Between the laser beams, explosions of color and bouts of frontman Chris Martin writhing around on his personal stage extension caked in rainbow confetti, it was hard to leave Monday night's show at Moda Center without wondering if Coldplay had actually been planning on such egregious levels of large-scale wankery from the start of their career.
In the 17 years since their relatively understated Brit-pop debut Parachutes shot to the top of the charts, the British quartet has since evolved into an unwieldy, arena-ready behemoth hellbent on pleasing fans in any way possible. Predictably, their art has suffered.
After limping through a requisite-feeling cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin,'" on which the group somehow conjured Peter Buck for a guest guitar spot, Coldplay's mild-mannered storm of lights and magic was relentless for the better part of two hours. While tracks both new and old offered glimpses into a world where Coldplay fully took the baton of Most Important Rock Band from U2, singles like "Charlie Brown" and "Paradise" felt more like genuflection to Top 40 trends than music any reasonable person would dare refer to as "important."
It was easy enough to succumb to the populist energy that overtook the experience every five minutes, such as when "Paradise" segued into a hamfisted Tiesto remix that moved Martin to pogo like a teenager getting lit on club drugs for the first time. But the manufactured grandeur of that moment presented a perfect example of the moral crossroads an artist reaches when delivering such a bombastic affair. As the luminescent wristbands fans were given on entry blinked in tandem with the music's two or three gut-level emotions—triumph! Melancholy! Hope! More triumph!—it was worth wondering if this music exists for any reason other than giving Martin and co. the feeling that they've truly made a difference in the world by uniting throngs of stadium goers.
Sure, the dazzling array of visual stimuli is thrilling from an audience member's perspective, but the lasting impression after the last shard of confetti dropped is that the Coldplay experience is masturbation for its members more than any legitimate attempt at moving anyone who shelled out $100 to succumb to the whole spiel. For a band whose brand revolves around delivering meaning and good feelings to its audience, when all was said and done, the end product felt like little more than smoke, lasers and #vibes.
All photos by Thomas Teal.