Entering Toyota Center, I almost didn't take the wristband that the ticket taker offered. That would have been a mistake. Even before the first song of the Coldplay concert Monday night, a recorded version of Jay-Z's "99 Problems" boomed through the stadium and activated the sound-sensitive wristbands into a glow that enveloped the massive arena.
And a magical night of confetti in neon colors, flashing lights, bouncing rubber balls and songs that everyone at the sold-out concert knew every word to by heart began — and it was pure delight.
Though Martin is a superstar singer with a movie-star wife, at heart, he's really just a working class guy determined to give the crowd their money's worth — and more.
Coldplay stepped onto the stage to the theme of Back to the Future, which segued into the opening track, "Hurts Like Heaven," from the band's fifth studio album, Mylo Xyloto, released in late 2011; the audience, waving glittering, glowing wristbands in unison, immediately felt a part of the experience.
(The band estimates they spend $640,000 per concert on the electronic wristbands — most of the tour's profits — but are hesitant to give them up because "it just feels so magical," guitarist Johnny Buckland said.)
After the end of the second song of the set — "In My Place" from 2002's A Rush of Blood to the Head — I was curious to see where the concert could possibly go from there, since lead singer Chris Martin was already positioned in a near-backbend, swimming in a sea of confetti.
I shouldn't have doubted.
From there, following Martin's lead, the band took the audience through a decade-long catalog of songs, from "Major Minus" to "Lovers in Japan" to such resonant hits as "The Scientist" and "Yellow," mixing in thoughtful piano solos with high-energy rock tunes, all accompanied by stunning lights and visuals.
Early on Martin thanked the audience for "taking all the crap" of finding a parking spot, slogging through the crowds, paying too much for tickets and overpriced food — all on a Monday night — to come hear the band and promised, "We're going to try to make this the best fucking show we ever had." Then he delivered.
A nonstop whirling dervish of energy throughout the 90-minute set, Martin continually ran around the circular stage and catwalk piled high with confetti debris, piano and guitars defaced with the same type of neon paint that I used to graffiti my junior high desk. He leapt on risers to get closer to the audience, he jumped up and down in pure unadulterated joy, he did gravity-defying kneebends and, at times, sprawled out on the floor at the end of a song as if thoroughly spent before the audience's energy willed him back into action.
If, at times, his voice sounded strained from singing so enthusiastically for so long — he sang 21 songs (an unusually large number for a singer of his stature in an arena concert) — it didn't matter. Though he's a superstar singer with a movie-star wife, at heart, he's really just a working class guy determined to give the crowd their money's worth — and more.
Midway through the evening, the band set up at the end of the catwalk for a mix of songs, and then returned to the main stage for renditions of a drum-laden "Viva La Vida" (with surely one of the all-time great sing-along refrains), a graphics-accompanied "Charlie Brown" and a hard-hitting "Paradise," where the audience again sang along in unison. At the conclusion of the song, Martin said, "You're making me feel like this is a holiday."
After what felt like an encore pause, the band reappeared in the middle of the audience in an area of seats far back from the stage — complete with an upright piano — for two heart-wrenching acoustic songs, "Us Against the World" and "Speed of Sound," before returning to the stage for a real finale triad: "Clocks," "Fix You" and "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall."
Then, the four-member band who have known each other since college, stayed on stage for several minutes and cheered the audience in return, as if everyone was reluctant to leave. It was that kind of night.
Coldplay will play a second Houston show at the Toyota Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Wolf Gang and Robyn open.