Coldplay with Black Mountain at the Air Canada Centre, August 2. Tickets: $57-$71. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Everyone but me loves Coldplay. Sitting at the Air Canada Centre during their live show, it was difficult to overlook the obvious - that contrary to rock's rebellious ethos, Coldplay's every action seems to fit within a frame of choreographed conformity.
Luckily, openers Vancouver-based Black Mountain arrived at the ACC bearing a towering wall of sound. They flooded the venue with a thick and murky vibe that drew on a slew of classic rock influences.
Led Zeppelin's brontosaurus stomp and Ozzy's otherworldly howl announced themselves on songs like Druganaut. It got even better during their anti-war song Set Us Free, an homage to Black Sabbath's War Pigs. Lead guitarist Steve McBean's and Amber Webber's voices had me tangled in swirling, soaring fits of anguish as they pleaded for freedom from war.
The band stood steadfast as California redwoods throughout, only occasionally uprooting themselves to adjust amps or switch guitars. But when they left the stage, it felt good to know there are still bands that assault, rather than pacify, their listeners with noise.
When dimmed lights announced Coldplay's set, the crowd roared to life, the band charging toward their instruments. Chris Martin and co. promptly tore into the opening track from their new X&Y disc, the monolithic Square One.
Maybe it was groupthink, but I began to relax. I swayed and sang along to Clocks and Speed Of Sound, hoping (during Yellow) that one of the dozen or so yellow balloons released would find me up in the 100 level seats. I smiled with the rest of the crowd at the sight of Martin traipsing about doing graceful, one-footed windmills from one end of the stage to the other.
Coldplay played tight all night; the only flub occurred during final song Fix You, and Martin was quick to stop his band, beg our forgiveness and restart the song to thunderous applause. As for the music, it embraced me. I ain't afraid to say it held me close during The Scientist and reminded me about how alienating modern life can be. Yeah, it's no One, but U2 were well into their career before writing that classic.
Like much of his group's shtick, Martin's onstage antics owe a debt to Bono, who helps maintain U2's place several notches above Coldplay in the arena rock band hierarchy. As a fellow concertgoer at Union Station remarked, "That was the best U2 concert I've ever seen."