LIVE: Coldplay At Royce Hall (5/19/14)
By Sarabeth Oppliger on May 20, 2014
Los Angeles, CA
May 19, 2014
After playing a secret show in April and an album release party at the iHeartRadio theatre last week, Coldplay blew Los Angeles away once again with an intimate performance at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Extending beyond their Ghost Stories track list, the London rockers played a 90-minute set of fan favorites under a man-made canopy of stars.
London Grammar, a young band also hailing from the UK, started the evening with ambient rock ballads topped with Hannah Reid’s powerful vocals. Alongside Reid were guitarist Dan Rothman and multi-instrumentalist Dominic "Dot" Major. While London Grammar is no stranger to success--singles “Wasting My Young Years” and “Strong” have recently created a strong buzz for the group--the band was humble and gracious as Reid shared her personal excitement in supporting Coldplay.
Already electrified from London Grammar’s set (and perhaps a drink or two from the bar), the crowd was palpably anxious for Coldplay to take the stage. In true teaser fashion, the band didn’t appear all at once. Through the darkened stage, a solo Chris Martin took his seat in front of the piano as he introduced “Atlas.” One by one, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman and Will Champion joined the singer as they soared through “Charlie Brown” and “The Scientist.” Martin took the time to engage the audience, announcing that they’d likely never perform such a show again and that they’d be playing “old songs, weird songs and some new songs.” Carrying on with the impending set list, he joked that they’d wrap with Gun N’ Roses and call it a night.
“Don’t Panic,” the opening track from Coldplay’s first album Parachutes, streamed into “A Whisper,” played live for the first time since 2002, which ended the pre-X&Y portion of the evening. The stunningly acoustic “Til Kingdom Come” resonated through the hall as Martin stood square and center on stage, guitar in hand. As the song reached its final verse, the hum of the audience quieted, almost eerily, to absolute silence to listen to the sweet melody. The rockers then launched into a pair of Coldplay’s more upbeat, and popular, ditties: “Viva La Vida,” with Champion passionately banging on the timpani and a church bell, and “Paradise” which urged even the most resistant of stragglers onto their feet.
The final six songs of the set were new numbers off Ghost Stories, which dropped on Monday. Those who’d been streaming the album via iTunes the week prior to the record’s release sang along, while the rest of the audience relished in hearing the tracks for the first time. “Always In My Head” slowed down the tempo with its tingling electric guitar riffs and steadily thumping bass lines. The album's luscious lead single “Magic” rang from the stage to the balcony as it led into the fervent melodies of “Ink” and “True Love,” the latter featuring that familiar tack piano from Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.
The dark-pop and synth-slathered “Midnight” was the most visually intriguing performance of the night, with Berryman and Martin playing a stream of lasers like a keyboard. Our frontman traded his optimistic falsetto for a sultry tenor on the heartstring-tugging “Another’s Arms,” reminding us that few bands can produce a break-up anthem quite like Coldplay can. Closing out the set was “Oceans” with its vintage-Coldplay familiarity. The ending chords echoed on as the boys rushed into the wings, but with a set of dim lights flickering on the stage we knew it wouldn’t be long before they’d be back for an encore.
Just like the album’s intended progression, “Oceans” drifted straight into “A Sky Full of Stars.” Martin’s captivating swirling and twirling filled the stage when Avicii’s talents took the forefront in the song. Partially because they couldn’t have left without performing it, but mostly because it still holds the trophy as their most popular song yet, Coldplay launched into “Yellow” like they hadn't performed it countless times already. This fresh set of ears seemed to be a resonating theme throughout the night; a band that's been around for over 13 years and has played thousands of concerts, can still plays each song like it’s the first time.
“O” was a sweet closing number, with its pretty piano runs and poetic lyricism. The song’s outro continued to hum even after the foursome had taken a bow and retreated off stage, leaving an inkling of hope that the band would be back for another round of songs. Alas, it was the end and although we didn’t get to hear a Coldplay rendition of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” this time around. We can cross our fingers that it could happen the next time the boys are in town. F