking about. Listening to Mercury sing Don't Stop Me Now still get my adrenalin going.
Coming back to the question, I enjoy listening to music from Coldplay because their songs are generally uplifting. I feel happier and somehow they lift my spirits. This could be one of the reasons why they have legions of fans spanning the four corners of the globe. Although having been in the industry for more than two decades, they continue to create relevant music, moving ahead with the times. Their music videos are equally entertaining, especially Up&Up which is among my favourites. (In 2017, Up&Up won Best Visual Effects from Berlin Music Video Awards and MTV Video Music Awards.)
Coldplay's A Head Full of Dreams Asia tour in 2017 included countries like Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Since the band was not performing in Malaysia, two of my friends and I decided to make a trip to Bangkok to catch them live. A good friend of mine, Chong Cheng Leong, had connections in Bangkok and so we were able to secure good seats at the concert. Kenny Boon and I boarded a flight from Penang and met Cheng Leong and his partner Satitpong in Bangkok.
We arrived early to catch the opening act performed by Jess Kent. She is an Australian singer, songwriter and guitarist. Born in Derby, England, she moved to Sydney when she turned 18 to pursue her musical career. She managed to warm up the audience with all joining her in Dela.
Coldplay went all out to entertain Bangkok. The concert commenced with a rainbow-coloured geometric pattern symbolising the universal Flower of Life; it appeared across huge screens around the stadium accompanied by a charismatic voice urging all present to make this life a wonderful adventure. As soon as the narration ended, the band exploded onto the stage with fireworks lighting up the night sky, belting their first song – Head Full of Dreams. Extravagant pyrotechnics with explosive firework displays, laser lights, graphic visuals on huge screens, confetti rain and gigantic beach balls added to their electrifying performance.
A Head Full of Dreams is the seventh studio album by Coldplay released on 4 December 2015. I liked this album because it was colourful and uplifting with a dance beat that got our feet shuffling. Songs in the album included A Head Full of Dreams, Birds, Hymn for the Weekend, Everglow, Adventure of a Lifetime, Fun, Kaleidoscope, Army of One, Amazing Day and Colour Spectrum. The titles of the songs portrayed such a positive vibe that can only be good for the heart and soul.
Their live performance was full of energy, thanks to Martin for being in such great physical shape. I can only imagine how much calories he must be burning singing and running around under the heat of such strong spotlights. Although all four of them were perspiring profusely, also due to the humid conditions of the tropics, one thing that stood out was how well their songs sounded live when compared to the studio versions. It would be tragically annoying if their performance had not stood up to their iTunes version.
Before we entered the stadium, we were each given a white wristband. Throughout the night, it was brilliant seeing how the wrist bands glowed in various colours and rhythm, in sync with the music that was being performed. In unison, all 60,000 present were lighting up the stadium, something epic I have not seen or been a part of before. This ingenious concept provided the audience an interactive role to play. I felt like a kid in a candy store, discovering something so simple that was so delightful.
Martin had such a humble persona, especially when he addressed the thousands who had travelled both far and near to be there. His heartfelt appreciation touched my fellow Malaysians, including neighbouring Indonesians and Singaporeans, who were in the stadium. That evening, Coldplay dedicated Everglow to the late great King of Thailand, which was such a thoughtful gesture.
The entire stadium sang along with Martin in I'm Going Back to the Start. He even asked for the lights to be "up" to focus on the audience as we sang the chorus with all our hearts and might. This only goes to show that music cuts across language barriers since English would not have been the first language for many present.
Adding their all-time classics such as Viva La Vida, Paradise, Fix You and The Scientist to the mix was a boon to the evening. Coldplay did a great job in managing the audience and keeping the crowd engaged.
It was an amazing two hours and a great show to witness. The euphoric atmosphere in the high energy-charged stadium is something difficult to explain as it had to be experienced first hand. I was glad I made this trip to Bangkok to experience Coldplay's music at a whole different level that would stay with me for a long, long time.
The A Head Full of Dreams Tour won the 2017 American Music Awards for Tour of the Year as well as the 2017 Billboard Music Awards for Top Rock Tour. Kudos Coldplay!
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
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6 April 2017