COLDPLAY with RON SEXSMITH at the Molson Amphitheatre, June 11. Tickets: $19.50-$45. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
Some silly rock star tricks are so cheesy they make me roll my eyes. Coloured lasers recalling Pink Floyd light shows at a local planetarium, grand-scale audience sing-alongs, covers of done-to-death standards, DIY consciousness-raising via the Sharpie marker scrawl on the back of the singer's hand.... Did someone say 80s-era Michael Stipe?
Uber-emotional Brit rockers Coldplay pulled every hackneyed trick out of their monochromatic sleeves down at the Amphitheatre Wednesday night. And it worked. Phenomenally well.
Even local singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith got into a Big Rock Show frame of mind, losing the understated, stripped-down acoustic balladeering that's kept him hovering under the radar for decades in favour of a full band (featuring local stalwarts Don Kerr on drums, Jason Mercer on bass and Tim Visconti on electric guitar) and a snazzy jacket borrowed from his manager.
Sexsmith garnered fanatic yells as he sizzled through electro-groovy newer material like the calypso/disco-dipped That's What Passes For Love These Days and a rock-out version of the older Nothing Good, but the eclectic crowd (from boomers to teenybopper girls) really went nuts when Coldplay frontman Chris Martin shuffled onstage to croon a verse of Sexsmith's harmony-drenched closing tune.
No wonder Martin's into all the high-concept rock star antics. Still, the gimmicks - giant Super 8 band projections, strobe effects, a schmaltzy cover of Wonderful World with Martin on piano and "maketradefair.com" (Martin's Oxfam cause of choice) scrawled on Martin's paw - wouldn't have flown if the band hadn't displayed such formidable musicianship.
Martin's falsetto keenings and bluesy snarl, bolstered by the well-wrought atmospherics of Jonny Buckland 's guitar), soared all the way through an unbelievable five-song, two-part encore. The self-indulgent overproduction that weighed down last year's A Rush Of Blood To The Head disc is gone, leaving epic, impeccably polished rock songs in its wake.
With such an over-the-top show, you'd expect irritating rawk star posturing, right? Instead, you got a running gag about Coldplay's refusal to succumb to SARS fear, Tori Amos-style piano-humping and goofy off-the-cuff banter.
Anyone who can smash through that fourth wall in a crowd of 16,000 deserves rock-star-calibre respect.